The AITA has a tragic track record in running 'academies'. The much-hyped National Tennis Academy (NTA) in the boondocks beyond Gurgaon has a state-of-the-art textile factory of Indian tennis' ruling family - the Khannas - hulking over it but decidedly primitive training facilities. So much so that our best players have regularly refused to turn up to practice at the place which was billed as the breeding ground for future champions. In the past either sponsors gave up in disgust - like the Hinduja academy situated in Delhi - or largesse was distributed to the influential in the form of grants for five zonal tennis centres which proved to be just as much of a farce as the NTA is now.
The present issue of denying players minus Indian passports the opportunity to represent the country has met with widespread support within the tennis community. Not because Prakash Amritraj, Shikha Uberoi and Sunitha Rao are not considered our own but rather because there is an overwhelming feeling that these players come back to represent India as they are nowhere near getting a chance to play for the United States.
The issue of them not being eligible for government grants is anyway not much of a factor in tennis given the clandestine way in which they are handled by the AITA. Other pertinent bit that rears rampant is as to whether the government would have done any such thing if Amritraj would have been a Leander Paes or Mahesh Bhupathi. At the same time, glorifying and claiming as our own foreign citizens like Sunitha Williams and V.S. Naipaul send out confusing signals in light of the new policy. We are willing to celebrate the famous as our own but not the fringe players?
As to just how the government intends to justify the present stand vis-a-vis plans of providing dual citizenship is of course a puzzle that will only unravel when policy for the same is unveiled. The other pertinent ask is as to just why these players have been cleared in the past for events as prestigious as the Olympics and the Asian Games. Ministry babus only seem to wake up to issues when they are forced to confront them through judicial activism instead of using plain common sense.