Who needs any other sport?

(This one is updated, from the archives….)

We were watching the 1985 Wimbledon matches – the year when Boris Becker became the youngest and the first ever unseeded player to win the title. Our first born, then seven, was with us.

“Wouldn’t he make a wonderful fielder?”

“Does Germany play cricket?”

And the gem: “Do they hate each other?” We were nonplussed.

“Of course not. They grunt with the efforts of heaving the ball,” we told him. We thought that he probably mistook the grunts and groans of Jimmy Connors for aggressive behavior.

“No, not that. I am asking why the umpire is always saying, ‘Love all?’”

His father sat him down and started explaining the basics of the game to him. That it was so much water on desert sand soon became apparent.

“Wow! One shot and he gets ten runs!” He started adding up the points to make up mind boggling individual scores. A difficult shot that could not be returned was a ‘four’, and an ace was a ‘six’. He had a feast of ‘sixes’ as Becker kept slamming them one after the other. He got agitated when the ball was out and the player lost a point. “But isn’t it a four when the ball goes over the boundary line?” he wailed.

In exasperation I switched off the TV set before I forgot my basic tennis.

That was the time we had personally lost out to cricket.  The boy breathed, ate and slept cricket. So deeply ingrained was the game in his psyche that he even kept scores as in cricket while playing brain games like Scrabble.

His fascination for cricket bordered on reverence. To him Kapil Dev was God and Srikant a demi-god. He knew how many overs Kapil bowled and how many wickets he got against which country.  He kept watching the videos of the finals of the World Cup, which India had won in 1983 — led by his God — till he got every ball and run imprinted in his memory. He could practically tell which ball would get hit for a six and which would get a wicket even before they actually happened.

So, like concerned parents, his father and I decided to educate him on the nuances of other games. But we had reckoned without the cricket demon that had possessed our son. Since it was summer and the Wimbledon season was on, we thought we would start with tennis. With Becker giving seeded players the run for their money, what better incentive could there be for our cricket crazy son than a new hero, we reasoned.

We were momentarily fooled when he ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at the acrobatic volleys and returns of Becker, before the bombshell dropped and the conversation detailed above took place.

Hockey was different. Unlike tennis where the players scored so many ‘runs’, he was puzzled about the opposite. It took me a while to understand that he meant the goals. “If they had someone like Gavaskar they could have easily scored so much more. Look at that fellow missing the ball!” he cried passionately.

“Why can’t he get some runs for going beyond that line (the twenty five yards line)?” he asked hotly.

When the referee sent a player out, he gleefully clapped his hands, exclaiming, “He is out, he’s out!” And when the player returned after the stipulated time, he wistfully said. “How nice it would be if they allowed Srikant or Vengaskar to come back and bat like that after getting out!”

I felt a glimmer of hope when he got absorbed with the stickwork of  Mohammed Shahid and Zafar Iqbal. It was short-lived, alas! When Shahid scooped the ball, the boy cried out, “That was exactly like the six Srikant hit in the match against England!”

I groaned. His father shrugged. We had come to the sad realization that it would take more than our puny efforts to release our son from the mesmeric influence of the game that is cricket.

Then the World Cup came the next year and Maradona’s magic finally made the kid see that there were other interesting sports besides cricket. It is to our eternal regret that his dream of pursuing the game had been truncated by a sudden transfer, just when he was selected to represent his school at the age of 10. But the interest is still thriving enough for him to schedule his programmes around the telecast of the game and to teach his little daughter to recognise the players of Arsenal, his favourite club!

The cricket frenzy, whipped up by the media, to the exclusion of every other sport, the sole topic of conversion in classrooms, offices, canteen and homes has been the bane of every other sport in the country over the decades. Even before Kerry Packer started his Packer circus and the limited over edition of the game, and now, truncated into a 20-over game, it hold sway over the masses.  Efforts by sponsors revive momentary interest in other sports are sporadic at best as happened during the World Cup Hockey recently.

