Why Kabaddi and not Hockey should be the national game of India
- A survey on the important sports of India and a discussion on what should be the national game of India.
There have been discussions lately regarding giving the national game status to Hockey. But how far is it justified? Should Hockey become the national game of India or it should be any other sport? Let us find out.
First, let us shortlist the games for the sake of simplifying the survey. The shortlisting of the games are based upon the following criteria -
1) Historical importance and indigenousness of the sport
2) Past success
3) Recent success
4) International popularity
5) Current international rankings
6) Passion among the people of India for the game
7) Access of the game for a common man and sports infrastructure
So based upon the above-mentioned criteria, the following games have been shortlisted.
Now we will discuss the success rate of these games in the aforementioned criteria. The following marks will be awarded to the games judging upon their success rate.
1 - Poor
2 - Average
3 - Good
4 - Very Good
5 - Excellent
Historical importance and indigenousness of the sport
We will take into account the historical importance of the games since ancient times and their indigenousness. The marks given to the shortlisted games are as follows.
Hockey - 3: Games played with curved sticks and a ball can be found in the histories of many cultures including Egypt, ancient Greece, Ireland and Mongolia that are at least 1000 years old. So it is not an indigenous sport. Hockey or Field Hockey in its current form appeared in mid-18th century England, primarily in schools, but it became firmly established in the first half of the 19th century
Cricket - 1: Cricket has a known history that began in the late 16th century in south-east England. So it is also not an indigenous sport. The first ever international cricket game was played in 1844 between USA and Canada and the first ever test match was played in 1877 between England and Australia.
Wrestling - 5: It is perhaps one of the most ancient games dating back to prehistoric times. In ancient India, wrestling was most famously known as Malla-yuddha and we can find its reference in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. In modern times it came to be known as Pehelwani or Kushti and was widely practised in the Akhadas. Even now these Akhadas are home to budding and promising wrestlers.)
Kabbadi - 5: Though Kabaddi is primarily a South Asian game, its origin is largely unknown. However, we can trace its origin to pre-historic times when man learned to defend in groups against animals or attack weaker animals individually or in groups for survival and food. The game is believed to be originated in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The word ‘kabaddi’ owes its origin to the Tamil word, ‘kai-pidi’, which means holding hands. We can safely say that it is an indigenous sport.
Shooting - 1: The earliest recorded shooting match is the one held in Eichstäat, Bavaria, in 1477 much after the advent of firearms in c.1300. During the 19th century, earlier forms of organizations such as shooting clubs developed into national shooting federations. So it is not an indigenous sport.
Chess - 5: Perhaps the oldest description of chess is found in the epic Ramayana in which the demon king Ravana invents chess to amuse his wife Mandodari. Evidence say that it originated around the 6th century AD. in India. From India, the game spread to Persia and subsequently when the Arabs conquered Persia, chess was taken up by the Muslim world and from there it spread to Southern Europe. In Europe, chess roughly evolved into its current form in the 15th century.
Archery - 5: It is also one of the most ancient games that probably dates to the Stone Age. The bow and arrow constituted the classical Indian weapon of warfare that is mentioned in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. In Indian mythology, Rama, Arjuna and Karna etc. were described as excellent archers. The archery described in the Indian mythologies was extremely sophisticated.
Badminton - 3: A badminton-like game has been played for centuries in Eurasia called battledore and shuttlecock in which two players hit a feathered shuttlecock back and forth with tiny rackets. However, the modern version of the game was played in India during the 18th Century, at which time it was called "Poona" after the town of Pune where it was particularly popular and where the first rules of the game were drawn up in 1873.
Boxing - 5: It is also one of the most ancient games. The earliest known depiction of boxing can be found in a Sumerian relief in Iraq from the 3rd millennium BCE. Boxing called as Mushti-yuddha existed in ancient India which finds mention in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Rig Veda. Numerous references to Mushti-yuddha has been given in the "Gurbilas Shemi", an 18th-century Sikh text.
We will take into account how much success the game achieved till the end of the 19th century or up to 2000 AD. Achievements will be measured by the number of international championships/medals won. The marks are as follows.
