While watching a game recently I saw a little girl holding a placard which read “Gayle please hit me on my nose and come to meet me in the hospital.” This message although an innocuous one, still took me by surprise. For all those who do not avidly follow cricket, there was an incident when Chris Gayle’s shot hit a little girl in the stands, right on the nose and she started bleeding. She was immediately taken to the hospital following the incident. Later that evening Gayle visited the little girl in the hospital and gave her a small medal. Gayle posted a pic of this meet on his Twitter account. The girl’s happiness in seeing Gayle coming to visit her eclipsed the pain she endured a few hours back.
So why is Cricket being so fervently followed everywhere across India and across all age groups? The sport which is talked about more than our national sport, which is played in spaces between two buildings, which requires as few as 2 people to play it. Why is it so popular that Cricketers have as loyal devotees as any deity might have? Is Cricket really the cause of detriment for other sports? Cricket enthusiasts may say that blaming Cricket for the detriment of other sports is like blaming Microsoft for the detriment of other IT companies!! This is only partially correct and other factors come into the picture for the prominence of Cricket in India.
The above-given incident was later touted by the media for the kind-heartedness shown by Gayle towards the girl and he was instantly cast a benevolent cricketer. Although I feel that after hitting someone square in her face, albeit unintentionally, the least you can do is visit the person in the hospital to check on her. But it signifies that the media just need a small flame to turn it into a wildfire with pieces of unfounded information sewn together. This is what the country has come to, in terms of viewing and being a part of Cricket.
One might say that the media plays the most crucial role in how we formulate our views about sports. A cricket world cup victory over Pakistan, or even a normal victory over Bangladesh for that matter, is splashed across all news channels and there is joy and euphoria among fans. Strategies are being discussed by former cricket legends on news channels and new shows are being telecast to delve a little deeper into the lives of the cricketers. But sadly, that is not the case for all sports. One simply cannot see the same amount of euphoria when a Saina Nehwal defeats a World no. 1 or when the Kabaddi team wins an international tournament. An example of this could be seen in the Bollywood movie ‘Chak De India’ where one of the team member’s fiancé (who happens to be the vice-captain of the Indian Cricket team) tells her to marry him and leave aside her Hockey career just because it is a ‘stupid game’ and nobody takes it seriously.
Another reason might be the role of parents and society during the early stages of a child. Right from childhood whenever the child shows an inkling of a liking for sports, he is ushered into playing cricket. At least by those parents who feel that sports are as equally important as studies, but that is a different topic altogether. Although the child might himself excel in some other sport, he is not given a chance to try any other sport till he is a complete failure at cricket. This has created a sort of stereotype even among children, which has led to a non-cricket playing child being outcast often.
To sum, it would be unfair to compare cricket with other sports given its stature and popularity. But it would also be unfair if other sports were being neglected just to promote Cricket. The overall viewing experience of these sports should be made exhilarating and action packed. That is where the role of TV broadcasters comes into focus. Credit must be given to the people behind the success of Pro Kabbadi League who have transformed a traditional sport into a thrilling one by combining old rules with new ones. Sports such as Badminton, Hockey, and Football are all following the path set by the highly sought after IPL and creating their own franchise leagues. Although these leagues will not be popular overnight, time and money must be invested for an extended period to reach the popularity of the Indian Premier League. Only then can we expect to achieve the absolute bare minimum results at the Olympics which are needed from a sports-loving country such as India.