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India should move on from being the cricket obsessed nation

Sports in India is a fantastic phenomenon. The very enthusiasm of the billion in our country is outrageously unique. There are a few countable sports that we participate in on the world stage, even fewer that we excel in

CONTRIBUTOR
04 Jan 2015, 11:05 IST
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Indian cricket team celebrate after winning the 2011 World Cup

Success of sporting leagues

Sports in India is a fantastic phenomenon. The very enthusiasm of the billion in our country is outrageously unique. There are a few countable sports that we participate in on the world stage, even fewer that we excel in. Nevertheless, the fervor portrayed by the masses makes sport a popular pass time in India. Although there is a strong sense of disparity between sports, it would be safe to say that India is working towards having a more open-minded approach towards the lesser known facades of sport itself.

For example, the recent introduction of a football league namely the Indian Super League (ISL) and a hockey league called the Hockey India League (HIL). Such events have borrowed the recent popular idea to have the regions in a country compete with the joining in of international professionals as well as giving upcoming talent in the host country a platform to excel. I also think that the economic prospects of these multiple sporting events looks pretty good for our country. The Indian Premier League (IPL) is one of the richest sporting events on this planet.  However, it is also important to mention how sport is still ‘upcoming’ in our nation.

Can’t blame BCCI for everything

We cannot compare ourselves to countries like England who are excelling at top positions in multiple sports. Apart from us being a much younger free country, I also think that the scale of stuff in our country is quite big and therefore it takes time to establish itself. Let us take IPL as an example of this, it almost surprises people when stated that this league is only seven years old. The very scale of this phenomenal league is absolutely exceptional and world renowned. Now, looking at the negatives, I would like to mention of the mounting corruption that exists in this country of ours. Most of us however choose to whine over it and identify the culprits based on baseless reports by wannabe news reporters instead of going out there and initiating change.

One such body that is usually targeted is the BCCI. For those unaware, this body has the dreadful task of controlling everything cricket in India, and that just by the way is a lot to control as the cricket lobby in our country is enormous. Another lesser known fact is that the BCCI is a non-governmental body which means its working has nothing to do with our very beloved Indian Government. There are two sides to this.

The first one is that the BCCI has no connection with our muddled government, thus allowing for smooth operation without much corruption on the other side. Recently BCCI was under the scanner due to the spot fixing scandal and a conflict of interest that involved the President of the body. In my opinion, controversies are a fragment of life and we only learn from them. It would be wrong to write off the cricketing future of our nation based on one dispute. Overall I believe that India has a bright future in the field of sports and this article attempts to thoroughly give an insight to everything related to sport in India. 

What people think

In an attempt to gather a variety of opinions, all roads led to the same path; our country is obsessed with cricket. While some choose to seize this obsession, others prefer to grumble about its absolute domination. To sum it up, you can hate cricket in india but you cannot ignore and this fact was proven as almost every person I spoke to mentioned something related to cricket. Conversation with some was scintillating especially those who opposed cricket, simply because my opinion stated otherwise.

Lets start with the positive opinions, most people appreciated cricket and mentioned of how it made our country proud by winning several global tournaments . The opposing parties blamed it for overshadowing the development of other sports, the details of which shall be discussed later in this article. I also was curious about the opinion of people on other sports. The questions were rather standard, and young people were extremely enthusiastic about football. Most were aware of the ISL gaining popularity. What I particularly liked about them was the optimistic attitude of most. Instead of cribbing about the overall lack of infrastructure, they were positive about the future almost bearing the responsibility of putting India on the football map of the world.

Lack of knowledge on other sports

Some on the other hand were furious about the cricket obsession and rather pessimistic about future prospects. Even if we see on a global scale, football and cricket are more prevalent that others, therefore when asked about their views on other Indian sports, the responses were rather satirical. The same people who were so comfortable discussing the exact number of Sachin’s centuries now found themselves not only clueless, but also awkward at this topic of conversation. Most thought that I would ask them something they weren’t even aware of and looked for ways to deviate or even end the conversation itself.

Lets face it, our country’s intellect in sport is not adequate. Only a few of the upper middle classes are exposed to the sports scenario worldwide. In order to expand sport in India people need to be exposed to its various facades. This brings us to the next segment, the lack of infrastructure and how absolutely nothing is being done about it. I choose to call myself optimistic and before making such strong statements I decided to do some research about the same. What I found was rather blatant. What I am implying is that India is growing as a sporting nation, but sadly it is focussing on the big prospects such as the introduction of HIL and Pro Kabaddi League.

In my opinion, the funds should be made available to the establishment of training at the grass-root level for multiple sports. If this is not done then the current growth would be rather temporary as there would be no place for filtering upcoming talent. 

The Sharapova incident

The following is my opinion on cricket in India. 

