Will cricket mania give way to other sports?

By Abinesh H Published on Jun 07, 2018 05:06 PM IST

Indian football team's coach Stephen Constantine recently stated 'the Indian football team has done enough in the last few years to merit a decent crowd turnout, and begging for support was one thing it did not deserve'.

Team skipper Sunil Chhetri's impassioned plea urging people to come and cheer the team in the ongoing Intercontinental Cup just goes to show how other sports are being overlooked in the country.

Cricket is definitely the most famous sport in India. People would say it is religion. But why are other sports being overlooked by the public? Most people born after 1983 know of only one popular sport in India and that is cricket.

But this wasn't always the case. Hockey was more popular than cricket for a very long time. And believe it or not, India had the best hockey team in the world for many years. Between 1928 and 1956, India won six Olympic gold medals in a row.

They further went on to win two more gold medals with the final one in 1980 at the Olympics in Moscow. But since then it's been all downhill.

"When I started my career as a hockey player there were many opportunities. Government agencies would line up to offer jobs in their companies. Free housing, training facilities and more. Now, except for the national and Indian Hockey League, not much light is shown on hockey. Looking at the state of the game and the players, it really gives out a sad feeling," said Ramkumar a hockey veteran who played for India.

As most of us know, India won the cricket world cup in 1983. It was something of a miracle at the time. India didn't have the strongest team and no one expected them to win. They were the underdogs. The team played their hearts out and pulled off an incredible win. This propelled cricket into the limelight. And the rest, as they say, is history. But India could have taken advantage of two sports that were equally popular and internationally renowned - football and tennis.

Cricket has overshadowed other sports in the country, the fame and money it brings are equal to none. IPL is one of the most watched sporting events in the world after FIFA World Cup and Super Bowl. Every cricketer wants to play in the league for cash.

Another contributing factor is the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India). It actually has done an amazing job of promoting cricket in India and also giving national cricket players access to world-class facilities to practice.

On the other hand, the AIFF (All India Football Federation) and AITA (All India Tennis Association) has done a dismal job. The facilities are mediocre and grassroots-level programmes have just started developing, especially for football after the start of Indian Super League (ISL)'. said former Santosh trophy player S Bhaskar Ryan, who runs a football academy in Chennai.

In the present state, there is an imbalance of sporting priorities. Cricket has become too famous. It is not just hockey but athletics as well. All corporate sponsorship, media coverage, etc., focus on cricket and now badminton.

With a population of over 2 billion people, is it hard to conjure up 11 players for a football team or any other sport?

"The main reason is the parents. They feel cricket is the only money-making sport in the country and you cannot blame them. Virat Kohli featuring in Forbes rich list is no mistake. This is the power of cricket and stardom. Let's hope in the coming years our country stands tall in other sports also," added Bhaskar.