This is my entry for the Blogathon India under the category Sports. This post is out of the competition since I am part of the Blogathon Admin team.
They asked “Are ‘media’ and ‘commercial interests’ in cricket the only reason that are killing other sports in India?”
My answer ‘No’. Cricket gets all the attention because we, the Indian team is good at it. Quite simple. In Bollywood the Khans, Bacchans and Roshans get all the attention over the Oberois and Deols simply because the former are better in the profession. No rocket science there, the media hype and money is proportional to the achievement of the team.
Awrite now do I see a hockey fanatic there frowning, “media paid no attention to hockey when they won Olympics Gold, or the Asia cup.” I think I do so let me substantiate my point more elaborately.
Let us look at the history of cricket and Hockey a little bit. Why I chose these two sports is because while it is not possible to pay equal attention to every sport, just as you can’t have equal following for all actors, Cricket and Hockey should have, at the least, been at par. Unfortunately Indians are left to wonder why if a cricketer sneezes it becomes a national news while the captain of Indian hockey team, and Hockey is the national game, might just pass you by and you wouldn’t know. At least I won’t.
If wikipedia is to be believed the first time cricket was ever played on Indian Ground was in 1721, beginning of First class cricket was in 1864 by a match between Madras v. Calcutta. The first Indian ventures into international cricket was in 1880 by a Parsee team. [Source] India started playing test cricket in 1932. The first Cricket world cup, the place where Indian cricket team started to gain glamor was held in 1975 and in 1983 India was crowned as the world cricket champion.
Now, India was introduced to the game by the British Raj, England maintained its monopoly over the game for many years both as the host of international level competitions and also as the champion team. So, it takes no extra intelligence to ascertain the emotional high India must have attained, at its triumph over England, amongst other teams, to be declared as the world champion merely few decades after the independence.
Lagaan comes to mind not because I am an Aamir Khan fanatic but because Cricket indeed is more than a sport for us, it is a matter of national pride. Remember the line from Sanjay Gupta’s Kaante, “humein do cheezo se sakht nafrat hai, cricket mein haar aur desh pe waar.” (Two things we can’t stand, a loss at Cricket and an attack on the nation)
Hockey was introduced to India by the British Army regiment. The first hockey club in India came up in Calcutta in 1885-86 the Indian Hockey Federation was formed in 1928 in Gwalior. India made its Olympic debut at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, from 1928 to 1956, the Indian hockey juggernaut won six straight Olympic gold medals while winning 24 consecutive matches. [Source 1 Source 2]
All so good, but doesn’t appeal so much to my patriotic sentiments. The reason being the Indian hockey pride in Olympics till the mid 20th century was not so much of India’s but more of Indians’ who were part of the British Army. Hockey was primarily played amongst the British Army regiments, the most respectable hockey player ever Padma Bhushan Dhyan Chand Singh was a Major in the British Army his father too was a Subedar in the British Army. I am not sure if he was in office during the time he won the Olympic Golds for the country, assuming he was not and he won them in his personal capacity, the nation itself was a British Colony. Hockey was but a part of the British Raj.
Before anybody accuse me, I am in no way trying to undermine the contribution of Indian Hockey team, I have utmost respect for the sport and the team, all I am saying is that today, in the 21st century Hockey doesn’t appeal the nation as much as cricket does because our cricket team like a true hero has battled to the top by their hard work and determination and continue to do so year after year. While our Hockey glory was gone, if not with, soon after, the British raj left.
Cricket is also a more secular sport to me, the Indian Cricket team being a representation of the countries unity in diversity notion in the most heart warming way. The team have always had representation from all caste and religions and it fills a true Indian heart with pride and joy when we see an Irfan Pathaan achieve a historic hattrick wicket against a Pakistan. [Video] It restores faith. Hockey teams on the other hand have had a Punjab monopoly.
Besides the patriotic sentiments attached with cricket, it also is a more visually appealing game to me compared to hockey. The way a ball is hit, the way it shoots into the sky and goes all the way till the end of the stadium gives an amazing sense of euphoria. I am not sure the same euphoria is felt at a hockey goal.
Also, media attention and money was not served on a platter to our cricket team from the very start. Our team has consistently performed well to command all that attention and has carved a place for themselves.
If at all we have to blame anybody for the poor state of Hockey it is the Government, the sports ministry. When they declared Hockey as the national game they should have made better rules and regulation to ensure that the money pumped into Hockey was decent enough for a hockey player to sustain himself long after his career was over.
So far as brand endorsement by cricketers are concerned one can’t help much. The IT industry offers a better pay package than say a publishing house, can we really complaint?
True, media didn’t pay any attention to the Hockey team recently when they won the Asia Cup. But then media sells what get sold, that’s the bitter truth. For the Indian youth today Hockey has lost its charm so may be its time we accept it. Other option is to make cricket the new national game of the country.
Or let us see the Indian Hockey Federation pull up its socks, emerge as winners out of the controversies, let us see Mr. Gill creating a team which has the same winning spirit that SRKs Chak De team had, let us see India hosting the next Hockey world cup (which should have happened at least once in the past 30 years, Hockey being the national game so to say) and the Indian team winning the cup…unless these happen I suggest they leave cricket and its fans alone, stop blaming media et al for their own failures.
I heard the Indian Hockey team is on hunger strike in order to protest against the money pumped in T-20 world cup. Reminds me of the lines from my favourite film, Jerry Maguire.
Jerry Maguire, a sports agent, is with his sole client, foot ball player Rod Tidwell, who is all upset that he haven’t got a decent contract yet, Jerry says,
“Here’s why you don’t have your ten million dollars yet. You are a paycheck player. You play with your head. Not your heart. In your personal life? Heart. But when you get on the field – you are a businessman. It’s wide-angle lenses and who fucked you over and who owes you for it. That’s not what inspires people.”