In a nation where cricket is considered no less than a religion , timely controversies emanating from the sport's dogmatic disciples are inevitable. However, the sensitivity of the Indian Cricket Fan has once again grabbed the limelight. Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis star who was not cognizant of the existence of Sachin Tendulkar - a cricketer, worshipped by fans worldwide, and yet an epitome of humility. What began in a jocular sense, culminated, soon enough, in a war of fanbases. On one side were the angry Russians who called the Indians ‘insecure’ and on the other side were much more lethal, annoyed Tendulkar fans who still haven’t been able to digest the tragedy of his retirement.

The result however was an outrage on various social media platforms - undoubtedly the most commonplace frustration-venting ground. But it would be unfair to completely blame it on Indians and for a second let's assume that this is not patriotism speaking. I mean how could she not have not known him? Having said this, I am absolutely not in favor of justifying the aggression showed by some Indian Cricket Fans.

Passion for cricket

This incident not only made me wonder about the inaccessibility and seclusion of cricket around the world but also highlighted the unhealthy obsession of an average cricket fan in India. Do we take this game way too seriously? Are we negatively passionate about the sport? Are we doing this wrong? The answers to these questions vary and so does the opinion of the many, many people in our country. It is humanly impossible to consider the view of 1.2 billion Indians. But we try, don’t we? Social media fulfills this need that all of us have. Let's take cricket for starters. The players who perform well are considered extraordinary beings and the fame they receive is almost unimaginable. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction and in this case the reaction is much more fatal. Attacks on the player’s houses and families, riots, irrational journalism are usual sightings when India loses a match.

“Indians run high on emotions”, is the safest explanation to the mentioned above but is it justifiable? A young writer like me who hasn’t seen the world would disagree to this hands down but every coin has a flipside and it would be wrong to simply discard the opinion of the many Indian Cricket fans simply because no one complains when the players are overhyped. A lot believe that this problem is too mediocre to be discussed, I believe otherwise. Time has only worsened the situation and the Indian fan has not matured, it has succumbed to the platform of social media. 

A few months back controversies favorite child, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was in the news for reasons that were downright humorous. To cut a long yarn short, some attention seeking political party cum religious group attempted to issue an arrest warrant against Captain Cool. The case related to a picture on the cover of a magazine in which Dhoni was depicted as Hindu god ‘Vishnu’ with a caption "God of Big Deals" and holding products of numerous companies including a shoe in his hand.

After ranting about it for a couple of days and running behind the man for a comment, the matter eventually cooled down and the current situation is unknown to most. Everyone knew that India’s most talented captain would not be arrested for coming in the cover of a magazine. Not because he is an influential person, but also because it would be absolutely absurd to do so. To conclude, I would not like to say much. The prospect of Indian Sport is rather different to most countries. Our passion for the game makes us unique but will it last? 

Forgotten or Flouted? 

A nation as vibrant as ours, yet only a few countable sports are prevalent. Its finally time to rationalize this. Some believe that they have been forgotten, while others choose to believe that they are being ignored. Forgotten in the sense that its existence has been so mediocre that it has faded away eventually. Flouted in the sense that the sheer domination of other more established sports has led people to openly ignore some of the native sports of our nation. Hockey for starters, our national sport only by name.

While doing the interviews, people were almost not willing to talk about hockey saying that our country was ‘hopeless’ at it. Those patriots who were keen to talk about it did not have much to say. In an opinion of my own, India is making attempts at restoring hockey for example with the introduction of Hockey India League. The result however is not that fruitful. On the global stage, we are ranked around 9 with only 20 countries participating. I also choose to believe that this ranting will get us nowhere, its now time to move on. Hockey was chosen as our national sport because we were once successful at it, in recent times we have grown more proficient is sports such as cricket. Its time to reconsider the national sport of India, more that anything it will free people of the guilt that comes with hockey’s downfall. 

The façades of Indian Sport

Sport in India is run on emotion, this emotion is intensified by some specific personalities. People here don’t want to just watch sport, they want to connect with it, relate to it. Some call this a problem, I believe not. The thing is that when one player performs, he is insanely idolized to a level that is unimaginable. Consequently, when the same player is a little out of form, he is the enemy of state, the disgrace to this nation. The only problem here is immature journalism. The need to sell has made news channels take extreme steps, which is not really good for this country of ours. The mere amount of Sachin’s popularity in our country is phenomenal.

I can’t say anything about him that has already been said. The good the bad and the ugly. His retirement was probably more eventful than the national elections. Thats just how we are I guess; enthusiastic, passionate, rather overwhelmed by our successes in cricket. It makes up happy, content with our national pride. A nation as young as ours, especially after years of colonial rule, there is not much attainment that we receive and when we do it is a matter of vanity. 

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