Besides cricket, hockey has been in the news recently as our team failed to qualify for the Olympics. Chak De was huge hit but did it inspire more kids to playing hockey? I don’t think so. Ours is a cricket crazy nation. On a match day one finds strangers entering enthusiastic discussions, impromptu get together’s as pan shops to catch the score on the radio or TV, street celebrations if we win or an autopsy like no other if we don’t. Allegations of match fixing have not dampened this sentiment though I hear of an increasing number of people who have ‘switched off’ from cricket for this reason.
A child could be blessed with special skills but these would be brought out only when given a chance. If the first gift to a boy is a cricket bat, he plays the game in his lane since the age of 5 how would he even develop interest in or know his aptitude for any other sport? Its for parents to spot and understand their child and guide him accordingly – not burden him/her with their own (unfulfilled) aspirations.
It would be easy to blame media and commercial reasons for the cricket focus. Of course these are and will always remain a big part. Yet there is much more. Middle class Indians give huge importance to education. Sport as a profession is not yet widely accepted by Indians. Sacrificing studies to focus on a professional sport career is not something many can digest, I as a mother would not nor would many I have spoken to. Many Pune schools encourage sports other than cricket yet after class 10 most students shift attention to studies. The game fades to the background as they go about preparing for zillions of entrance exams to get into a ivy league college or coveted profession. The sport then just remains something to stay fit.
Corruption in sports bodies too is yet another deterrent which affects sports as there may not be adequate infrastructure. Lethargy of sports bodies has been vividly depicted in the movie Chak De. Often whatever stadia are developed in a city/town are located far away making it impossible for sportsperson to easily access them for training. Sports bodies must work to provide suitable coaches. Girls face the added disadvantage of parental and society pressures of giving up sports as it would hamper matrimonial prospects.
Getting sponsors to fund expensive gear or training is yet another issue many struggling sportsperson other than cricket face.
So lets not blame the media this time. It all boils down to the moolah.