Over the decades, India’s performance across various sporting disciplines, in comparison to other nations, has been somewhat average.
Primarily a cricket-crazy nation, India does enjoy notable affluence when it comes to talent, but statistics paint a different picture. Change being the only constant, years of domination in hockey, too, came to an end in the latter half of the previous century.
Moving forward, the possibilities are endless. It is a known fact that Indians are genetically better equipped to excel in certain sports, given they put in enough hard work and heart into their training and big-stage displays.
Let us now take a look at 5 such sports:
Four decades ago, the Amritraj brothers put India on the tennis map of the world.
In 1996, it was Leander Paes’ men’s singles bronze at the Atlanta Olympics which revived our cause and foretold of a glorious age on the horizon.
Twenty years later, we still haven’t had one Indian break into the Top 10 ranks, leave alone winning a Grand Slam Title in the Men’s or Women’s category in singles’ tennis. A country as big as India, despite tennis being a fairly popular sport in the urban areas, hasn’t produced a Singles’ champion till date.
As of today, Somdev Devvarman has been in the fray for a while and youngster Yuki Bhambri's efforts show glimpses of promise, but making the Top 100 in their category, surely, isn't enough.
That there is no dearth of talent has been proven by the formidable doubles’ partnerships formed by the likes of Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna at the international level. For our stars to replicate that success in singles, however, is what we remain so eager to see.
Every single edition of the modern Summer Olympics that started in 1896 has had gymnastics as an integral part of it. Out of those 27 times, however, India has been represented in a meagre three versions, towards in the middle of the 20th century.
History stands witness to the Indians' prowess across various disciplines like floor exercise and parallel bars that are contested in gymnastics. One of the greatest ironies to show for our dismal Olympics' fortune is the fact that the event of Indian clubs at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics did not have a participant from India.
Largely misconceived as a circus entity for years, gymnastics had its first ever Indian medal-winner in 2010 when Ashish Kumar clinched Commonwealth bronze in Delhi. Almost inevitably, the governing bodies were awakened to the possibilities, and we started making progress.
Finally, like a gust of cool, refreshing air, Tripura-girl Dipa Karmakar stormed into the scene, first with a spectacular Produnova at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and then with a historic Olympic qualification for Rio 2016, thus becoming the first ever Indian woman to do so.
3) Martial Arts
India's rich cultural heritage boasts of a wide variety of martial arts that have been practised here, across centuries. With the ushering in of new-age competitive sports, there's an abundance of disciplines that have taken a page out of the book of traditional warfare techniques all over the world.
Yet, in spite of having several legendary names to adorn the records in Kushti and Musti-Yuddha in India, we have not stepped up our game to fit the bill at the international stage.
With one silver and three bronzes in Wrestling, India languishes at 43rd in the all-time Olympic medal tally while in Boxing, with two bronze medals, the position is as low as 64th. In Judo, Garima Chaudhary was the only Indian representative at London 2012 while Taekwondo still sees no takers from the country at the Olympics.
It’s high time we stepped up our game to excel at this genre of sporting action so as to announce, in front of a worldwide audience, just how good we are at it.
Predominantly an American favourite initially, Baseball is a bat-and-ball game that caters to fans across the globe, today.
With its unmistakable resemblance to cricket, the No.1 sport in India, Baseball could certainly take a side seat here. Having the same concept of hits, misses and runs at its core, for the players who’ve proven their exquisite hand-eye co-ordination skills with cricket already, baseball is the perfect alternative.
Moreover, the fact that it keeps showing up at the Olympics should be the ideal incentive for Indian sportspeople to pick up the bat and walk into a baseball diamond, thus making another realistic effort to end its long-running drought conditions in the Olympic medals’ quest.
Cycling – another sport that has featured in every single edition of the modern Olympics that started in 1896. Contested over multiple categories over long and short stretches, within and outside the velodrome, cycling is one event that thrills the masses on every occurrence.
Every Indian cycles, irrespective of whether it is done as a day-to-day chore or for sports, the plenitude of seasoned cyclists within a country as vast as India cannot be doubted.
Although Indian cyclists have appeared at the Olympic stage in the past, there has been little to cheer for since we were far from a podium finish. With variants such as Keirin, Omnium, Sprint and Pursuit to aim at, with just a little more encouragement behind this sport, our young athletes could pedal their way to glory in the coming years.
For now, our eyes will be fixed on 21-year-old Deborah Herold from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, who’s ranked fourth in the 500m time trial discipline under UCI, today. The first Indian to achieve such a laurel, she’s currently eyeing 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualification for India.