Hockey - 5: The most noticeable achievements are - 8 gold medals in the Olympics, 1 gold medal in the World Cups and 2 gold medals in the Asian Games.
Cricket - 4 : 1 World Cup win in 1983 and numerous international championship victories.
Wrestling - 3: 1 Olympic bronze medal through K.D.Yadav, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal in the World Championships, 8 Asian Games gold medals and 20 Commonwealth Games gold medals.
Kabbadi - 2: 3 Asian Games gold medals in the Men's event.
Shooting - 2: 2 gold and 6 silver medals in the Asian Games, 8 gold and 6 silver medals in the Commonwealth Games and numerous international events medals.
Chess - 3: 2 World Championship runners-up against Chess legends Kasparov and Karpov plus numerous international tournament successes through Vishwanathan Anand.
Archery - 1: Successes through Limba Ram mainly who once set a world record in 1992 in the 30m event at the Asian Archery Championship held in Beijing and also qualified for the finals of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He also won gold at the Asian Archery Cup and at the Commonwealth Archery Championship.
Badminton - 2: Successes mainly through Prakash Padukone who won the All England Open Championship in 1980 and was the World no. 1 in the same year. He also won the gold in the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games and a World Championship bronze medal. Other noticeable achievements were - 1 Commonwealth Games gold medal through Syed Modi and 7 bronze medals in the Asian Games.
Boxing - 2: 5 gold, 13 silver and 21 bronze medals in the Asian Games, 2 silver and 6 bronze medals in the Commonwealth Games.
We will take into account the significant numbers of international championships/medals won after 2000 A.D. The marks are as follows.
Hockey - 2: 1 gold medal in the Asian Games, 2 silver medals in the Champion's Trophy, 2 silver medals through the Men's team and 1 gold plus 1 silver medal through the Women's team in the Commonwealth Games and 2 Cup victories in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
Cricket - 4: 1 World Cup victories each in the ODI and Twenty20 format, 2 ICC Champions Trophy victories, held the ICC Test Championship Mace in 2009-10, 2010-11, 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Wrestling - 3: 1 silver and 3 bronze medals in the Olympics, 1 gold, 1 silver and 7 bronze Medals in the World Championships, 1 gold and 2 silver medals in the Asian Games and 18 Commonwealth Games gold medals.
Kabbadi - 5: 3 World Cup victories in the Standard Style and 8 World Cup victories in the Circle Style that includes 5 in the Men's and 3 in the Women's event plus 6 Asian Games Gold Medals including 4 in the Men's and 2 in the Women's event.
Shooting - 4: 1 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medals in the Olympics, 5 gold and 11 silver medals in the Asian Games plus 46 Commonwealth Games gold medals along with numerous international events medals.
Chess - 5: 5 FIDE World Chess Championship victories in classical chess in all formats, FIDE World Rapid Chess Championship victories in 2003 and 2017, FIDE World Blitz Chess Championship runner-up in 2007 and 2009 and numerous International Chess Tournament victories through Vishwanathan Anand.
Archery - 2: 1 gold, 2 silver and 5 bronze medals in the Asian Games, 1 World Championship silver medal in the Men's Team Recurve Olympic Round, 2 World Championship silver medals in the Women's Team Recurve Olympic Round, 1 World Championship silver medal in the Men's Individual Compound Event, 1 World Championship silver medal in the Women's Team Compound Event, 1 bronze medal in Men's Individual World Cup Finals Recurve, 1 gold and 4 silver medals in the Women's Individual World Cup Finals Recurve and 1 silver medal in the Men's Individual World Cup Finals Compound.
Badminton - 3: 1 silver and 1 bronze medal in the Olympics, 1 bronze medal in the Asian Games, 1 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medals in the individual events of the Commonwealth Games plus numerous Super Series title victories.
Boxing - 3: 2 bronze medals in the Olympics, 8 gold, 6 silver and 18 bronze medals in the World Championships, 3 gold, 3 silver and 10 bronze medals in the Asian Games, 5 gold, 7 silver and 8 bronze medals in the Commonwealth Games.
