The 46-year-old is one of the youngest ministers in India right now.

On the eve of the Tokyo Olympics, Anurag Thakur replaced Kiren Rijiju as India’s Sports Minister. The former BCCI president was given the responsibility for Sports and Youth Affairs after a cabinet reshuffle. Interestingly, he comes into the ministry with notable experience in sports under his belt.

Previously, Anurag Thakur was the president of the BCCI between 2016 and 2017. Also, he served as the secretary of BCCI and headed the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) before his stints with Indian cricket’s apex body. 

Kiren Rijiju was instrumental during his tenure as the Sports Minister. The biggest challenge Thakur will face is to fill in the shoes of the change-maker Rijiju. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at other challenges that could pop up in the journey of the newly-appointed Sports Minister.

5. Tokyo Olympics

Anurag Thakur comes into the office when Indian athletes are in the final stages of their Olympic preparations. As of now, a total of 120 Indian athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Kiren Rijiju played a crucial role in supporting the athletes in every possible way to book a berth at the event. Thakur’s first challenge would be to oversee the success of the contingent in Tokyo. 

Beyond Tokyo Olympics, he will need to put back the Indian sports on track in terms of performance and training. 

4. Creating awareness about doping

Sumit Malik
Sumit Malik face a two year ban for doping (Photo Credit- United Wrestling)

One of the biggest challenges for Anurag Thakur will be to create awareness about doping. Several athletes in the country still do not have clarity on the matter. Recently, wrestler Sumit Malik has been handed a two-year ban for failing a dope test. Sources close to the wrestler told PTI that they have sent a specific supplement to the US for tests and also the medicines Malik took and if it is established that the stimulant entered his body through one of those, then it will be proved that the substance was consumed unknowingly.

Apart from Sumit Malik, many Indian athletes have been banned for doping as well. They cited unawareness about the banned substances as one of the key reason behind their conduct.

Kiren Rijiju had done significant work in this field. He had welcomed the decision of BCCI to come under the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). Moreover, he termed it as a major step towards clean and transparent governance in sports and considered it to be a big achievement for himself. He also started various programmes to spread awareness about banned substances. Therefore, it will be a challenge for Anurag Thakur to continue the good work and create more awareness about doping among Indian athletes.

3. Looking beyond cricket

Anurag Thakur is the man behind making Dharamshala an international cricket venue. His rich experience in sports is predominantly in cricket. Though the sport and its stars are worshipped in India, over the past few years, other sports are also slowly evolving in terms of participation and performance.

Therefore, as the Sports Minister, the biggest challenge for him would be to look beyond cricket and support other sports as well. 

2. Sports Budget 

Kiren Rijiju gave huge emphasis to the Khelo India initiative (Courtesy- Khelo India)

The sports sector witnessed a huge reduction in its overall budget for the financial year 2020-21. Specifically, the government had allocated ₹2596.14 crore for the financial year 2021-22. This is a reduction of ₹230.78 crore as compared to the amount allocated for the previous year. Moreover, Khelo India has been allocated ₹660.41 crore, which is a huge reduction from ₹890.42 crore allocated in the previous budget. 

With the pandemic hitting the sports fraternity severely, more funds will be required for better training and performance. 

1. Regulating the Fantasy Sports & betting market

In 2020, as the then Minister of State for Finance, Anurag Thakur had pitched for legalizing betting in India. “Betting can be an effective tool to curb match-fixing, which is why we need to consider possibilities (of legalizing it),” he had said. Moreover, he also mentioned it (betting) being a good source of revenue. 

Therefore, there is a possibility that Thakur would try to make betting legal during his tenure as the Sports Minister of India. 

Kiren Rijiju made many instrumental changes to develop the sports ecosystem in India. Likewise, the country awaits to see what the new Sports Minister brings to the table. 

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