Recently, when the entire country was going crazy with the on-field doings of the cricketers and the off-filed capers of Tharoor and Modi a young sportsman lamented,” I would have got more publicity had I lost!” The sportsman in question was Pankaj Advani.  I can hear people asking, ‘Pankaj, who?’ Sigh.

He was the sportsman who created history by becoming the first player to win the Asian Billiards Championships three times in a row.

He is in good company though. Mike Ferreira who ruled Indian billiards scene in the 70s and four times World Amateur Billiards Champion — had refused to accept the Padma Shri award given to him in 1981. The reason? The same year Sunil Gavaskar had been conferred the Padma Vibhushan. Ferreira opined that his own achievements were no less than the latter’s. He still had to wait till 1983 for his Padma Vibhushan.

When India won the solitary gold or silver medal in hockey in the Olympics, the euphoria was overshadowed by the media and the country at large, lambasting the lack of medals in any other sport. With the result that today the game is in doldrums and requires film stars to publicise it!

Last month, when the world Hockey championships were going on we were with our younger son. If you remember, England had shot out India in the run up to the semi-finals and consequently out of the World Cup hockey tournament. “Ha, ha,” he had laughed in his inimitable style. “All the publicity and media hype for nothing! Everyone will now go back to watching cricket.”

And people indeed went back and how! Even the IPLgate could not put a dampener on the craze and overflowing stadia only underlined the sad truth of its supremacy over every other game in the country.

So where does that leave other sports? Don’t worry, the features of the various games are all getting incorporated into cricket — free hit, extra- time, tie-beaker, even cheerleaders! Who needs any other sport when we have the excitement of all in one game?

36 comments

  1. 🙂 was a fun read… all countries have their own popular sport sport!
    love your conclusion!
    if you cant beat them ….

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    1. Right. So cricket is THE sport — let’s incorporate the salient features of all the sports into it!

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  2. Hah, so right! Cricket rules and how! I too love the game, thanks to my brother, but I like watching some of the other games too!

    I really wish there was equal attention given to the other sports and sports persons too. After all, they all play for their country and with the same passion and fire, to make the country and its people proud. But I don’t know how and when that day will come, sigh…

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    1. The day will come when big businesses invest in those games and groom sportspersons who can become world class. If we begin winning medals then the sports will pick up support. It is a vicious circle..

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  3. Well you cant beat cricket in India – can you! for kids who have grown up playing the game in backyard, roads its hard to find pleasure in other sports.

    Billiards, snooker, shooting or archery are sports far away from common man. And even if we do well there it is understandable why we dont go gaga over it. But success does breed interest, Tennis has become much more popular today thanks to paes, sania, ramesh et all.

    Siddhant now 3 doesnt like cricket and hates when i switch to cricket when he would rather watch his cartoons. I am waiting for the day when he joins me in cheering India, or err.. mumbai or whatever. Does it matter! 🙂 We just so love our cricket.

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    1. It is not just kids who have played backyard games who root for the game. it is like middle aged women like me who have never held a cricket bat or men who have never played the game, who swoon over the matches. And if it is a cheap game that kids can play in an alley, so can football which doesn’t even require so much equipment! But the reason why cricket is popular is the money that is pumped into it to make it popular and make it glamorous. unfortunately, cricket is not included in any big sporting event and only this Asiad had it as an exhibition sport. So we end up with no medals in any international tournament. Why not be a little proportional in our sponsorships?

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  4. I feel the new generation is appreciating other sports too…My son is not into cricket but soccer and my niece is into tennis….

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    1. There are kids who are into other sports — they used to be too. My older son grew up to become a footballer in school and still is addicted to it. Nevertheless, the frenzy associated with cricket is solely responsible for its popularity.

