2nd April 2017- Another chapter gets added to the decorated date in history of Indian Sports, as PV Sindhu wins maiden Indian Open Super Series title. Next day, Sakshi Malik ties wedding knot. As nation erupts with cheers, joys and well wishes- it brings back the memories of last year, reminiscing something that seemed to wane amid all the tension in our beloved valley, heated debates over demonetization and all buzz about elections- something staunch and prudent- which as a sports lover we cannot forget, and as an Indian we should not forget- Rio Olympics. Sadly, it was not the aura, festivity or spirit of event, but the inability to win medals at the biggest stage, which took the nation by storm- until the two Indian heroines preserved the honour of 1 billion hopes. Olympics and medals, had become topics of household discussions- But for how long? The fanfare receded gradually, as attention shifted to Uri attack, surgical strikes, demonetisation and other issues coming our way.
No longer, do we have those insightful panel discussions over the lackluster performance of India in Olympics, no more postmortem of the facilities provided to the national athletes, and no more hues and cries over the inconsistent medal-population ratio.
Now, all these topics and concerns have been buried till the next Olympics.
On the evening of 19th August 2016, when an Indian girl was giving the badminton World champion a run for her money, a whopping 17.2 million pair of eyes were glued to the television or computer screens, an unprecedented record for any non-cricket sports in India. The whole of nation was thrown into frenzy. Offices, homes, and all public places went abuzz with the latest updates on the proceedings of the match. (Match- a term hitherto synonymous to game of cricket)
As millions shunned their engagements to fall in love with the awe inspiring focus and grit of PV Sindhu, two things were learnt that night.
First, it is not only a Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli who can bring the country to standstill. Second – We Indians are no philistines. We proved that we do possess the throbbing hearts to back our sportsmen and women. Generated by the courage and determination of the likes of Karmakar, Sakshi and Sindhu, the heartwarming reactions, emotions and wave of festivity in the country was priceless.
Arguably, unprecedented. Unarguably, worthy to nourish.
What paved way for Cricket to become a religion in India, was perhaps that one fine summer afternoon, when Kapil’s devils pulled off something unexpected- defeating the so thought invincible and bringing home that priceless laurel. Something, that savoured of our capability of leaving a mark on the face of world sports. In India, unlike Hockey which, which failed to live up to the humungous standards set by the predecessors, post- Dhyanchand era, Cricket was luckier than other sports, in the matter that it always found a new moment to cherish, something that could be termed as a giant leap for Indian cricket. Even, talking about individuals Cricket always found a new flag bearer in every era- someone who would add new dimensions, in keeping with the dynamics of the game. Not that Hockey didn’t have potential, but failure to live up to golden past, after the introduction of Astroturf post 1980 Olympics, (which Indian hockey players had no facilities to practice over) and ever-rising graph of Indian cricket after ’83 breakthrough, (aided by the private house of BCCI and backed by the support of commercialization), channelized the Indian viewership, fandom and craze into cricket much more than other sports. Indian started looking at cricketers as larger than life characters and somewhere deprived themselves of the taste of other sports and the heroics of characters belonging to them.
Apparently, one break through is enough to set a trend and in the preceding years sports like wrestling and badminton have given us much more than that. Youngsters like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Yogeshwar Dutt, Sushil Kumar, Sakshi Malik and many more belonging to different sports are doing their bit to make it large for their country and their respective sport. (Isn’t it saddening that many of us don’t even know that Kabbadi is also an International level sports- let alone the fact, that our team is an undisputed ruler of that game, winning third world cup in a row, last year.) It is high time, we as a nation, valued their sweat and savoured their accomplishments, (throughout the year). While the mainstream media has the greater responsibility of not letting the flame die (as it does, within 20 days of the conclusion of Olympics) social media too can be pivotal in carving a national icon out of a PV Sindhu or Yogeshwar dutt. Celebrated authors may utilize their energies and skills in writing a well-researched article about the conditions of Indian athletes and facilities they are getting, especially during the intervals between two Olympics seasons- the time when this hard-lit flame is most vulnerable. And we as commoners can serve by atleast keeping ourselves abreast with the latest proceedings and developments (of national importance) in these games, even if we are not much intrigued by them. Let the movies like Dangal be means of reliving the memories of legends, and not the means to introduce them.
Because keeping all commercialization aside, a small recognition and vicarious support (as reflected by social media) may do lots of wonders to the morale of an athlete and may motivate many others to join the game.
Let not the flame die….!