My excitement was on top of the world during the commencement of the Rio Olympics, and I can undoubtedly say that my case was no different than any other patriot. It’s not that I am a sports person or an expert analyst, but just the sight of ‘realistic gamers’ playing hard to bring glory to the nation, kind of gives me an adrenaline rush. No seriously, sometimes I feel if only I would get a chance to participate with them, but then would I ever be able to reach their fitness level? Would I ever be able to surge my expertise to measure up to theirs?
Of course, I can. Nothing is impossible. As Muhammad Ali said, impossible is not a fact, it’s just an opinion. Impossible is just a word and if Shobhaa De thinks she can, why can’t me?
But suddenly, my phone buzzed, breaking my chain of thoughts it was my friend who by default comes to life every weekend. (Yes, I am writing this piece on a weekend! How lame? I seriously need to get some life.)
“Hey buddy, what’s up?” he blurted in an excited tone.
“Nothing, just planning for the next Olympics” I replied in a sarcastically.
“L-O-L, what’s the plan?”
“Nothing as of now, but let’s do something sporty,” I said with an animated reaction.
“Ok man; let’s catch up at Atul’s at 6. Also, it’s t20 today, ‘us’ versus West Indies, would be rejuvenating.” He directed and hung up before I could explain what I meant.
Cricket. It would not be wrong to say it is more than just a sport in our country. Actually, sometimes I feel like its popularity even surpasses, religion – which is a matter of paramount priority here. But during a World Cup or any sort of championship league, our priorities shift and we do not see us as Hindus or Muslims, but as Indians praying and cheering for team India’s victory. ‘India’ becomes ‘us’ when it’s Cricket, and for the rest of the problems, I have heard mates saying “bhai, India ka kuch nahi ho sakta!”
There is no need to narrate cricket’s popularity in the nation. Doesn’t matter if we have lost the match in Florida or numerous World Cup’s, the hype of Cricket just denies dying out. India’s reputation because of the game could alone be estimated by the article published on a Chinese media website, Toutiao.com. In their story, they claimed to have cracked the reason behind India’s poor performance in Olympic Games, but have wrongly tagged ‘cricket’ as our ‘national sport’. On a factual note, it was not actually their fault because we have always kept cricket above any other sport, even ‘Hockey’ too, which is popularly not technically our national game. Cricket, perhaps, is the only game in which we excel. But can cricket be a reason for India’s mediocre performance in the Olympic Games?
Well, cricket has undoubtedly shown us some of the finest sportsmen. But cricket is not in Olympics. However, some states witness the popularity of other games too, like football, kabaddi, wrestling, and tennis etc. But still, the popularity and fan following of cricket is unmatched. One can definitely say that the popularity of cricket has killed the vogue for other games. And the recent commercialization of the game (IPL) has only added to its desirability. But thanks to various sports league like Pro-Kabaddi and Indian Super League (football). Though I don’t enjoy much tamasha of sports, they have not only raised common interest but have also provided a platform to showcase our talents. So, India has talent, but it’s the matter of choice, and thereby I object to the statement made by Chinanews.com that India lacks sports culture.
The other reason, I think and even international sports media thinks, is the middle-class mentality. Go back to the days when you still wore half-pants and didn’t give a toss about future. Dig out the memory when your parents told what they wish for their ward’s future. What did they want you to be? A doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, a soldier, charted accountant or lend a hand in family business? Did they ever tell you to emphasize more on sports? It ‘was’ and ‘is’ an extra co-curricular activity.
The first reason for this is too cliché because sports won’t bring financial stability. And for second: “sabse bada rog, kya kahenge log!” let alone family, even neighbors shame youngsters for persuading sports as a career. And the most annoying one is always Sharmaji/Vermaji ka beta!
When you evaluate everything that you have been through, you will find that the whole drill was about attaining “financial security” rather than excelling at something. Of course, we have Virat Kohli, Sania Mirza, Sania Nehwal, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar etc. and their name weighs worth gold. But we also had Shankar Laxman, the four-time Olympic Gold medalist who died from lack of medical attention; we also had D Jadhav, the 1952 Olympic wrestler who died penniless, and lots of other Olympians who were forced to sell their medals. Just like not everyone can be Mukesh Ambani, not everyone can be Sachin Tendulkar too. This pins the whole instance on the government.
According to Mr. Shiva Keshavan, five-time Winter Olympian representing India, sports has been never a priority of the Government. I agree that there are no big facilities in here and we lack in sports infrastructure, but I believe times are changing now. Many won’t be aware of the TOP Scheme which government of India has initiated in 2015. TOP Scheme stands for Target Olympic Podium. This scheme has been formulated with the objective of identifying and supporting potential medal prospects by providing customized training in world-class facilities and other necessary support for participating in 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.
And the question about the safe future, then our government already provides some weightage to sportsmen in their domains. For the rest, no profession can guarantee you prosperity. You can fail even as a doctor or a lawyer, engineers get kicked out of their job too.
“Indians have traditionally seen themselves primarily not as individuals, but as members of their caste, tribe or region. And social stratification has meant different castes tended not to play sport together.” An article on bbc.com says. However one cannot totally disagree to this, but I think when a person represents our nation somewhere, he/she is seen more as an Indian. Tell me how many of us inquired about Dipa Karmakar’s caste or Sakshi Malik’s religion before cheering for her? How many of us care about PV Sidhu’s genus before praying for her victory (of course, apart from some nosy-matrimony-classified-aunties and eligible single idiots!).
One more thing that happened was that it was only the girls who saved our honor in this Olympic Games. This automatically shamed the male dominant mentality. Sons may bring honor to the ‘family’, but daughter have brought honor the NATION!
And yes, there are certain differences in our society, but I wonder if sports are the only answer to fill those gaps and unite us.
No matter if India’s performance was poor in Rio Olympics, but I am hopeful that 2020 Olympics will bring glorious achievements to the nation.