Unmukt Chand’s rise in cricket has coincided with an academic low given the controversy surrounding his stint as a student at St Stephens College. While the row involving the cricketer and college management has ebbed for now, it has ignited a fresh debate among youth on whether to focus on studies or sports?

The debate involving sportsmen and educationists assumes significance in wake of India’s aspiration to become a sporting superpower. Interestingly, educationists favour pursuing excellence both in sports and academics, while sportsmen generally see merit in making a distinct choice.

India’s only two time Olympic medal winner, grappler Sushil Kumar is keen to strike the right moves. A categorical yes in favour of sports is his vocal recommendation to his milling supporters. But he would not mind if it comes with the bonus of a good educational record. The silver medalist says, “Education plays a key role in anyone’s life and it is important for any sportsman to concentrate on both things (sports and studies) together. However, I still favour one thing at one time to get better results.”

Kumar essentially echoes the sentiment aired by Indian cricket team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. His recent tweet on the Chand controversy made the choice visibly clear. "Marks for sports take back seat; attendance for now takes centre-stage. This shows how much importance sports have in India,” lamented Dhoni on Twitter.

But educationists think differently on this issue. Dr. Amita Rana, Associate Professor, department of physical education at Miranda House in Delhi University says, “There are students who excel in sports as well as in academics. It is unfair to say that a person can do well only in one field. It all depends on the concentration and the attitude of a child.”

Dr. Suresh Kumar Lau, associate professor in Satyawati College (evening) at Delhi University is keen students continue pursuit of academics with sports. He concurs, “I have no doubts that students can easily handle studies with sports.”

The division of opinion between academicians and sportsmen points to the need for a cogent clear cut policy for sportsmen in education. Both agree India does not have a clear cut policy and the absence of which leads to needless controversy. But is there some learning available globally to be incorporated as part of the policy?

Dr. Mukesh Agarwal, joint secretary in Delhi University (DU) Sports Council argues that education system should only promote the enhancement of knowledge and not the degree. Quoting example of others, Agarwal clarifies, “In other countries, sports is in the curriculum, like any other discipline. They (governments there) provide equal weight age to sports and activities related to the same. They have credit system. The atmosphere is such that there is no place for any attendance issue.”

Rana, at DU, calls for a drastic overhaul. “Support system for sports is very poor in India. Universities are becoming purely academic in nature and there is little scope for promoting excellence in sports. The situation is really pathetic.”

Lau further illustrates the lack of uniformity in policy framework in various universities in the country. “In Haryana and Punjab, universities promote sports equally with studies. Perhaps this is why today we have maximum sportsmen from these two states.”