By Surya Kamal:
There is an adage in India: “Padhoge likhoge banoge Nawab, Kheloge kudoge banoge kharab” (“You’ll be a Prince if you study. You’ll not be so good if you jump and play.”)
In India, where your career choice is dictated by your parents to a larger extent, promoting sports as a profession becomes a hard nut to crack. During the ’80s and ‘90s, many parents used to believe that being a ‘sarkari babu’ was more appealing and rewarding profession than being a sports person. The halo effect of government jobs was all over them and they kept passing the government job baton to their younger generations, the way it was passed to them by their elders. I cannot blame them entirely. Being parents, they have the right to care for their kids’ future and security and getting a government job meant a lifetime validity sim to them. With monthly recharge and free value added services, it was kind of dream life they could imagine for their kids.
Some parents were mavericks. They wanted to create a new world around their kids and properly took care of their child likes and dislikes in order to choose or help them choose a right career path. They were not considered ‘normal’ for society and were treated as if they were committing crimes by going against the wind.
But, somehow, mindsets changed and sports started to become a career alternative for several Indians. But again, parents came to the party and almost every parent wanted their son or daughter to become a cricketer. This is because this game had the exposure and charisma where their wards can become an overnight star unlike other prestigious games such as hockey, badminton, athletics, wrestling, kabaddi etc. There was a time when cricket was a synonym to sports in India.
One must not forget that by the time India had won their first cricket world cup in 1983, our hockey team had 8 Olympic gold medals to their name; Prakash Padukone was an All England club champion, Khashaba Jadhav had won bronze in wrestling way back in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Milkha Singh had already brought Indian athletics to the fore and P T Usha had become the first Indian female to reach an Olympics event final. But none of these historical achievements were seen to be as appealing as cricket.
Cricket in India has never lacked talent nor did it lack exposure. What amuses me is how sports like hockey, athletics, badminton etc. were left far behind cricket despite some exceptional talents and major trophies they’ve won for India.
The answer is that these games, despite having mavens, lacked in better connectors and salesmen and hence could not become so contagious to start an epidemic which the game of cricket had during its early time and has even now.
Times have changed, our economy has grown and is growing, our literacy rates have increased, technologies have improved and above all, the risk-taking abilities in us as well as in our parents have exponentially improved. The result of these changes are visible to everybody. We have IPL, IBL, ISL, HIL and Pro-Kabaddi league as a platform where many come, play and become stars. This has widened the reach of lesser followed sports among Indians and we can see players coming from different parts of India and making us proud. Now, I am quite confident to say that sports in India have gone beyond cricket.
So, is this the tipping point moment for sports in India? I believe so.
The reason for this dramatic change is that now we have the missing link in other sports what we had in cricket for ages – mavens, connectors and salesmen.
These sports have found their maven in P. Gopichand, Satpal Singh, Gurbax Singh Sandhu etc; and connectors in the likes of Dhanraj Pillai, Leander Paes, Saina Nehwal , Abhinav Bindra, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Baichung Bhutia and Vijender Singh to name a few.
The most astonishing part is that we have a long list of salesmen which includes Sardar Singh, P.V Sindhu, Sania Mirza, Sushil Kumar, Vikas Krishnan, Shiva Thapa, Sunil Chetri, Hina Sidhu, Jitu Rai,Gagan Narang, the Phogat sisters, Sakshi Malik, Dutee Chand, Sudha Singh, Kavita Raut and not to forget our star gymnast Dipa Karmakar.
In a recent interview, Pulela Gopichand mentioned that he was lucky for not being good in studies, unlike his brother who was a state badminton champion but went on to study in IIT. It is quite evident why Gopichand mentioned this incident – this is a message to spread the epidemic. Examples like this are aplenty and outcomes have been great so far.
The epidemic has arrived in our sports arena and it is highly contagious. Even our parents have come on board and with their support, there is a sense of independence among the bright Indian generation who now show the courage to select sports over studies. Gone are the days when sports were optional. Now, it is a mainstream subject like arts and Science. The good part is that fewer parents say to their kids “Kheloge kudoge banoge kharab.”
This is indeed the tipping point.