Cricket in India isn’t just a sport. It is a religion – with millions of fans all over the country. No other sport in any other country is taken as seriously as cricket is taken in India. Numerous people all across India look upto the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Virat Kohli as ‘gods with a bat’. The debate for cricket’s evergreen popularity in India is a discussion for a another day. The question for now, however, is – why is it crucial for India to look beyond cricket? Even when it seems like India and cricket are made for each other, this country and its citizens must try to fall head over heels with other sports in the picture, or else risk being labeled monotonous and shortsighted in the longer run.
Why does cricket appeal so much?
It was probably the romanticization of the sport in Aamir Khan’s Lagaan. And even before that, it must be the steadfastness and charisma of cricketers such as Kapil Dev and VVS Laxman. But the magnetic appeal of cricket to the Indians still remains a mystery to those who are not huge fans of the game.
Perhaps, it is just an Indian thing. To be excited about the fours and sixes, to jump out of joy at a catch, or to dance around wildly at a direct hit – every Indian cricket admirer will nod his/her after reading this.
No one knows why cricket excites so many Indians to such a massive extent. No one knows why cricket is a sport that unites Indians everywhere. And no one certainly knows why it is just a simple cricket match that supplies so many Indians with so much of adrenaline rush?
The thing is, we might never know why India and cricket will always be in love with each other. Or why these two are practically inseparable, like the conjoined twins, attached at the hip. The truth is, no one has an answer. An even bigger truth is, no one cares about finding one. But this isn’t the real problem.
Why will India and cricket never part ways?
The problem isn’t that India loves cricket. The problem is, when it comes to sports, India loves only cricket. While this may not sound so dramatically problematic, the issue with this is bigger than you can possible imagine.
Beyond cricket, there lies a plethora of sports to discover, understand, and appreciate. There is football, badminton, hockey, tennis, and much more. While hockey did enjoy quite a bit of popularity and admiration for some years before cricket overshadowed it, other sports simply lay like a buried corpse in the sands of culture.
You can advertise a sport as much as you like – but unless cricket is here, nothing else will be noticed by sports fanatics. And if statistics are anything to trust, cricket is here to stay. A simple bat and a ball will forever rule the roast. Add to that the charming playing style of the cricketers across the globe – and you will probably be able to see why cricket is a sweetheart for almost every Indian out there.
Perhaps this is the reason. It is plain and simple. Cricket is a straightforward game – with simple rules. The pitch, the boundaries, the players – it is all like a cake walk to the mind of the viewer. The terminology is quite easy to pronounce, understand and remember. The jargon doesn’t sound like jargon. For laymen, cricket might be the easiest sport to grasp. And then, there’s the emotional connection between India and cricket.
From a gully to a stadium – cricket is all about the journey
In India, even a five-year-old child knows the nitty-gritty of cricket. This child has grown up watching the jaw-dropping helicopter shots by M.S. Dhoni. This infant has heard the sweet sound of the ball hitting the inside edge of the bat more than his/her own name.
When this child grows up, he/she has at least once experienced the magic of hitting big shots and the precision of stump-to-stump bowling. Cricket is a passion that infinite children across India carry with them from childhood into adulthood in some form or the other.
While some may turn into the biggest fans – not even missing the toss, others may hone themselves to stand on the field and call the toss. In any shape or form, cricket is bound to remain an everlasting part of an Indian’s life. From the narrow lanes outside their own homes to the biggest stadiums in the world – India and cricket has travelled hand-in-hand everywhere.
Should India move beyond cricket?
Despite this infinite love that India and cricket has for one another, it is important that Indians do not restrict their sport fanatism to just cricket. There is a world of sports out there, just waiting to be explored. One cannot explain, yet understand India’s fascination with the gentlemen’s game. And it will be tragic if one day, India lost its admiration for this sport.
However, a country like India has few representatives of various other sports at International level, and fewer actually excel at their game abroad. While movies like Mary Kom and leagues like the Kabbadi Premier League (KPL) are telling Indians where to look beyond cricket, it is not enough.
India needs to get a chance to boast of versatile Indian sportspersons in front of the world. But this cannot happen until and unless cricket is taking up all the television screen space and time. Sports channel broadcasters have to make a conscious choice of showcasing other sports on live television as well. Yes, initially it will be hard to attract audience and create a fan base, but taking calculated steps will help.
Looking beyond cricket
For a start, cricket is immensely loved in India because Indians can understand the concept of cricketing easily. No sport in this world is hard enough to understand. If other sports’ concepts, terminology and jargon are explained in the right way to the audience, there is no doubt that they will embrace these sports as well.
For better representation at the international level, it is necessary that Indians now start to look beyond cricket. This is a sport that will never go out of fashion. But other sports need to enter the field too. Sport can teach us crucial life lessons. So why not gear up to learn more lessons? Why not applaud a goal just as we applaud a boundary? Why not look at the stones on the grounds closely, and realize that they too, can turn out to be diamonds?