By Lakshay Kumar Chowdhury
Like most Indians, I am crazy about cricket. At the risk of sounding anti-national, I say that cricket is a decadent sport and one of the main stumbling blocks to the emergence of India as an international frontrunner in sports. Over the past few years, cricket has evolved into a religion from being a mere sport in India. India is a country where Cricket is regarded as a religion and the fans are the disciples of this religion. Cricket became a national obsession due to which the interest in other sports dwindled. The disparity is getting bigger and bigger day by day.
Thanks to the Indian Premier League (IPL), now cricket has become more colorful and entertaining which has further exaggerated the problem. Indian sport beyond cricket is 1 % as cricket is 99 %. The sport of cricket has grabbed all the attention of the spectators and patronage of the MNCs and monolith corporates. It is no wonder that some school-going children are not aware of any other sport as such. For instance Channels like Star Cricket (now changed to Star Sports), Ten Cricket, Neo Cricket etc. talk and promote only cricket. Whereas on the other hand we don’t even see the mention of other sports in Top 100 news headlines of the day on news channels. Although it is a fact that cricket has brought many laurels and recognition to the country, people should not forget that it is also a fact that cricket is one of the many sports. It is time for the media to give equal importance to all sports beyond cricket.
Considering just how commercial the sport become, and is likely that the powerful business lobby and corporate world will continue to use all means and mediums available to keep cricket going no matter whether other sport continues to flourish or not. In fact, an example of the sheer selfishness surrounding the motivation to keep cricket going came out in a recent cabinet meeting, when it was decided that profits going to the International Cricket Council from the World Cup matches would be tax exempted. It’s a move that is highly discouraging for other sports in India, which need to fight for each and every penny to keep themselves afloat.
What’s worse, we have given cricket another stature altogether. I can back Brazil in soccer. Or root for Djokovic at Wimbledon. I can call Messi the best ever, or Asashoryu Akinori or Tiger Woods and its fine. But if I support Australia against India or say, as Shoaib did, that Sachin is a fine player but not the best, thousands will jump up to question my patriotism. That’s the stature cricket enjoys. It’s unreal and comes from dwarfing all other sport, which is not just unfair but wrong for a nation of our size and talent.
To be fair, Cricket is not the only culprit. People in western countries, who are very passionate about soccer, baseball also excel in other sports. The reason being failure of sporting authorities, government and people in spreading sport consciousness. India is next to China in terms of population but when it comes to sports performance we are lagging way behind China. Our performance in Beijing Olympics indicates that there is no dearth of talent in India but the same is not identified and tapped. Young talent should be encouraged from all parts of the country. In Los Angeles Olympics, China got the first and only gold medal. The same country now got 55 gold medals.
Athletes like Saina Nehwal, Abhinav Bindra, Saina Mirza and many others have to some extent constantly made the whole nation proud by their brilliant performances in their respective sports which has forced people to see sports beyond cricket. This has kept the hopes alive of bringing other sports to the same level. People demand Bharat Ratna for Mr. Sachin Tendular but nobody cares whether the great Dhyan Chand even got a Padma Bhushan for his achievements. The government should come in a big way so as to motivate the sportsmen in other disciplines to put their best foot forward and bring laurels to the country. In other words, the obsession towards the game of cricket also needs a relook.