Author – Alcatraz Dey
A few years ago the Indian women’s Kabbadi team was walking on the streets with the World Cup seeking recognition. A few days later when MS Dhoni blasted the ball out of the stadium to win the 2011 Cricket World Cup, the ensuing victory procession had blocked the entire city. Let’s not jump to a conclusion to call it ‘partiality’. Let’s wait for a few more examples.
Last year, Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza both were ranked first in badminton and tennis respectively. After a few days, both of them lost their first round matches in a tournament. How many of us actually remember that? The entire social media crowd went wild for a day and a few days later, all we were bothered about is who is reaching the finals in the Indian Premier League. India is truly a cricket crazy nation you may say!!!
It’s not that we do not support other sportspersons, we do appreciate them and then we forget them. Remember names like Jyotirmoy Sikdar, Karnam Malleswari, Shiv Kapur, Abhinav Bindra, Dingko Singh, Anju Bobby George, Dhanraj Pillay, IM Vijayan and Pullela Gopichand. It would hardly ring a bell in most of us. Is it a boon or a bane that all we care for is Cricket? Of course our cricket stars do deserve recognition, but why at the cost of other athletes?
Amazingly, the bright point for Indian sports is the cricketers themselves are trying to promote other sports! And yet, there is a very large room for improvement. Numerous events have come up to support other sports such as Indian Super League for football, Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Hockey League, and World Badminton League to name a few. But the only tournament that got some viewership and fan following is the Indian Super League, which is due to the presence of cricketing legends. Ample proof that we are a cricket crazy nation!!!
Has it been imbibed in us to be ardent worshippers of cricket or is it something that we learn to be as we grow up… A nation that once had produced sporting greats such as Dhyan Chand, Vishwanathan Anand, Geet Sethi and Vijay Amritraj has forgotten them, and has become completely enamoured by cricketers. Yes, they do deserve the fame but what about those who have equally sacrificed and performed for the one billion people? Till when will our athletes keep running for sponsors and funds? The only famed athletes we recognise is Mary Kom and Milkha Singh thanks to their on screen biopics.
Sportspersons of other fields do not need sponsors, funds or even fame. All they require is a little appreciation from us. They will keep running on the tracks, keep taking punches on their faces, boggle their mind on the chessboard, and keep breaking their racquets in training even if we do not spare a few seconds and appreciate them. That is the way it has been since India’s independence.
These sportspersons win medals for us, they will conquer the world for us and they return back home to lead a mundane normal life again. And we will continue sitting in the comforts of our home and blame the nation for not being able to produce a single Olympic gold medallist each and every time. The truth is as much as the system and sports infrastructure is to be blamed, so are we. If we let the trend continue and soon only cricket bats and balls will be available for sale in sports shops!
Fortunately, a few volunteers and NGOs are helping talented athletes in other sports to overcome an apathetic system and sports culture:
- Pune-based sports NGO, Lakshya has dedicated its mission to nurture talent in diverse range of sports. Lakshya has chosen 40 athletes in shooting, boxing, tennis, badminton, wrestling, who are expected to win medals in the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics – http://lakshyasports.com
- Realising that young girls drop out of sports as they enter highschool, EduSports has persuaded various schools in Bengaluru to promote girls’ inclusion in sports. Over the last 7 years, EduSports has helped about 1.5 lakh school girls by providing focused physical education and sports curriculum to schools – http://www.edusports.in
- Some states like Haryana have taken the lead in nurturing existing tradition for games like wrestling. All the great names of Indian wrestling today, Sushil Kumar, Rajeev Tomar, Amit Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt and even best female wrestlers Alka Tomar and the three Phogat sisters hail from Haryana due to its thriving rural wrestling tradition. http://www.caleidoscope.in
- Corporate sponsorship has done a whole lot of good in promoting lesser known sports like archery. Jamshedpur is the nerve centre of Indian archery after the Tata Archery Academy was established there in 1996. This centre has produced illustrious archers such as Jayant Talukdar, Poornima Mahato, Premlata Agarwal, Deepika Kumari, Dola Bannerjee and Limba Ram. http://www.caleidoscope.in