Olympic hangover still weighing heavily? Happy with the six medals? Time to stage a sporting revolution to overthrow cricket as the most revered sport in the country? If the answer is yes, this is for you.
India won six Olympic medals in London - 2 Silvers and 4 Bronze. Finishing 55th, one above Mongolia (a landlocked country between Russia and China for those who may not have known already), the nation proudly proclaimed that it is the best-ever performance!
While the feat of earning a medal is glorious and a celebration of superb dedication to excel in sports other than in cricket, to blame cricket as one of the reasons for other sports not being able to come up and therefore reaping more medals for the country (a comment repeatedly observed on various platforms, especially during the Olympics), is an extremely biased and random simplification of a problem which is too complex for the scope of this blog to explain.
India loves cricket and there is no debating it. Reasons may be varied but it is a fact and critics should either accept it as such or let it be. To say it isn't our sport and a mindless pass-time handed over by the colonial masters is like saying putting status messages on Facebook is unpatriotic because Zuckerberg is not Indian. All right, maybe that's a bit of an extreme metaphor but the point here is that cricket is not the devil oppressing other sports down in India.
An obsessive compulsion to follow and cheer the Indian team exists with the majority in the country. And when we say the Indian team, the image is that of the men in blue. And when we say men in blue, most surely do not think of the hockey team! The point? It is the perception! Cricket is well managed, well organized, well marketed and 'well-administered' in India. It is considered 'worth it' for a child to try and become Sachin or Rahul even if he fails in the end. For him (or her) to try and emulate K. D. Singh, Leslie Claudius, Meldric Daluz, Keshav Dutt or Chinadorai Deshmutu is not impractical. It is blasphemy! Whoever does that…eh?
Max Fisher in the Atlantic writes: …but there's also the economic safety net that makes it easier for Western (or Japanese or South Korean) would-be Olympians to take a chance on athletics. If an American amateur gymnast spends a few years deemphasizing school so she can labor toward her dream of a gold medal and it doesn't work out, she still has a good shot at a middle class life. But if her Indian equivalent does the same, she may never recover from all those hours she didn't spend on education or job training, making a middle class life less likely for either her or her children. (Click here for the full blog)
For some critics of cricket here who may now already be rubbing their palms, ready to shoot counter points in the comments section below, a statutory summary of all of the above lies in five points:
1) Cricket as a sport is not bad. If people adopt a frenzied approach to it and treat the cricketers as demi-gods, the fault lies somewhere with people - with fans and with critics; with you and I. It is a sport and it isn't as if when the players play too much or when they lose, stands in India continue to overflow. Else Test matches would have been sold out every time.
2) India basically, has not had a sporting culture. Like it or leave it. It is a fact. Heard of the saying in Hindi: Kheloge kudoge to honge kharab, padhoge likhoge to banoge nawab'?
We have never really focused on improving sports infrastructure here, till recently. It is not a negative. After all, with concerns of hunger, poverty and sanitation, it is slightly unfair to develop sports (agreed our cricket board is still the richest though). And when we managed to bag the right to host the Commonwealth Games, scams came with it, running into crores.
3) Winning counts.
4) Wrestling, boxing, swimming etc are sports too. They are not dependent on the fall of cricket for their rise. Or at the very least, should not be. Remove the evils and provide the impetus to make them flourish. The onus at the root level though lies with people at large.
5) There is no shortage in initiatives to promote sports. NDTV has a Marks for Sports campaign while various corporates and NGOs have also launched several schemes and programs. So, the argument of lack of exposure is fast losing weight.
Perceptions have begun changing but the change needs to be rapid. This has been just a miniscule effort to help the cause while letting cricket co-exist as a well-followed and much appreciated sport in the country as well. Do note: K. D. Singh, Leslie Claudius, Meldric Daluz, Keshav Dutt or Chinadorai Deshmutu were members of the 1952 Olympic Gold medal winning hockey team!
Note: The views expressed here are that of the writer and not of NDTV.