Let’s not bother complaining about popularity of other sports in India. Let’s just enjoy cricket. Only cricket.
Yes, you heard that right.
Let’s not bother.
On the eve of the kickoff of the Hockey World Cup in New Delhi, multiple thoughts cross my mind. First and foremost, how many Indians know that a hockey world cup is going on, vis-à-vis how many Indians would know that a cricket world cup might be going on in 2011? My guess – roughly about a billion.
Has anyone heard of Shiva Keshavan? I had not heard of him till I read this article. Seemingly, he is one of our brightest stars to win the Luge championship in the ongoing Vancouver Winter Olympics. The plight of Shiva Keshavan and the Indian player contingent is very evident from reading that news report (summary: they didn’t have money to buy matched uniforms during the opening ceremony). Can it get worse? Yes it can. Similar to the theme of Summer Olympics in 2008, the Indian contingent has more officials than players in the Winter Olympics too. What’s even worse is that a Kashmiri hotel owner is part of that contingent (moneyquote: Mir (hotel owner) is supposed to be aiding armyman Tashi Lundup (cross country skiing), whose actual coach was sidelined to accommodate him). How impressive!
My postulation of not bothering with other sports has nothing to do with insulting the sportsmen of my country. They have probably come up against every barrier possible, human or otherwise, and have yet been successful in their own way. They made India proud in multiple tournaments, least of all, South Asian Games (but more appropriately, Indian sub-continent games if you look at the countries involved) where we are the leading medal winners. But we are a nation who adores heroes – Olympic heroes to be more precise, in which we have come up way short in international competition. But then again, who am I kidding? Except for Abhinav Bindra, does anyone remember which sport Vijender won an Olympic medal in? How about Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore? Faint memory perhaps. Not even that?
We Indians love to complain, don’t we? We love to talk about incompetent and inefficient administrators who have corrupted the sport – but over a cup of hot chai and with a cricket match on. We can brood about the hockey team not getting their pay cheques on time or Saina Nehwal not getting a visa to participate in a prestigious badminton tournament – but in our comfortable armchairs in a group conversation. We complain about enough youngsters not taking up different sport other than cricket – but we will not allow our kids to take up other sports seriously. Yes, we are like that only.
We also tend to blame it on unequal media attention of other sports and try to wash our hands off. But media being media, respects, adores and worships heroes. The nature of the beast is such. The day Sachin Tendulkar completed his 20 years in international cricket was also the same day Dilip Tirkey played his 400th international hockey match. Did we care about the latter achievement? I hardly did. I however did read up as many columns as possible on Sachin’s illustrious career. We also bemoan the fact that MNCs and other Indian corporations do not promote other sports (in fact, they are in talks to buy an international club in a non-cricket related sport). The only question is – what incentive do these corporations have to promote any other sport in India other than cricket which gives them the largest number of views per rupee spent? I am forced to agree to that rational argument.
My point is this. Let’s not bother about complaining about other sports. The more money we pour into the game, the more money goes into corrupted officials and administrators’ pockets. We do not have incentives at the infrastructure or at the educational level for young sportsmen in this country. Even the much adored game of cricket has a ton of lost and forgotten heroes in the Ranji trophy. It is not in our psyche to promote sports – at any level, except the international level; on any sport other than international cricket (Yes, once in a while, a Sania Mirza comes up who hogs limelight for her engagement, but very very far and few in between). As much as we have tried to glamorize hockey (our National sport, heh!) in the Premier Hockey League (PHL), many of us do not know the names of teams in PHL? How many of us know the upcoming stars in Boxing, Shooting, Chess, Tennis among other sports?
Let’s not break our heads. Let’s not try to remember all these stars or obscures. Frankly, who has the time?
Let’s stick to our core competency. Education and Watching international cricket. The rest be damned.
P.S – I had a friend of mine who contended that North Korea and Africa have a lot more Olympians inspite of no infrastructure/money and far less proportion of population compared to India. Agreed. But then, again they have no cricket to deal with. Secondly, imagine the number of Olympians from their countries if money was actually pumped in?
P.P.S – It’s of no use complaining or preaching to the government. Really. They care more about Sachin’s 200* than a famous Olympian (yes, including Abhinav Bindra).