So this Mr. Babumoshai from Bengal is a great fan of football. His favorite team is Mohun Bagan, he never misses their game but his son is exactly the opposite. Much to his hatred, the son likes cricket, he has even enrolled himself in one of the clubs in Maidan. Babumoshai hates to see him in whites. He swears in the name of Kali whenever he sees his son watching an IPL T20 match of his favorite team KKR while he has to call his friend on phone to get the score of the football match. He says to his son, “Beta, you are not letting me watch the El Clasico of India – the great Mohun Bagan is playing against East Bengal today” Beta Moshai would smirk and reply “El Clasico? eh?” “Do you know the glorious past we had in football? Your generation – the generation of cricket has destroyed other sports in India”
This is what most of us feel here in India. When something goes wrong, we find some to put the blame unto, when something does not go right then also we find some to put the blame in. Rarely do we find mistakes in ourselves. It is like if some sports are not able to come up, people blame the other popular sports.
“Cricket is over!” – declared IOA President Suresh Kalmadi after India returned with three Olympic medals from Beijing in 2008. Like Kalmadi, many other sports officials as well as current and ex-sportspersons share this animosity for cricket, for the prime reason that it is the most followed game in India, whose popularity supersedes any other sport. But the question is, if other sports have been struggling to make their mark, why blame cricket for it?
People here are obsessed with cricket for 3 years and 11 months while Olympics just deserve their 1 month hence critics also tend to say that we should not expect those shining medals with these kind of support.
Ha, yes ! Cricket is the root cause of all evils plaguing other sports in the country. Well, someone who is just not infatuated by sports in general but instead truly loves them would definitely say it is not cricket that is damaging other sports. It is our addiction to cricket that is damaging other sports. Indians largely are so addicted to cricket that they do not have the time or interest for other sports. The real problem is not the obsession with cricket but the ignorance of all other sports.
Now ask the cricket lovers and they would say “Cricket is nowhere related in damaging other sports. We are praising it because we are winning it. Let other sports win something at highest level then they will get their reserved respect. Once other sports start to get top rank in the world list, people will also take interest in watching them.” This kind of mentality is hard-wired into the minds of Indians. Cricket became popular after India won 1983 world cup. Similarly tennis became popular after Leander Paes won the bronze medal in the ’96 Olympics and when he and Mahesh Bhupathi started winning major grand slams. Also, it may be observed that boxing and wrestling has gained decent popularity after Vijender Singh, Mary Kom and Sushilkumar won medals in recent Olympics. Take the case of Saina Nehwal, we didn’t know who is she at the beginning when she joined badminton, but later when she continued to win more number of games, we all had a look at her and in Olympics everyone expected a gold from her. Take chess, for us Vishwanath Anand will be the winner always, everyone in India knows about him. Now about hockey, once upon a time we had lot of victories so we praised about it. Hockey became our national game post-Independence because we dominated the sport for decades with six consecutive Olympic Gold medals. But now we are debating that whether hockey should be our national game or not.
Even after exaggerating numbers of Indians who are passionate about cricket, one might wonder about the remaining ones. Why not dip into them? Cricket did not become the reigning sport overnight. How does my love of cricket come in the way of progress of other games? Does it act as a negative catalyst for other sports or does it create a pitch in between the astro turf of Hockey or nail the nets for practice at the shooting arena? As a cricket lover, I respect the struggle of other sports and can assure them that cricket have not caused them any problem. Just play your respective games at your respective arena and bring glory to the nation.
Let’s get back to the 1980s, the decade that catapulted Indian cricket‘s arrival on the global stage. It was the sheer timing of events that elevated cricket to the top. It was perhaps a mere coincidence that the 1983 World Cup win coincided with the arrival of television and the decline of hockey. The Indian victory at the World Cup in 1983 just acted as a catalyst which pushed cricket as the most popular sports in the modern era of India. Cricket, like any other sport in the country, is not unscathed by politics and corruption but despite all the odds, it has grown impressively.
The transit of viewership and shift in support has been phenomenal. We have started loving and appreciating other sports too. I see this changing at this point in time but the change is subtle. There are numerous reasons to loathe the Indian cricket board but at the same time there are sufficient lessons for other sports bodies and federations in the country to learn from them on how to grow into a strong sports body. Hence, instead, we should encourage co existence of cricket with other sports and try to pull other sports up instead of pulling down the institution of cricket. If we are hell bent on blaming Cricket for all the ills then we will never get out of the misery.