“Why they only write about Cricket?” This simple question asked by a national medal winner tells the indifference with which ‘sports other than Cricket’ are dealt with. In India, Cricket is a religion. A young toddler becomes a veteran in Cricket rules before even beginning to take his grammar lessons. Hockey is listed as the ‘national game’ of our country but do we even know how many ‘umpires’ (referees I guess) Hockey has? It’s astounding to note that a country having the second largest population in the world has a FIFA ranking of 117. Its position in 2004 Olympics was 65.
India wakes up and sleeps with Cricket. It can be termed as an easy sport. No matter what you, how old you are and where you live you can always play it. The very reason for its popularity is its easy accessibility. It can be a local street or a large play ground you can have a ball anywhere. It’s been a sport for the masses. The very reason its become the life of the nation because every individual can relate to it. The Cricket players are worshipped like Gods by their fans. Every run scored or every catch taken is cherished like heavenly blessing.
Indian fans have always showed strong bias towards Cricket. It can been shown by the fact that when Gopi Chand won the All-England badminton championship in Britain no one cheered or cared because in the same week Harbhajan Singh took a hat-trick and V. V. S. Laxman scored 281 in the Kolkata Test against Australia. How many of us remember the Olympic bronze medals won by tennis star Leander Paes (Atlanta, 1996) and weightlifter Karnam Malleswari (Sydney, 2000), but Anil Kumble’s 10-wicket haul and Virender Sehwag’s 309 is still fresh in our memory.
The media obsession to Cricket is only due to the popularity of these stars. The number of on-screen appearances these ‘Cricket Stars’ do are more than the number of matches they play. Their works in the commercials are sure giving the Bollywood Stars a run for their money. Every win is celebrated as if we have won a civil war and the defeats are treated as a natural catastrophe. Media gives more coverage to cricketers because people are more interested in their lives, their wins and defeats than other sports persons. Media persons are probably doing their job to show what the nation demands. In order to earn easy T.R.P.’s even the news channel are broadcasting the match highlights and analysis.
Even the government is not doing a great deal to help promote other sports. After the Indian team’s latest Twenty20 World Cup win the state government announced rewards for each state player. The players were made stars overnight. Every political party wanted to meet them in order to gain political mileage. Many other sports persons have raised questions over such discrimination only to a deaf ear from the government.
In India there is a long list of sportsperson who are doing well. Karnam Malleshwari, Rajyavardhan Rathore or Abhinav Bindra won medals in Olympics. Karnam Malleshwari. The ace pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, and Sania Mirza in Tennis, the upcoming Saina Nehwal in Badminton has sure done us proud. In some elite sports too like Pankaj Advani in Billiards and Jeev Milkha Singh in Golf Indian sportsmen have given us reasons to think beyond Cricket. The recent Boxing hero Vijendra won accolades for our country only to find his name been taken out from the Padma awards. This bias kills the enthusiasm to play for one’s country.
India’s obsession to Cricket is not something to be proud of. If leave the latest T-20 version of the game then it takes at least a 1/3rd of a day to complete a game and that is a lot of time consumption. Even if we manage to win all the matches we play then we will still largely famous in the sub-continent and will boast of being over a maximum of 10 nations. While if we concentrate on other sports like, Hockey and soccer we could surely international success. It is also said that India has a better record in Hockey than Brazil has in soccer.
This Cricket fever can only subside if we as fans start believing in other sports. Government should also take due measures to increase the facilities given to the other sports. National and state level academies should be set up by the government to increase the participation at the lower level. In order to become a world class athlete, one needs proper goal oriented coaching with the best facilities. The media also has a large role to play in promoting other sports. It should keep away from the T.R.P.’s war and cover other sporting events with same zeal and enthusiasm they show for Cricket.
Well if due credits are given to each sport then in such a diversified country, the fan surely will someday find itself in dilemma over watching their stars at the Wimbledon final or seeing them perform at the soccer semis. But as of today it seems a distant dream.