Global impact of street cricket and Futsal
A global sport such as football or cricket needs no introduction. They are probably the farthest reaching sports in terms of viewership and fan base but they have nothing in common, and it would be preposterous to suggest otherwise.
Yet, in their ecosystems exist a phenomenon that fuels the popularity of the game. Football owes much of its popularity to its lesser-known cousin Futsal and we have grown up listening to the folklore and fables of subcontinental street-cricket.
This is not an article on football or Futsal. However, it's important to look at the distinctive difference between the two forms to understand a wider phenomenon. Whilst football is popular the world over with a viewership of over 1 billion for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals alone, Futsal has been largely restricted to the backstreets of South American nations and is slowly finding popularity in Europe now.
That said, would it be unfair to say Futsal puts the glamour in football? Is it not true that a number of legends (past & present) honed their skills playing Futsal before graduating to football?
The latter, with its dedicated academies, churns out many a footballer, much like the universities producing top talent and yet it's ruled by the former, much like the dropouts turned entrepreneurs.
On the other hand, I want to draw parallels with cricket. Necessity is the mother of invention and sub-continental teams owe it to street cricket for the emergence of some of the most innovative players to have graced the game.
Take nothing away from the students of the game but a fair share of innovation and flair has come from players who have played in confined spaces, much like Futsal. Players adapting to the point where you have individuals almost in the realm of being ambidextrous. Well, not exactly, but you get the point.
It's refreshing to see youngsters like Jasprit Bumrah with a unique style that has no place in the coaching manual, plying their trade with pomp. Not only are they going toe to toe with some big names in the industry but also constantly outperforming them, highlighting a very important point in that process.
The effectiveness of a player cannot and should not be undermined by the aesthetic nature of his or her gameplay. The elegance of stroke play and the grace a player brings to the game have constantly been at the fore whereas the effectiveness a player brings to the game is often neglected.
They both have their place in the game and it's important the custodians of the game make an effort to remove the unconscious bias to preserve the originality of players. I hope the likes of Bumrah and Chanderpaul are not an exception but the norm, and the administration at grassroots is not blindsided and recognizes that talent comes in all shapes and forms. Whilst it's important to correct form to minimize injuries to athletes, it's equally important to maintain authenticity.