We will take into account how many countries in the world play this game and how competitive this game is among the top 10 playing nations. Also, we will take into account whether the concerned game is an Olympic sport or not, which is a sign of international acceptance or recognition of the sport. The marks are as follows.
Hockey - 4: 135 nations play this game at present under FIH, which is the governing body of the sport and it is very competitive among the top 10 playing nations. It is an Olympic sport.
Cricket - 3: 12 full member nations and 92 associated member nations play this sport under ICC which is the governing body of this sport. The game is very competitive amongst the top 10 playing nations. But it is not an Olympic sport.
Wrestling - 5: United World Wrestling is the governing body of this amateur sport that has a membership of 176 national federations. The game is extremely competitive amongst the top 10 playing nations. It is an Olympic sport.
Kabbadi - 2: International Kabaddi Federation is the governing body of this game and it has membership of 31 national associations. The game is competitive amongst the top 5-6 nations only. It is yet to become an Olympic sport though this game is recognised by the Olympic Council of Asia.
Shooting - 4: At present 161 national member federations are affiliated to the ISSF, the governing body of this sport. The game is extremely competitive amongst the top 10 playing nations and it is an Olympic sport.
Chess - 4: FIDE, the governing body of this sport has a membership of 188 member federations and is among the biggest sports organisations in the world. The game is extremely competitive amongst the top 10 playing nations. It is yet to become an Olympic sport, though FIDE is recognised by the International Olympics Committee as an International Sports Federation.
Archery - 4: The World Archery Federation is the governing body of the sport and it is composed of 156 national federations and other Archery associations. The game is extremely competitive amongst the top 10 playing nations and is an Olympic sport.
Badminton - 5: The Badminton World Federation is the governing body of the sport and consists of 188 members globally. The game is competitive amongst the top 10 playing nations and is an Olympic sport.
Boxing - 5: The International Boxing Association or AIBA is the governing body of the sport with 201 member federations. The game is extremely competitive among the top 10 playing nations and is an Olympic sport.
Current international rankings
We will take into account how India stands internationally in the rankings of this game. The marks are as follows.
Hockey - 3: Currently the Men's team is ranked 6th and the Women's team is ranked 10th in the world.
Cricket - 5: Currently the Men's team is ranked 1st, 2nd and 2nd in the Test, ODI and T20I format respectively while the Women's team is ranked 4th in the world taking into account the results of Test, ODI and T20I altogether.
Wrestling - 3: Currently one Men's wrestler and two Women's wrestlers figure in the top 10 of the international rankings.
Kabbadi - 5: Currently the Indian team is the undisputed no.1 ranked team in both the Men's and the Women's event.
Shooting - 4: Currently three men and three women shooters figure in the top 10 of the international rankings.
Chess - 2: If we take the classic, rapid and blitz rankings into consideration then only Vishwanathan Anand figures in the top 10 of the blitz rankings and just misses the top 10 rank in the classic and rapid format. Only one more Indian, P. Harikrishna figures in the top 40 of the rankings in all the three formats.
Archery - 3: Currently one Men's archer and two Women's archers figure in the top 10 of the international rankings.
Badminton - 3: Currently one Men's shuttler and two Women's shuttlers figure in the top 10 of the international rankings.
Boxing - 4: Currently three Men's boxers and four Women's boxers figure in the top 10 of the international rankings
Passion for the game in India
We will take into account how popular the game is in India and how many people in India follow the game.
Hockey - 3: Though the game is very popular in India yet the viewership of the sport is not that high. The Hockey India League of 2017 delivered less than 30 million cumulative audiences for the entire 35-day season.
Cricket - 5: Currently it is the most popular and most viewed sport in India. The total viewership of the 2018 edition of the IPL reportedly was somewhere around 1.4 billion, which was almost 15% more than the 2017 edition. It can be safely said that if the people of India are the most passionate about any single sport, then it is Cricket.
Wrestling - 4: The game is very popular in India both in the rural and urban areas. The viewership of the sport recently is also encouraging. The Pro Wrestling League 3 reached over 85 crore viewers across India in over 36 hrs. It became one of the most popular leagues in the country after Cricket.
