By Jhalak Agarwal:
Over the years, people in India have been so involved in Cricket that it has even overshadowed our national game – Hockey. It has become the religion of the country and the word “cricket” has become synonymous with the word “sport” in our country. Although we are crazy about the West, but still the popular international sports in the West like Badminton, Tennis and Football haven’t gained much popularity among the masses. We have many players in other sports like Sania Mirza, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati in tennis, Vishwanathan Anand in chess and so on. But why do they not get the much deserved applause and attention by the Indian fans? There are millions of people to boost the morale of cricketers in a cricket stadium even if it is a match of the Indian Premium League where they are not playing for their own country, but very few people show up for watching other sports.
I would like to share a personal example of hegemony of cricket with you. Being a huge tennis and cricket fan myself, I love watching both sports. In my university, they wouldn’t show any tennis match even if Wimbledon was going on, which is the biggest tennis event of the year; but they show every single India-Pakistan cricket match in the auditorium and recently showed all Indian matches of the Cricket World Cup T20. The auditorium is always full of people when it comes to cricket matches because cricket has been instilled in our minds from our childhood itself. It’s what our parents watch and so, we grew up watching cricket and neglected all the other sports as a consequence. Indian parents have one-liners to explain cricket. “It teaches our children patience and that, in life, there aren’t always winners and users.” But eventually, India is rising and the new generation will realize that wining is essential and merely playing without an agenda to win doesn’t make any sense at all. The viewership is slowly shifting towards wrestling and the English premier League, but such a dominant role of cricket in India is not the only reason for India’s inability to produce a player like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.
Firstly, parents in this country want their children to focus on studies and look at sports as a mere co-curricular activity. They raise them in a way that they give more emphasis on studies and ignore sports even if they are extremely talented. To become a top ranked player, a person is required to devote all day and all night to the sport and that doesn’t allow the person to concentrate on his/her studies. Parents always want a secure future for their children and thus, they find sports as a mere deviation from their academic career. Secondly, it should be understood that the various sports like tennis, football, etc. are much more athletic than cricket and require a lot more strength. According to the height and the physique of the Indians, the game of cricket is most suited to them and other games like tennis take a back seat. Indians should use their skill and talent rather than wanting to play with a lot of power because that is not possible. “You need to be creative and a good example is Leander still playing and playing so well because he has the craft. He changes the pace and mixes the game. The young players can’t understand how they can’t break Leander’s serve because he hits one with spin, one with hard, hits a deep volley then a drop volley… one slice, so my recommendation for Indian players is to develop your natural skill,” said All England Club Head Coach Dan Bloxham. Although it is quite difficult for India to produce a Federer or Nadal but they can produce a world class player if the child is talented, his/her talent is given a chance to flourish and he/she is focused.
When we talk about the sports scene in India, we see that it is a place where one sport is a religion while others are hardly even recognized. “No one remembers that in Shooting, Gagan Narang won four Gold medals in Common Wealth Games 2010, or Indian World Champion wrestler Sushil Kumar has won the gold medal in FILA 2010 World Wrestling Championships or Olympic bronze medals won by tennis star Leander Paes (Atlanta, 1996), but Anil Kumble’s 10-wicket haul, Harbhajan’s hat-trick, and Virender Sehwag’s 309 will be evergreen in memory. People don’t know how to play other sports or what the rules of other games are but they are well conversant with cricket. Irfan Pathan has only five months of experience in international cricket, but he is famous because of advertisement assignments. In fact, hockey is our national game and India has won many gold medals in the Olympics, but all we remember is Kapil Dev’s team winning the cricket World Cup in 1983. We have no right to blame the game of cricket for such atrocities when it is the society and the media who is responsible.”
Other sports like tennis and badminton need funds from the government and other private institutions to establish academies so that they can produce players who can match up with the other players of the world in their respective sports. We need academies which have all the necessary funds and tools required in that particular sport. We also need to make people aware about different sports and how cricket is not the only option for Indians to go with. Until we give a chance to the other sports, we would not know if they are any good or not. It’s time that Indians let their children pursue sports if they are into it and allow them to pursue any sport of their choice. This is not the time to impose things on the children who should be allowed to make their own choice. Also, Federer and Nadal have been playing tennis since they were kids and that has always been their priority. For any Indian to become like that, they need to give tennis that much time and importance and play the game keeping their strengths in mind. Thus, when we look at the sports scene in India, we find that it is heavily based on cricket at present but eventually people need to and will understand that other sports are equally important and the cricketers are no Gods.