In a country of billion plus it’s hard to imagine a factor that can swing the mood of the masses, a factor (read sport) whose glorious triumph makes us jubilant and whose appalling lows leave us all sour, a factor like this is hard to find for 1.25 billion people specially in our mother land where there is diversity in the type of food we eat, the way we dress, the language we speak and the Gods we worship. Or is it not?
CRICKET- The sport has captivated the emotions, attention and energy of India to such an extent that today it’s just not a game but a religion or may be just shy of it. People who play it on the global platform are instant celebrities, earning millions in the process. With each shot, each wicket and each catch being scrutinized by a billion it has become our national fixation. Cricket, today if I may say is the single biggest unifying factor in this most multi cultural country of ours.
All of us familiar with the history of this sport know that cricket; a colonial sport was brought to our shores by our past colonial masters the British. Even today it’s pre dominantly played in erstwhile English colonies namely -Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies- being the global power houses of the sport, apart from England of course. A league that mostly (with the exception of England & Australia) consists of economically developing or under developed nations. But does their economic position have a severe impact on their performance in the game? The answer is an emphatic NO since on their day any of these teams can defeat the other (Ok a bit difficult to say for B’desh).
Contrary to this belief, cricket only adds to the public exchequer as it brings in foreign investments, tourists and brands. It also creates huge employment opportunities for all sections of the society be it the lowly pitch curator or the high flying multi billionaire. Cricket has generated billions in revenue for all those who are associated with it in the entirety of the economic food chain. Even for those still harping on the class of field and their economic abilities consider the case of Kenya; this African country has won the flagship event of the Summer Olympics ‘The Full Marathon’ numerous times and still suffers from economic under development even though the field at marathon consists of global economic leaders. Simply put, playing a particular sport (read cricket) does not make our economic position weaker in fact it provides opportunities for growth and prosperity just like any other economic venture.
It’s true that cricket for long has dominated the Indian sporting arena but should we criticize it for it’s success and appeal or should we take a leaf out of it’s book and look at what’s wrong with other sports?
The cricketing bandwagon reached the pinnacle of Indian sporting scene through years of good consistent performances across generations on the global platform both on and off shore. This coupled with the able administration by the game’s mandarin has catapulted cricket to its present position. And mind you all this without any aid from the Government of India or the state machinery (Hmm, may be that’s the reason it has succeeded). So, rather than pulling cricket down, we should push other sports up.
Look at Australia a dominant sporting power house in cricket (4 world cups), world champions in hockey, an admissible football team (The Socceroos) along with an impressive and envious record in the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games and all this with just a population of 23.6 million. The point being that if 23.6 million people can play and excel at a plethora of sport at the international level, why can’t we with a population of 1.2 billion. Also, the argument that cricket has taken all the space in the public psyche is just not true because in an era of mass and massive consumerism there is scope and stage for all sports specially in an ever growing vibrant economy like ours. Thus, cricket and other sports can co-exist and in fact help each other grow, a case in point being the IPL.
Yes, IPL- the much criticized evil- has not only boosted the coffers of the BCCI and its associates ,but it has also help improve the Indian sporting scene by showing how to successfully package and sell a sport to the people. The Hockey India League, the Pro Kabaddi League and now the Indian Football League are the off shoots of the IPLesque league system, coming into being after people got confident with huge success of IPL.With broadcasters who were earlier shy or skeptical about other sports, coming forward and helping; to the business houses, who smell an opportunity to earn profit and in turn provide “moolah power” to these sports; to the glamour quotient provided by celebrity team owners like SRK, Abhishek Bachchan et al ,IPL has shown the way to prosperity to all other sports in India. With this system players get an international standard platform to showcase their skills and talents, apart from economic security. The crowds get to know these sports better and add an impetus to the dreams of young ones to one day grow up and play these sports. In the end all these benefits seep down to the game and our beloved nation in terms of better performances on the global canvass.
The truth, as absurd may it sound, is that Cricket (and IPL) has provided a new lease of life to all these lesser preferred sports, it has put them in limelight with a glamorous platform and a sound financial backing. Now, it is for these sports and their organizations to step up to the plate and deliver in terms of performance on national and international level on a consistent basis, so as to get the love and adulation of the masses.