From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.27 :: NO.25 :: Jun. 19 - 25, 2004
IT is a misconception that cricket is killing other sports in India. No doubt cricket is more popular and admired than other sports. There is a large following for it, because people enjoy it. Even those who hardly know anything about the game indulge in discussing about the game. A batsman butchering a bowler or a fast bowler uprooting the stumps are all wonderful sights to be watched. Despite this, fielding gives essence to the game and entertains the fans. So it would only be right to give due credit to a sport which really has made the country proud.
G. Keerthi Ganesh,
INDIA'S flirtation with cricket began a long time ago, because cricket had a striking resemblance to our own Gilli Danda. Thus, the common man could relate to cricket a lot more than other sports.
This remained and still remains one of the major reasons why Indians prefer to play cricket and sometimes take it up as a full time occupation.
The real fact is that at the moment cricket is killing other sports. People cannot remember India's first International Master in chess (Manuel Aaron) but readily recollect even Abhijit Kale's name, who has done nothing worthy of earning fame. But nothing can be achieved by merely cribbing about the Government's bias towards cricket.
It is for the other sportsmen to take it up with the Sports Ministry and ask for equal funding and treatment.
IN 1998, after India won the Asiad hockey gold after a gap of 32 years, several top players were sacked. The IHF chief, K.P.S. Gill in an interview belittled the achievement. In 1995, during the SAF Games, P. T. Usha, India's greatest female athlete, was the standard bearer. But during the opening ceremony, some official snatched the flag from her in full public view. These two examples show that it is not cricket that is killing other sports, but those in charge of those sports who are doing the damage. There is absolutely no accountability or transparency in the running of most Indian sports. This is not to say that cricket is perfect. It has its share of such characters. That is probably why cricket hasn't gone to seed like others. Let the other sports get their act together before accusing the cricketers.
I don't think the popularity of one sport can hamper the growth of the others. It is the Government and the respective federations that are responsible for India's poor show in sports other than cricket. The facilities provided to the other sportspersons are below standard and they are given peanuts even for their heroics on the world stage.
Foreign cricketers enjoy marketing success in India while our own athletes and hockey players are left out in the cold. Anju George won India's first-ever medal at the World championships but no sponsors knocked on her door. Pankaj Advani has won the world snooker title but is still running from pillar to post for some financial help. Finally, P. T. Usha's reward for winning more than a dozen medals at the Asian Games was that that she was shunned at the Olympic torch relay.
Wake up! All you bureaucrats and create a sports culture in our country.
Rajeev Mark Singh,
I do not agree that cricket has killed other sports in India. Cricket has always been a craze in India. In fact, India is one of the oldest Test-playing nations. On the other hand, it is true that world champions like Vishwanathan Anand and P. Gopi Chand are less recognized than Irfan Pathan who stole the heart of millions in less than a year's time. Lakshmipathy Balaji, who made his debut in the home tour against New Zealand, was not as famous during that time as he is now, especially because of the Pakistan tour and his bowling in Australia in the ODIs.
The recent tour of Pakistan has made the game more popular. If other sports are given more importance, India might shine in them too and perhaps finish on top of the Olympic medal tally.
WHAT will be the first thought that comes to the mind of an Indian youngster about cricket as a profession? The answer is clear "money". Add to that, high salaries, a bagful of sponsors, media attention the list is endless.
But the scenario in other sports is just the opposite. Those who sponsor them even once are reluctant to do so again. Why this discrimination? Who is to be held responsible for this?
With meagre funds and nil support from the government, how is it possible for other sports to compete at the international level? This is why the condition of the Indian athletes gets more and more miserable with each passing competition. It's not that we lack talent but we lack support. The media is to be held equally responsible for this. Why don't we find a non-cricketing sportsperson on the front page of a newspaper, or in the headlines of a news channel? On the other hand marriages of cricketers are featured live on television.
India has produced marvellous sportpersons who have made us proud not only at the domestic but at the international level as well. But this discrimination is putting paid to such talent.
Nasir S. Rizvi,
THE popularity cricket enjoys in India is due to the arithmetic. In the eighties, hockey and football along with athletics were popular. Cricket remained an elite sport till Kapil Dev brought the World Cup in 1983. The numbers fours, sixes, centuries and double centuries fascinate people more than the goals scored in hockey or football, which is less than a bowler's tally in an innings. I feel it is statistics that attract people. I would not say that cricket is killing other sports. But blame the respective federations for failing to promote the respective sports. There was a debate when the V. Bhaskaran led hockey team won the Olympic gold at Moscow that the absence of some heavyweight nations facilitated India's win. Even the IHF did not back up the players. When the governing body does not back, groom, help or provide facilities then why blame cricket?
SPORT is about performance. The better one performs, the more popular one will become and earn a lot more too. As far as India is concerned, cricket has been its mainstay since 1983. Why is this? This was the year we won the World Cup as an underrated team. Cricket ratings back home began soaring. We have not looked back ever since. If only we could emulate this in other sports we could balance out the playing field. I would say, when the hockey team won the Asia Cup tie against Pakistan, hockey became quite popular once again. It was just erratic selections and bad decisions which saw hockey in the backburner.
I would conclude saying, there is no use blaming either cricket or the sponsors. With whatever limited sources available, the other sporting teams must rise up in the world rankings just like Indian cricket did in 1983. Cricket is not the reason for the other sports to languish; the reason is their own bad performance.
V. Karthik Krishna,
IT is very much true that cricket is killing other sports in India. But who is to be blamed for this? The whole issue of other sports bodies citing complaints about cricket's dominance is just a story of sour grapes. Instead of blaming cricket they should admire the foresightedness and thinking of the cricket administrators and try to take a leaf out of their book. The most important thing is BCCI's total independence from the bureaucracy. The professionalism exhibited by the BCCI administrators is rarely found in other sports bodies. How else can you explain, P. R. Das Munshi's and Suresh Kalmadi's active role in politics while doubling up as sports administrators. Success of any sport is dependant on how well the team fares in international competitions. The cricket administrators fully utilised the opportunity which came with the World Cup win. Indian hockey too could have cashed in on the success and dominance which Indian hockey had in the yesteryear. The same is the case with athletics and football. The only other sport in which India is becoming dominant is chess, which is due to Anand, who has lived most of his life abroad, away from the Indian bureaucracy.
INDIA is a country where you get more variety of sports than anywhere else in the world. We know numerous village sports that are hosted during Fairs/Melas, Festivals and other such special occasions that do not find reference in most Indian magazines. It is this lack of exposure by the media which is indirectly promoting cricket and relegating other sports. Even your magazine highlights only cricket in most of its issues. We have seen a rise of some Indian magazines which are dedicated to cricket while we can hardly see any Indian sports magazines exclusively for hockey or tennis.
Electronic Media too telecasts cricket matches being played at different locations. So much interest has been generated by cricket that it has now started to play a role in determining the bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan. I feel the lopsidedness is undue and needs to be corrected.
Sanjay G. Nair,
WHY criticise cricket for the present plight of other sports? At least cricket is doing well in our country. Companies sponsor cricket and fund the players and matches. Then why bracket cricketers with the politicians. Look at Beckham. There are many players better than him but still he is the most sought-after player. Can anyone blame him for that? We have to be happy that at least cricket is getting its due.
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