Sports columnist, Nirmal Shekar, writes in his piece in The Hindu:
As a professional sportswriter, I am sick of hearing the question over and over and over again. I find it almost nauseating. If there are tens of millions posing the question, then, over the four decades that I have spent in the profession, there have been tens of hundreds of answers, from serious commentators and sports critics down to lay persons.
Why does a nation of over 1.2 billion people end up with just a few pieces of bronze and silver every four years in the most celebrated event in sport?
This is a clever (but overused) method of using a clichéd subject for a column, by making it appear as if others are mouthing such clichés, while the writer himself is sick and tired of the question, but is forced to use his valuable column space to answer the stupid question. Something like the technique used by MGR to sneak in and take part in hot scenes in his movies, entirely imagined by the heroine, while he himself was pure and blemishless.
Anyway, let me not get into details of those dream scenes. Back to Nirmal Shekar.
He discloses the reason for the repeated Olympic debacles:
..if you chose to leave aside all serious analysis as to why Indian track and field athletes, swimmers, gymnasts, hockey players and other Olympic participants fail to live up to our — and sometimes their own — expectations and came around to zeroing in on a rather reductionist, and surely controversial, viewpoint, the answer might be simple.
For, this question raises its ugly head for only about two weeks every four years. The rest of the time — for three full years and eleven and a half months — we are obsessed with, worship and shamelessly pay obeisance to a sport played with any degree of seriousness by eight-and-a-half nations. Let us, then, accept the truth. We are a one-sport nation. And even a toddler would tell you what that sport is.
So, let us forget the London Games. In a few weeks, the Indian cricket team will be playing in the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka where the conditions will suit Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys to the hilt.
Ha, yes . Cricket is the root cause of all evils plaguing other sports in the country. QED.
He goes on to admonish the cricket-lovers:
…..we don’t care about them for three years and eleven-and-a-half months. We don’t care about their impecunious circumstances, their heroic struggles, their fight against-the-odds and battles with cynical, self-serving sports administrators heading often corrupt sports bodies.
…We have failed the Koms and the Yogeshwars and the rest as much as we seem to believe that many Indian athletes have failed us. They don’t owe us as much as we owe them.
And concludes on this grand note:
Nothing reflects our unity in diversity — and is a greater tribute to it — than our national obsession with cricket.
Sorry Mary, we forgot about your gas cylinder and the constant problems with power failures in your little house. But that is who we are.
Yawn. Will someone who knows this writer tell him a few things?
· It is true that cricket is patronized in cities and large towns. But I’ve seen no evidence of the game being an obsession in smaller towns and village, where- if we are to believe our Census bureau- 60-70% of our nation lives. Tap them for your sport, by all means. We will applaud the effort.
· Even if 100 million people are passionate about cricket in India, it is a staggering number which I suspect is more than the populations of Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa added together. So, it does create an impression that the whole nation is doing nothing else. But the reality is that it is still less than 10% of our population. Dip into the other 90%.
· How does my love of cricket come in the way of progress of other games? Is it a zero-sum game? Are the cricketers encroaching on a hockey ground? Or having their net practice in a shooting range? By all means play your respective games in your respective arenas and earn glory for the country. I am sorry about your struggles, but I assure you as a cricket-lover that I haven’t caused any of them, not do I wish that you should struggle. If the media is focusing only on cricket, don't blame me. Get them interested in your sport.
· It is my choice not to watch or buy a ticket to watch Mary Kom in action. While I admire her spirit and her tenacity and would like her to get gas cylinders in her house and win a gold medal at the Olympics, I find boxing a barbaric sport and refuse to have anything to do with it. Same with Sushil Kumar, the vegetarian wrestler who bit his opponent’s ear and caused much blood to ooze out. In my view, wrestling is one of the ugliest events you can watch.But I do recognise that there are others who like to see their favourite wrestler chew chunks of the opponent's anatomy. I respect their right to choose and enjoy their sport.
So, please spare us the sanctimonious lectures. And stop trying to make cricket-lovers feel guilty and accountable for the poor performances in other sports, when we have enough ‘poor performance’ to contend with in cricket itself.
There must be a reason- other than cricket- why a nation of over a billion people does badly at the Olympics. Find it. If you are obsessed with blaming cricket constantly for your ills, you will never get out of your misery.