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  5. Wonder what it says about us as a nation -being mad abt Cricket and not football or tennis or Hockey?
    It is a curious game – a team game that relies majorly on individual performances.
    We like to put ten people in charge but want that one person to bat or bowl and save the day

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    1. Hey Varsha, nice to see you here after a long time 🙂 You have put it nicely — a team game but one which becomes an individual game. in the bargain the forgotten fact is that individual performances can’t shine unless the team support is there.

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  6. We are a cricket mad nation na… 😦 It really saddens me when other sportspersons dont get enough..well forget the money, they dont even have enough to train themselves…its sad but its true…RD is a big ManU fan and thanks to him R learns some football 🙂 Lovely post 🙂

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    1. Good for you that your son watches football. Actually kids are influence by their peers and their parents, whoever is more influential. And we all root for cricket, don’t we?

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  7. How do you really manage weaving such an interesting story out of something that everyone utterly knows!..that Cricket is supreme! Well, I wanted to also tell you that I finally recd. my first blog award (yipppeee!) and I simply had to nominate you again for writing the 10 random things :). Pls do not curse me! But you are my favorite blogger! You can see your award on my blogsite http://richlandtalk.blogspot.com/2011/05/random-ramblings.html

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    1. Just came back from your blog. Thanks for the compliment and the award. I have replied in your comments section 🙂

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  8. Wow ! Trust you to make even a posting on sports so deliciously interesting !! Yup girl you sure have way with words and amazing knowledge of different sports ! Loved it ! Keep up the good work !

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    1. Lovely to have you back! Thanks for the most generous comments, Chits! I hope I am able to live up to them. 🙂

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  9. bhashyam · · Reply

    The flow of words,the familiarity of the setting of a typical Indian Household,the normal conversation depicted all add up to the making of an excellent piece of writing.
    You have a way with words that remind me of a Gangadhar or a Jug Suraiya,but not necessarily a Bachi Karkaria!
    This entertainment starved country of ours needs a change from the soap operas which have become monotonous and drag onto innumerable episodes.
    It is for this reason that the Reality Shows,the 20 over Limited Cricket Tournaments have taken on the TRPs and the advertising world has caught on to using every second of transmission ,even encroaching in between overs to catch those eyeballs waiting for the next ball to be bowled,and despatched elegantly to the boundary or bludgeoned over the stands depending on the Man behind the Willow or the Mongoose!
    So Zephyr,keep up the good work!May the words flow thick and fast like the Narmada!

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    1. That is the most encouraging comment, Bhashyam. Thank you so much. But while I feel flattered to be compared to the likes of Gangadhar and Jug Suraiya, I am not too sure they would be thrilled by it! 🙂 The former is my favourite. Have you read his ‘Travels with a fish?’

      I have never understood the fascination for the reality shows. they look too contrived don’t they?

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      1. bhashyam · · Reply

        Well,I have read his articles in the press,and have liked the way he subtly introduces us to South Indian cuisine,with their typical names-conjuring a vision of the same items we relished at home during festivals.
        and you do have a flair for writing and I feel you should do a lot more of it,whenever you find the time and the inclination-the reason they should put a clock on the tower of Pisa!
        Reality shows are contrived,but some of the talent is really good-Geetha finds the Dance India Dancers to be superb-and coming from a dancer,it is Vashishtar Vayaale Brahmarishi!

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        1. 😀 I liked the one about the clock on the tower of Pisa! and thanks for the encouragement! I really appreciate it. 🙂

          Tell Geetha that I will be talking to her soon about reality shows. They intrigue me because I am unable to accept the format and want to know the reason for their popularity!

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  10. er. did my comment just get swallowed or what?

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    1. 😀 I thought I was the only one who had problems with the comments page of other bloggers!! I would post one and not find it and then repost it and find TWO of them with the same content! 🙂

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  11. Looks like it’s your experience speaking. You are a good observer of people and their behaviour 🙂

    Btw having been a teenager once, I can say…they don’t want to talk about it t their parents/ family, but they will yak about it for hours with friends! 🙂

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    1. I could write all those things because I was once a teenager too, though a looooooooooong long time ago! About yakking with their friends, haven’t I mentioned that too? Human behaviour is universal isn’t it?

