With hardly any knowledge about sports of any sort, this post is in no way going to abide by the popular and prevailing emotions of the majority of sports enthusiasts in the country. But, this write-up is an effort to put-forth a contrarian thought that sheds light on the ever-growing bias towards the game of cricket. Before rejecting this post as the random rants of a seasoned cricket-hater, if readers can take time for a small retrospection, inspiring visuals of tremendous efforts and stupendous successes of several non-cricketing sportspersons would soon flash in front of your eyes. Yet a wide majority of the country adheres to cricket and keep gluing themselves in front of televisions to watch all the cricket matches; irrespective of poor and lackadaisical performances of the team which has been facing a lot of flakes off late. As the magnitude of our love for cricket grows by leaps and bounds, getting detrimental for other sports, my thoughts drift towards the disheartened athletes and other sports persons who have yearned and longed for years together to get the deserved accolades and appreciation, and have got disregarded all the time.
One among them is the heart wrenching story of the untimely demise of a veteran football player who killed himself by jumping in-front of a suburban electric train. The suicide notes found later had the tear-jerking accounts of his profound pain and mental anguish. Unfathomable sorrow for lack of recognition and accolades led to his unfortunate demise, yet the country hasn’t learned any lesson. The authorities, media, and people around still continue to side-line some of the incredible achievers who have picking sports other than cricket. One among the many heart-breaking accounts of tragedies that unveil the pitiful conditions of several successful sports-persons in the country, the story of this intentionally forgotten veteran football player is a vivid example of the callousness towards non-cricketers who constantly fight for recognition and appreciation, irrespective of winning several national and international matches.
Regardless of their stellar performances, we fail non-cricketing sports-people constantly, and at the same time unashamedly serve uncountable crores on the cricketers’ platter, irrespective of being aware of impending failure and shame that the team is going to bring in. While the cricket team earned crores from a luck-by-chance World Cup win last time, wrestlers like Virender Singh had to wait for Vivek Chaudhary to make the movie Goonga Pehelwan, in order to get appreciated by the country and the authorities. With sponsors showing no keenness on investing on non-cricket sports, and the system failing to take adequate steps to felicitating their remarkable success, several sports-persons strive hard to make a living. Despaired by the lack of support and encouragement, they are often forced to cut short their sports career due to humongous financial liabilities, lack of funds, in adequate facilities, poor quality training equipment and little encouragement from the authorities.
Despite the fact that several hockey players, footballers, wrestlers, and many other commendable sports-persons continue to make our country proud, the entire nation is desperate to rally behind and justify the cricket team that fails repeatedly, yet takes home hefty fees and perks for each failure of theirs. A five time successive world boxing champion became a household name at the mercy of a Bollywood star who essayed her role in recently released 100crore grosser. Does that indicate the indispensability of a money-minting commercial movie to showcase the hardships and talent of a non-cricketer? Though it has not said evidently, both Goonga Pehelwan and Mary Kom have written the answer clearly on the wall, emphasizing the fact that the word sports has now become synonymous with cricket, while the others are pushed to the wayside.
The irrational adoration and worship of cricket has now relegated several sports like badminton, hockey, kabaddi, and rowing to games from the bygone age. Despite having veterans like Viswanathan Anand, Leander Paes, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, and Karnam Malleswari, the country constantly turns a deaf ear and a blind eye to other sports. The irony of finding a football player receiving just one lakh for his stellar performance in debut international match, while cricketers get bestowed with crores of cash rewards and other incentives is the sheer evidence of the constant failures to give credit to sports and sports persons who the country proud. As one gets to see innumerable kids who aspire to achieve cult status in cricket and sign advertisement deals worth billions, finding someone who longs to become a Dhayan Chand, Dhanraj Pillay, Geeta Phogat, or Babita Kumari would be near to impossible, for sheer lack of adequate acceptance and accolades. Precisely, the distancing occurs due to the distressing awareness that other sports have nothing but heaps of humiliation and angst in store for the winners.
As cricketers enjoy the luxury of business class travels and cosy stays at top five star hotels, while traversing from one destination to other to amass more and more failures shamelessly, it’s distressing to watch the non-cricketers travelling sandwiched in second class trains and adjusting themselves to the pitiable conditions of dirty dormitories that are devoid of even the basic necessities for living. Every dazzling achievement they make would take no time to get eclipsed in the cricket-obsession of the country. No matter whether they win a match or not, cricketers are always on the forefront of media, either for a money minting brand endorsement or a ‘good-friend-like’ relationship with a Bollywood damsel, while, stories of other achievers are sunk deliberately.
That said, the blame doesn’t lie on cricket, but the irrational bias of people and authorities,. While it’s quite reasonable on the fans’ and media’s part to shower praises on a winning cricket team, the world cup winning Kabaddi team too deserved the same acceptance and accolades, but were deliberately ignored, and were seen on the streets waiting for auto rickshaw to reach home.. Not only did the authorities fail to provide the needed conveyance facilities, according to a well-known newspaper, the players even faced the awkwardness of non-payment of their food bills, which clearly indicates a step-motherly treatment, regardless of their thumping win.
PS – Here are a few disgraceful moments when we shamelessly ignored some sportspersons who have brought several laurels to the nation:
Irrespective of some incredible triumphs, we needed this advertising campaign to support our hockey team.
They represented the country for several years, yet the Ice Hockey Team had to appeal on social media for funds to attend an international championship:
A two-time international bronze medalist at Special Olympics sells golgappas for survival, while boxing gold medalist works as a domestic help to continue her schooling, and many others struggling hard to find a foothold, yet we continue to hail cricketers, while giving cold-shoulders to the other sports-people.