If you have been through the narrow lanes and by lanes of old Delhi's residential areas, where you have hardly enough space even to walk, you find children playing Cricket with ingenuously designed bats and balls. Bats made out of wooden logs and balls made out of old socks, or tennis balls being used as cricket balls. It is impossible to miss them. And this unfortunately is true not only of Delhi, but of the entire country. While football say for example can be played anywhere and everywhere without much ingenuity, as a football can be fabricated rather easily with old rags, cotton wool, or for that matter anything that is round in shape, its only cricket that you would find being played. Indeed we are a Cricket crazy country.
Why did it take India till 2008 to get an individual gold medal in Olympics? A country of a billion had, not one individual gold medal till the current year. Why?
The answer is plain and simple. 'Cricket'.
It is indeed difficult, to imagine that there has never been one talented enough person, capable of winning an Olympic gold medal in the second most populous country of the world. While we have our Northern neighbour, China(the most populous country of the world) topping the medals tally, we barely made it to the tally. The reason: 'Chinese don’t play Cricket.'
While the above has been said slightly tongue in cheek, the more serious point here, is that children whose talent needs to be nurtured to make them succeed, play only one game, and that, unfortunately is not, and never will be, an Olympic sport. The whole country is playing cricket throughout the year, it is the only sport(if it can be called that) that is considered worth playing. And what do we have to show for it. Amongst the cricket playing nations in the world, which can be counted on fingertips, our country which plays only one game has never been on the top for more than a few months. In fact, it is perpetually struggling to be amongst the first three cricketing nations in the world.
Talent, there would be in abundance in the country. Talent for Athletics, Swimming, Tennis, Badminton, Wrestling, Boxing and the host of other individual sport. Much of the talent never gets the opportunity to blossom. (Think of the young boy who is washing dishes in one of the roadside Dhabas or another who is making beedis in a factory, to help his folks make ends meet). Of the remainder, that has the opportunity, ninety nine percent concentrate their energies on Cricket, a game that in my opinion requires the least amount of athleticism. It is hardly surprising therefore, that of the meagre one percent that remain, there has been only one Olympic gold medallist.
It does not end there either, while cricketers are raking in moolah, not only from the BCCI but also from endorsements, the other sportspersons are struggling to afford the game, for want of adequate sponsorship.
And I am not even talking of the other ill effects of the game. The very shape of Cricket stadia, prevent them from being used for any other sport. What a criminal waste of prime real estate. The all pervasive nature of fan following of the game in the country, results in a needless waste of millions of man hours throughout the year. A single game itself takes between one to five days to complete, a colossal amount of time in this day and age. And at the end of which, numerous times there is no result (in test matches particularly).
Take the case of the two hugely successful Hindi movies based on games in India, 'Lagaan' and 'Chak de India'. While both movies were hugely popular and successful, only one of them got nominated for an Oscar. And there are no prizes for guessing which one (for those who don’t already know). It obviously had to be the one on Cricket, notwithstanding the fact that our country has won the Olympic gold in Hockey on so many occasions in the past.
If we have to produce medal winners, we have to seriously think of weaning the youth away from Cricket. While banning the game altogether would be a rather draconian step in a free country, we ought to think seriously about making the game less attractive and popular, as also encourage other sports.
1. 1 A game that requires you to put on a pullover / sweater to keep yourself warm while playing scarcely qualifies for a game.