Kabbadi - 4: It is one of the most popular games in India especially in the rural areas. The viewership of the sport is also very high. According to the BARC ratings (Broadcast Audience Research Council) in India, the fifth edition of the Pro Kabaddi League in 2017 drew more viewership than the India-Sri Lanka Cricket series which is surprising given the cult status of the game of Cricket in India. The total impressions garnered by the first 23 matches in PKL 2017 was 328 million which is a mind-boggling figure.
Shooting - 1: It is one of the least popular sports in this list. The viewership of this sport is also not high, the main reason being it is not a visually appealing sport. Also as the costs of the equipment in this sport is very high, very few people pursue this sport which is mainly an urban sport.
Chess - 4: It is also one of the most popular games in India since ages. Though the game becomes difficult to follow at the highest level for a common man, still around 80 million viewers viewed the World Championship matches between Vishwanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen on DD Sport in a single round in 2013 that reflects the popularity of the sport in India.
Archery - 2: It is among the least popular sports in this list, the main reason being it is not a visually appealing sport. However, it is gaining popularity in the rural areas as it is an indigenous sport and traditionally people of rural areas especially the tribals are good at it.
Badminton - 3: It is a very popular as well as well followed sport. Though P.V. Sindhu’s badminton final match against Spain's Carolina Marin at the Rio Olympics had garnered 66.5 million viewers in India, still the PBL season 2 in 2017 could only deliver 18-19 million audiences throughout the period of the league that reflects the decrease in the popularity of the game in comparison with other sports such as Kabaddi and Wrestling.
Boxing - 3: It is a very popular sport in India and well followed too. Recently the fights of Vijender Singh who turned professional garnered lots of TV viewership. The 2017 WBO Asia Pacific title bout between Vijender Singh and Francis Cheka drew TV viewership of a whopping 60 million that shows the growing popularity of the sport in India.
Access for a common man and sports infrastructure:
We will take into account how accessible the game is for a common man in India and the existing infrastructure. The marks are as follows.
Hockey - 2: When Hockey was being played on grass, it was accessible to all. But since the game began to be played on artificial turfs from 1970 onward it became available to be played in fewer locations in India where artificial turf facility was present. Though the game is still played in the grass at places having heritage value, availability of the artificial turf is essential to play the modern game. Currently, in India artificial turf is available at only 30-35 grounds that shows the poor state of infrastructure available as far as the point of making Hockey a mass game is concerned.
Cricket - 5: The reason why Cricket is so much popular in India is because, it can be played almost anywhere whether indoors or outdoors, though for competitive Cricket we need natural turf pitches which are available at almost 500 cricket grounds across the country. This shows the nature of infrastructure available in the country which is accessible to almost anybody who is interested to play the game.
Wrestling - 4: Traditionally Wrestling was played on dirt/mud arenas in Akhadas which was prepared by using natural substances. Though these traditional arenas still exist, modern wrestling is played on a synthetic mat at national/international level. And currently, promising wrestlers mainly depend upon SAI (Sports Authority of India) centres. SAI has 2 Sports Academic institutions, 10 "SAI Regional Centres" (SRC), 15 "Centre of Excellence" (COE/COX) and 56 "Sports Training Centres" (STC) across the country. And we can not label these facilities as of international standard. Even now most of the champion wrestlers are basically products of the traditional wrestling schools which are in urgent need of modernization.
Kabbadi - 5: As Kabaddi is an indigenous sport and does not need any sophisticated equipment, it is widely played in the country that includes both the rural and urban areas. Basically new entrants play in mud arenas which are also used in the local Championships at various school and college levels. But in higher competitive levels synthetic mat is used which are available in selected training centres in the country especially in the SAI centres. The training facilities cannot be said to be of the international standard if we compare it with European nations. But as India is a Kabaddi powerhouse and has won almost everything on the international circuit, its achievements mask the non-availability of top-class training infrastructure.
