Indian sports have been an area of pleasure and huge investment over the past many years. It is one thing that can evoke emotions of all kinds from the entire nation. Be it winning a cricket match against Pakistan or Abhinav Bindra winning a medal at the Olympics; more or less everyone is affected, in one way or the other. One is bound to feel ecstatic, desperate, miserable and overtly joyous because of sports.

Yet trying to trace the history of sports in our country isn’t a very easy task. What makes it all the more difficult is the fact that Indian sports lack documentation.

The entire history is yet to be written hence this article is one such attempt, at least from the point of view from Punjab.
 
Since Punjab was a princely state itself, the Maharajas and their ‘shauk’ were imitated by the commoners and hence it did to the state what it has done today.
 
Punjab has had a very rich sporting background. From producing hockey legends to cricketing heroes, from wrestling champions to shooting stars, the state has provided the country with sportsmen of mettle, courage, dedication, conviction, honour and dignity.
 
Champions in Hockey

The number of such players has only increased with each passing year. Punjab enjoys all kinds of sports, though it is the hub of Indian Hockey.
 
There has been time when 9 out of the playing 11 team members of the gold winning hockey Olympic team were from one small village in Punjab (Sansarpur, near Jalandhar- also referred to as the Mecca of Indian Hockey).
 
Lal Shah Bokhari, Balbir Singh Dosanjh, Balkrishan Singh, Gagan Ajit Singh, Ajit Pal Singh, Prabhjot Singh are a few names of commendable hockey players who practiced on the soil of the fertile state of Punjab.
 
Pioneering presence on Cricket ground

Punjab is the only state that gives the ‘national game’ due importance. But the gentleman’s game is not far behind. With the likes of Navjot Singh Sidhu, Lala and Mohinder Amarnath, Bishen Singh Bedi, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Dhruv Pandove etc, the standards have considerably improved.
 
Such players were given terrific training by dedicated coaches, all of whom have spent their lives trying to bring success to the youth of the state. Maharaja of Patiala himself represented India in the first test match against England and captained many other tours to England.
 
The Patiala Peg

An interesting fact is that sports were what lead to the term and concept of something called the “Patiala Peg. In the late 1900’s there was a contest of tent pegging amongst the teams of the viceroy and that of the Maharaja of Patiala.
 
Tent pegging was the curious sport of spearing a small wooden stake in the ground with a lance from the back of a galloping horse.
 
British and Patialian pride were at stake since both the teams were undefeated. Desperate to win and fearful of the consequences, the Maharaja’s team invited the guest team for drinks and dinner a night before the match.
 
The British team was plied with much larger than usual measures of whisky. At the same time even the tent pegs were changed. While they became smaller for the viceroy’s team, the Maharaja’s team got larger ones.
 
Eventually Patialian team won the match the next day and viceroy’s team complained, stating that though the Patialians were very hospitable, they also served more than the required quantity of liquor. Thus, evolved the Patiala Peg which contains extra large measure of whisky.
 
The Great Athletes

A few other prominent names in the field of sports who have considerably contributed are Milkha “flying Sikh “Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Vijendra Kumar etc.
 
Shooting is also one sport where a Punjabi brought an individual gold medal at the Olympics for the first time for India in 118 years of its history. Other shooters like Harveen Sarao, have followed in Abhinav Bindra’s footsteps.
 
Punjab has done considerably well in golf as well. With Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal being quite famous in the international circuit, more and more people are opting for the game.
 
We can conclude by saying that Punjabis truly believe in sportsmanship and firmly accept that –The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well” – De Coubertin (father of modern Olympics)
 
Sports Infrastructure

When we come to infrastructure or these events one can in a flash of a second think about the National Institute of Sports (NIS), and the Yadavindra Stadium at Patiala , a few astro-turf fields in Jalandhar and of course the PCA stadium at Mohali , apart from the other places.
 
The NIS, Patiala, also boasts of a medal gallery where the greatest Indian sportspersons have donated souvenirs and rare pictures, medals, and even uniforms that make the place so amazingly inspiring!
 
Sports unite people .It stands true for people even across the borders. Punjab being the border state did try to settle things and inculcate feelings of brotherhood by initiating the trend of the INDO-PAK games that are held in Punjab every year with the hope to develop peace and harmony amongst the two neighbouring countries.
 
These games see as many as about 700 sportspersons from both the countries come together and compete for various events, each year.
 
These games also bring with them a lot of fun and a night of cultural activities where people showcase their talent in singing, dancing and other activities. Of late para-olympics has also got a lot of attention from the state authorities.
 
In fact this year (2009) they will be held in Ludhiana, in the month of October-November. The standards came improve provided rich businessmen feel for the cause and donate some money, yet it is something that the authorities have failed to accomplish as of now.
 
The Future Ahead

One needs to understand the need of the hour. The state government needs to invest more and funding needs to be more properly dispersed.
 
Rural talent needs to be tapped! Since people are talented in every sport, focus and attention should be paid on every sport rather than just hockey or cricket being the reckoning strength of the state. The Astro-turfs at Jalandhar are a good step, yet the government needs to be quicker and more adaptable to changes and also more expansive.
 
Education for young sportsmen should be free and compulsory. Health of such sportsmen should be properly taken care of. Jugraj Singh (Indian penalty corner specialist, with alarmingly strong and powerful flicks) had an accident, yet the state authorities could not do much for his recovery and the entire process took a really long time. What happened to Jugraj should not be repeated.
 
Privileges, special facilities and world class infrastructure should be provided to these people who commit their entire lives achieving laurels for the state and the nation and would make us proud all the more using technology in their favour.
 
Let us all get together and promise to take the state to the pinnacle of success since we all know it for a fact that it has the potential and capacity to shine even more.

JPN