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    2. hey Chinkurli, can you please explain how your gravatar keeps changing from a silhouette to a stack of pencils??

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      1. It used to be a silhouette. Then I changed it to the pencils. So, any switching is a technical glitch, I guess 🙂

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        1. Technical glitch or no, it adds to the spice of opening my comments box to see a different looking Chinkurli every time!:)

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  12. Interesting read. I do not follow both these games , football addict. 😀 I like the way you make everything so delicious to read. thanks for this

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Tikulicious.

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  13. Perhaps I’m a minority but am perfectly clueless when it comes to cricket (from a practical perspective). I never know when a game is on, I have no clue about the stats and certainly cannot play to save my life (though like every other Indian I do know the sport inside out). In fact, my approach to batting has been similar to tennis forehands (the one game that can get the grips on me any day).

    Funny thing about cricket, while applying for my first job back in 2005 I helped out quite a number of friends with their CV. It seemed like a mantra to mention cricket and football in their list of active sports. Mine never saw a mention – I didn’t even follow it. Mine had lawn tennis, badminton and snooker 🙂

    The sad bit is while the fervour for cricket is nice (like football/rugby in UK, NBA in US) if it offsets other sports it ain’t good any more. Sadly with option for exploring other sports lacking for most in the country they end following that which gets shoved in their face – cricket!! The result is while we have the talent in other sports they need sponsorship to compete beyond nationals and that never happens coz to the sponsors Indians can only play cricket. I wouldn’t know much about other sports, but in tennis the talent pool is huge and of high quality, but where they lose out is fitness and stamina. It can’t be built overnight. Say what one might, but to compete professionally fitness and stamina have a price tag attached to it, and that is sadly not really affordable for most. And even if it is, most get dragged away ‘coz “only cricket has a future”.

    India has a rugby team which does compete in international events (not the big 6), they have had a kick boxing team – but then where is the recognition? And how many have followed Sania’s career because of the game? or how many actually know that Saina Nehwal is world no. 5 in badminton? The count would be quite depressing given what the number could be in a country which has more than billion citizens.

    Am proud of what India has achieved in cricket, but equally depressed by what India could have achieved in other sports but never did. A population of a billion and only a handful of Olympic medals to talk about over a span of 50 years. Its a shame!!

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    1. oops!! didn’t realise the comment was going to turn into a rant. sorry about that 🙂

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      1. 🙂 That is perfectly fine Sumit. Such things do make one rant, don’t they? good for you that you escaped the influence of cricket to experience the joys of other games. All it takes is some exposure to them, right?

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  14. Cronjegate did it for me… and now cricket is just another sport for me… i am more likely to schedule my day around an impending ManU match or a Formula 1 race. Alas, the two happen with much lesser frequency than cricket…
    Actually I never really got hooked to the game as I have to football now… SRT was and still is the only reason i watch the game… ManU according to me epitomises the fighter spirit… hanging on till the end… their last match was a case in point… two players threw up on the field due to food poisoning but continued playing… its ManU’s ability to give more than 100% to every match that makes them such a joy to watch. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about cricket. The major test playing nations keep playing and defeating each other randomly without any show of consistency… the last time Australia showed any kind of winning streak they lost abruptly to India before being thumped by lowly Bangladesh…

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    1. Ok i’m beating my own trumpet but here’s a post I made a couple of years ago on how cricket has overpowered every other sport in india: http://brownianmotionofthoughts.wordpress.com/2008/04/14/cricket-cricket-burning-bright/

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    2. i read somewhere that these clubs are the biggest money grossers and fall in the big biz category! I will take the dedication of the players with a pinch of salt, if you don’t mind!

      I will read your post today! thanks for the link.

      Like

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