Is there life beyond cricket?
People in India sometimes forget gifted sportsmen exist outside the realm of cricket.
NOT JUST CRICKET: Avid fan following and a full stadium to watch the game. PHOTO: REUTERS
Over the past year or so, sport had appeared to explode over the Indian sub-continent like a Deepavali rocket, and excited reports in the media suggested that other disciplines were finally getting their due.
The notion has since fizzled, like a damp cracker. Since the appointment of Greg Chappell as Indian coach, cricket has again begun to dominate the sports pages as the season begins. (On the positive side, Australia might have a fight on its hands, for once, this time during the Ashes series; on the other hand why should a farcical series between Sri Lanka and a second-string West Indies side corner any space?) Simultaneously, the buzz particularly surrounding Narain Karthikeyan, Sania Mirza has faded a little after a string of average performances.
Interest in all sport
Interest in motor sport or tennis or, for that matter, the NBA is still restricted to a certain section of society, although abroad they are marketed inventively. The broader, uninterested audience has a particularly short memory; and it hasn't helped that after an impressive debut, India's first Formula One driver appears to have lost his way a little, although, as Narain has often emphasised in the recent past, his car is simply not competitive. Mirza, meanwhile, has only just recovered from a series of injuries, and it will be interesting to see if this poster girl can match her Australian Open performance in subsequent Slams.
People in India sometimes forget some incredibly gifted sportsmen exist outside the realm of cricket. Elsewhere, in Europe, folks follow several games with enthusiasm: tennis, football, golf; even horseracing.
In England, for example, even under performing, relegated local football sides like Norwich have a fervent fan following: a stadium will fill up even for matches featuring middle-rung second division teams. Sadly, that cannot be said in the case of Chennai, when ICF takes on Madras Sporting Union in a Senior Division match and ironically Chennai is considered among the more sporting cities, as it were.
To a great extent, the lack of interest has much to do with the abysmal quality of play.
Still, that is only part of the picture the quality is poor because the sport is unable to attract the best athletes, and vice versa and the only way to break out of the vicious cycle is to make sports like hockey (or even chess) more compelling, more exciting to watch for kids and future generations of players.
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