Few would doubt that ever since India won the 1983 World Cup in England, Cricket became a religion for a nation of 1.2 billion people. After that memorable win, it was as if the whole country had found a reason to celebrate.
If India beat Pakistan, the public would get to the streets to burst crackers. If the national team won any global competition, there would be celebrations across the country. For years running, the public went ballistic over an Indian win in cricket and displayed equal spells of anger when the Men in Blue lost.
But every new development has an upside and a downside. While India went from strength-to-strength in cricket, it had a lasting impact on other sports, to the extent, that the average viewer knew very little about them.
However, despite its significance, time arrives for everything, and while Indian cricketers continued to get treated as demi-gods, sportsmen and women from India, slowly and steadily began to deliver credible performances in international events and even though these efforts weren’t as frequent as one would’ve liked it to be, it certainly did attract applause from many quarters, as and when it did happen.
One such achievement was the bronze medal, which Leander Paes won at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. It was India’s first individual medal victory at the Summer Games since Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav’s bronze medal win in wrestling at the 1952 Games held in Helsinki. Following the win, Leander suddenly became the toast of the nation, people wanted to know who he was, etc.
But that victory, just lit up a small flame which burnt for a while. Indian sport had to wait for a long time after that for a truly renaissance moment, which would create a much bigger impact than what Leander’s win did.
Beijing Olympics: the real turning point
That moment in Indian sport came on the 11th of August 2008 when Abhinav Bindra clinched the Gold medal in the 10m Air Rifle event at the Beijing Olympics. The victory had significance, not only because it was India’s maiden Gold medal at the Summer Games, but also because it gave a billion Indians the hope to DREAM..
That achievement certainly did achieve its ulterior objective, which was inspire more people to take up the sport and do well and it certainly did bring India more glory.
Ronjan Sodhi clinched the gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games and also became the first Indian to successfully defend a World Cup title, the following year.
At the London Olympics in 2012, not one but 2 Indian shooters- Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang- won a silver and bronze respectively to carry forward what Bindra had achieved 4 years earlier.
For me Bindra’s contribution in the pantheon of Indian sports would be to provide 1.2 billion people the hope that they can shine on the world stage despite facing many roadblocks, with regards to facilities, a lack of a proactive association etc.
In the past, there have been many inspirational stories of Indian athletes doing very well on the world stage. The latest to join that bandwagon was Satnam Singh Bhamara, who at the age of 19, realized his and the dream of a billion Indians, when on the morning of 26th June 2015, he became the first basketball player from the country to be drafted into the NBA.
Like the Bindra moment, the Bhamara moment has done something similar, which is to give several hardcore basketball fans in India, the hope and belief that they can also make it to the elite club.
Although from different sports, the Bindra and Bhamara story do have one common thread binding them, which is both trained extensively abroad. The former spent a lot of his time in Germany, United States, etc while the latter spent 5 years at the IMG Reliance Academy in Florida.
Monetarily, though, Bindra had to encounter fewer hardships that Bhamara but that doesn't reduce the magnitude of his achievement.
Bhamara’s victory could ignite the will to dream
But the pertinent point here is both achievements did what they set out to do which was to make India proud and set a benchmark for many budding young sports persons.
If at all, Bhamara’s feat is all the more special, considering that he came from a remote village and made the most of the scholarship opportunity that came his way at such a young age.
The importance of that though would be known in the coming days, but one thing is for sure, which is that, while Satnam Singh Bhamara might still have to wait for some time before stepping onto the court for the Dallas Mavericks, he has already installed huge amount of belief and a will to DREAM among many young sportsman in the country.Published 01 Jul 2015, 12:24 IST