Stop Blaming Cricket

I saw two posts on my timeline today lamented the general lack of attention suffered by non-cricket sports in India. Both of them seemed to blame the undue attention that cricket seems to enjoy.

The first post, by a retired cricketer, blames the obsession of fans. The second post from a news site, seems to blame the media for not covering other sports.

I think both these arguments are way off the mark. That is putting it mildly.

Before, we proceed any further, I need to clarify that I stopped following cricket when the match fixing scandal broke out. I was a die-hard fan before that.

Let us come to the arguments now.

The first argument. Other sports do not get enough attention because fans are too obsessed with cricket.

Let us say I wanted to follow hockey. How does this work? Where are the matches? How often are they played? If I want to follow a sport, I need to be able to get enough of it to watch. You may say that the Indian cricket team has enough money and hence can play a lot of international matches.

It was not always like this. You have to understand that India has had one of the best organised domestic circuits in the world. If I wanted to follow cricket, I just have to open the fixtures page in The Hindu.

Think about the number of tournaments. Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Irani Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, Vizzy Trophy, Buchi Babu. Go down to the next level, you have universities level and school level. On another angle, you have leagues like the TNCA. These games were taken seriously. I have watched Srikkanth play in TNCA League.

The Indian cricket establishment used the patronage it got to set up a great ladder of tournaments. A clear career path for an aspiring cricketer was set way before 1983. Hockey had its moments of glory but it was not leveraged well.

So, if a fan is obsessed with cricket, it is because there has been enough of it to watch and enjoy.

As for the second argument. That the media covers cricket. I do not blame the media here. DD has always covered other sports. But once again, there is no tempo of events to watch and enjoy. So, no fan interest that leads to low TRP that leads to low coverage.

Finally I have heard arguments about how there is too much money in cricket. Once again, cricket has earned it. Once again, it was not always like this.

Talk to anyone who played cricket before 1983, it was bleak. If you did really well, you could get a job through the sports quota. Syed Kirmani, one of the best keepers India has produced, worked for SBI.

The Indian team won the 1983 world cup, 1985 world series. That set the spark. Till that point, cricket was something just for the sports fans. When I was growing up, about five people in my entire colony of about fifteen households used to follow cricket. By the time Chetan Sharma bowled that last ball, every soul in the colony was glued to the TV set. The Indian cricket team earned that fan following. No doubt about it.

Overall India has won the world cup twice, been the runner up once and has been in the semi finals thrice. Yeah, yeah. Not many countries play cricket. But in how many sports do we do well at all?

As a fan, I need a team to root for.

In summary, don’t blame the fans. Don’t blame the media. Don’t blame the money. Give us enough games to watch, things will work themselves out.