Is Cricket cannibalizing other sports in Indian subcontinent?

Although ICC champion’s trophy is one of the biggest events, it is not the world cup. The craziness of fans on both sides of fence had clinched to such an extent that hockey match on the same day, was not even known to people. Since then a chaos and controversy is in air that due to the luster of cricket people forgot to cheer Indian hockey team, which beat the Pakistan team by huge margin. Is this really true?

Unfortunately we come to know Abhinav Bindras and P.V. Sindhus only after they become successful in Olympics.  The scenario didn’t changed even after country hosted common wealth games in 2008. Is cricket really culprit for the pathetic situation of other games.  Let us diagnose those reason to get to some conclusion.

Media Cacophony for cricket at the cost of other sports

If you will ask any school going kid to tell the name of Indian cricket players, he/she will ask you “of which team Test team or ODI “? But the same will not happen if you will ask “tell how many times India has won kabbaddi world cup?”, The reason is media presents cricketers as heroes where as former Olympians came in news only when they start selling their medals or caught collecting garbage for livelihood. Except National (Doordarshan) no channel gives coverage to other sports.  Media coverage is a great way to induce interest of people in any sports.  Most of the media houses have limited time slot for covering sports news and cricket consumes most of this time. It is media, which makes someone God of Cricket and someone Multan ka Sultan. In bringing “achche din” for other sports, media will have to play pivotal role.

Lack of funding for other sports

Although ministry of sports has taken notice of financial crunch in other sports, still the basic sports complexes and coaching institutions are not present even at district levels.  India has a glorious past in hockey till 1956, but since the introduction of “Astro Turf”, which is a kind of artificial grass floor, Indian hockey has been struggling even to qualify for Olympics.  Only after 2000, Indian hockey players started practicing on Astro Turf and in between the entire hockey structure and culture destroyed for generations, causing catastrophic fall out for hockey. Other India born sports such as kabbaddi and Kushti  too need to be funded so that village and district based competitions could be organized and broadcasted to motivate people to play as well as applaud the these games. Most of the Akhadas are either shutdown or at the verge of shutting down. Sports authority of India spends 3200 carors over preparation of Olympics, which is 1/4th what UK spends.

Role models for different sports

This problem is cannibalizing cricket itself as well as other sports. In India everyone wants to become Sachin Tendulakar , Sunil Gawaskar and Virat Kohli but no one wants to fill the void created by Anil Kumble and Zaheer khan. The reason for this trend was highlighted by Kapil Dev himself when he had said that “Bowlers are labors and batsmen are officers in India”. So no one wants to become labor. Similarly in Pakistan everyone wants to move on the footprints of  Imran khan, Wasim Akram and Shoiab Akhtar. No one wants to become Yusuf yohana and Inzmamul Haque. The perception in neighbor country is opposite to what is in our country.

By adding chapters in textbooks on Major Dhyanchand , P.T. Usha and other Olympians we can bring some positive change in the perception of parents, and children.

Revival of sports culture at micro level

Since last few decades sports space of other games has been engulfed by cricket and the reason for it is cricket’s popularity at micro level. From remote villages to metro cities you can see cricket culture running into veins of people of almost every age.  The same spirit for every other sports is required if we want good fate of our sports industry. Earlier Kushti Akhadas were present in each and every hook and corner of our nation. Schools and PT teachers must act proactively to encourage participation in javelins, shot-puts and other sports.  Schools should arrange student-sportsman interactions so that later can inspire students.

Freedom for private sports ventures

Independent sports companies play very crucial role in every sports industry. Although controversial, free style wrestling companies such as WWE, Impact wrestling,  Ring of Honor , All Japan pro wrestling, Lucha Underground and AAA are continuously organizing events and are generating huge revenue and employment for their countries.  In India we often hear that some Olympian is at the verge of starvation or some athlete is in financial crises.  These companies act as a shelter for such retired boxers, Martial artists and other athletes by offering them jobs and popularity. For example Kurt , the Olympic Gold Medalist, got fame and long carrier in WWE and Impact wrestling.  Unfortunately our own BBCI acted swiftly to shutdown ICL (Indian cricket league), an independent cricket league, only for sake of its money making  plans through IPL.

Politics and sports must be kept apart

It is very common in India to see political and influential families are running sports faderations.

For example, Rowing Federation has been under Kamakhya Prasad’s family for almost a decade and now under his wife.

The Cycling Federation of India is controlled by Parminder Dhindsa of Akali Dal .

Sukhdev Dhindsa’s son presides over Punjab Olympic.

People involved in criminal activities or accused of crime are given control of sports events.

Lalit Bhanot was elected the Secretary General of Indian Olympic Association in 2010, despite being in jail for a year.

What happened in 2008 common wealth games is well known to everyone. Recent case of Sushil kumar Vs Narsingh Yadav is also suspicious.

2016, The Vice-President of Indian Olympic Association sent his own son to Rio Olympics as Chief Medical Officer, who knew nothing about sports medicines.

Cricket must be promoted and parallel to it other sports too need some attention.

The way China has worked hard to make itself a foundry for Olympians is an inspiration to India, a country of 1.3 billions. If Australia and New Zealand  can manage to excel in multiple sports than why not we can do the same?

Recent initiatives such as revival of akhadas, biopic of Milkha Singh and May come and success of Pro Kabbaddi and pro wrestling tournaments are sliver linings in the cloudy sky.

Kaushal Kishore