Shooting - 1: Though Shooting came into prominence in India through silver medals won by Dr Karni Singh in the 1962 World Championship and the 1974 Asian Games, it gathered momentum from 1990 onwards when Indian shooters regularly found themselves in the victory podium. Though it became much more popular after the Olympics silver and gold medal victories by Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Abhinav Bindra, yet due to its high equipment and training costs it failed to attract participants from all corners of the country and all economic groups. Even now it's access is restricted to economically rich people and the soldiers of the Indian Army. If Shooting is to become a more popular sport, sufficient training facilities are to be provided in different corners of the country which is still a distant dream.
Chess - 5: This sport is one of the most accessible sports in India, the reason being you need a basic chess set to play the game. One can see chess being played in the streets surrounded by curious onlookers. But when the modern competitive part of the game comes into the picture, you need good books, coaches and software to excel in this game. And to add to that you also need to travel a lot in order to participate in the top tournaments to increase your ratings. All these expenses make chess an expensive sport to pursue. But after the mammoth success of Vishwanathan Anand, the whole scenario of chess in India has changed and parents are willing to spend money to improve their children's chess career. So many quality private chess institutes have come up to cater to the growing needs of the Chess enthusiasts. And the future of chess looks promising.
Archery - 2: The game came into limelight when Limba Ram created a world record in 1992. Since then the game is on an ascending path. Though the game looks quite simple like shooting an arrow from a bow, still like other games Archery has gone through a facelift and you need high-quality carbon/aluminium gear to play the game. And these equipments are not easily available everywhere so that newcomers can be initiated into the game. The only specialised centres to learn the game are run by the SAI which selects players through the talent hunt programs. If Archery has to become more popular, training facilities have to be set up in the schools where talented young players can be initiated into the game.
Badminton - 4: Badminton has been one of the most popular sports in India and the game is played almost everywhere. The game was followed seriously after the success of Prakash Padukone in the 80s. Recently the game got a boost due to the Olympics successes of Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu who won bronze and silver medals respectively. But still young promising players depend upon private academies like Gopichand's to succeed in the game. India do not have infrastructure facilities like the Chinese to excel at the international level. More and more academies need to come up in every state to make India a Badminton superpower.
Boxing - 3: Though Indian Boxers were always world class, still they lacked success due to the absence of quality coaches and training facilities. Only recently Indian boxers are regularly hitting the international headlines and it has happened due to the consistent efforts of the coaches like G.S. Sandhu and improvements in the training facilities. However, boxing training is not available in every corner of India. Only SAI centres are there to train the young boxers and it's facilities can't be termed as world class. If Indian boxing needs to grow, more training facilities have to be made available in the schools so that talented youngsters can be spotted and initiated into the game.
Conclusion: Now let us add the marks together and summarize. The total marks of the shortlisted games are as follows.
Kabbadi - 28
Chess - 28
Wrestling - 27
Cricket - 27
Boxing - 25
Badminton - 23
Hockey - 22
Archery - 19
Shooting - 17
So two games namely Kabaddi and Chess jointly lead the list closely followed by Wrestling and Cricket.
Both Kabaddi and Chess are indigenous games which should be the first criteria as far as judging a game as the national game is concerned and India has tasted much international success in these games. The interesting thing is that one of these two games is a physical sport while the other is a mental sport. Also, both the games are non-Olympic sports.
But it can be safely said that in Kabaddi, India has a clear dominance over other nations at the international level while in Chess India's dominance at the international level is decreasing as Vishwanathan Anand, the man responsible for India's meteoric rise in the game is slowly approaching his retiring age and other players are yet to follow in his footsteps.
The future of Kabaddi also looks bright as far as fan following is concerned with the growing success of the Pro Kabaddi League. More and more countries are also taking interest in this game and that day is not far away when Kabaddi will become a truly world sport and not just a south Asian sport. Also in future Kabaddi's inclusion as an Olympic sport can't be ruled out.
Kabaddi has always been a mass game and after reviewing it under the previously given criteria and comparing it with other popular games of India, we can safely declare that it is fit enough to be the national game.Published 12 Jul 2018, 15:35 IST