Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Great Sporting Divide

I tried to write this one on Cricket in America at first, but my first encounter with Cricket in USA urges me to discuss issues I feel arise from a “Sporting Divide”, which may not be as prominent as the Cultural or economic divide but it exists there none the less.

I always used to wonder that with a population of 1000 million (US lingo got stuck on to me it seems); ok with a population of 100 Crores, why India can’t produce decent sportsmen (leave Cricket out). It did not take me long to realize after landing in the US the reason for this.

Ok, will try to quote an example. Every semester here in Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas there is a tennis ball cricket tournament. The quality of cricket is expectedly quite poor. But, I was absolutely astonished at the professionalism shown by the organizers. And if you think that whether its Netherlands or Namibia (Cricketing Minnows), it’s the NRI’s running the show, you quite wrong. The organizers are the entire gore log. Now for the illustration, just let me warn you may be shocked after reading this.

  • If a match was scheduled at 9 am, it meant that a team reporting at 9:01 would be disqualified.
  • Walky-talkies are used for communication between scorers and umpires.
  • Every run scored, every ball balled and even all the byes, leg byes were correctly noted down.
  • All the officials-scorers, umpires etc are paid.

And all this for a sport which the Americans don’t care about. Just imagine how the facilities would be for Baseball, American football, Basketball or Tennis.

Ok, there may be a case for argument that India may not be financially so strong as to equip the officials with a walky-talky. But, it’s the sheer attitude, the professionalism of these guys which really left me dumbstruck.

Talking about finance, I tend to think “Is cricket ruining other sports?” Well that’s an interesting question. This comes from a die-hard, kill-hard Cricket Fan, so mind you no biases involved.

When Gopichand (I hope you remember him) won the all-England badminton championship in Britain no one cheered or cared because in the same week Harbhajan Singh took a hat-trick and V. V. S. Laxman scored 281 in the Kolkata Test against Australia.

No one remembers the Olympic bronze medals won by tennis star Leander Paes (Atlanta, 1996) and weightlifter Karnam Malleswari (Sydney, 2000), but Anil Kumble's 10-wicket haul, Harbhajan's hat-trick, and Virender Sehwag's 309 will be evergreen in memory.

But, then another argument.

In America, baseball reigns supreme (a game played in fewer countries than CricketJ). But would one dare to say that baseball kills football, which is a less popular sport in US. After all, the Americans reached the quarter-finals in 2002 world cup football. (And yes, its football, its something which people here call SOCCER but it’s and insult to the beautiful game, call it FOOTBALL)

There exists a Sporting Divide, something similar to a Cultural or economic one between the two countries. Sports in US runs on the principles of professionalism and collectiveness, we run on idol-worship, much more an attribute to our cultural and religious inclinations possibly.

Let us consider the case of Sania Mirza. If a sportsman or a sportswoman in this case is willing to put in the hardwork and does something worthwhile the media does give him/her the deserved recognition. But hold on was it Sania Mirza’s tennis or was it because it was Sania Mirza- the pretty looking jeune fille that she was, that made her popular. Well I can hardly answer any of these questions.

Now some sort of a trivia for you,

Identify the sports personality. (Don’t Google please)

Clue 1- He/she won the World under-14 championship, 2001, Castellan, Spain.

Clue 2- He/she won the World junior championship, 2001, Athens.

Clue 2- He/she was Asia's youngest International Master, 1999.

Clue 3- He/she was India's youngest Grand Master, 2001.

Clue 4- He/She is not Vishwanathan Anand.

Clue 5- In 2002, he/she become the first chess player from India to receive the Men's Grandmaster title.

Clue 6- As of July, 2006, he/she was world number 2 in women's rankings

Clue 7- At 15 years, one month and 27 days, he/she also became the world's youngest Grandmaster to achieve full Grandmaster status, beating the record of Judith Polgar, who achieved the feat at 15 years, four months and 27 days.

Clue 8- Her name is Koneru Humpy.

Piece of cake, was it or wasn’t it?

The point I am trying to make here is the Indian media which has gone bonkers over Sania Mirza – who hasn’t gone past the fourth round of any grand slam, is that a bigger achievement a bigger one than Humpy’s? Who is the culprit here then- surely not Sania Mirza, after all she is the best female tennis player India has produced and it’s not you or me either. Or is it Media? Confused me.

To put it in plain text, Sania Mirza is more popular than Koneru Humpy because she is SEXY, wears short skirts and has got all the right curves. And, I don’t think that’s fair, or may be it is. I am again not sure.

But we need to rise. We need to rise above the idol-worship and be a little more secular like we are culturally in respecting all sports as we respect all religions. Sports should inculcate our culture in it, just not runaway from it. Giving respect to all and equality is what we have been taught (remember the preamble of our constitution) and that is what we should aim at achieving in every aspect of life.

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desh said...

media shud not be blamed for nethng in particular
These americans take nethng too seriously at times
mayb at times it takes out th fun out of th thngs u do
i eamgine u playin in such a tite schedule
its stupid also

dk said...

absolutely correct analysis
no surprise it comes from a true sportster,
cricket is blamed, but the point is that the impact of this game is immense in this country, you grow up watching playin patronizing the stars of just 1 game, and this is pumped by the way the game is publicized and practised in this country and hence it goes on and on.
In an academic centric country its also difficult for kids to fo around with many games!
non-cricket...tough times cntinues

Raja said...

well written analysis, but still i dont think i can agree with u...first of all we worship cricket bcoz we have produced players like tendulaker nd gavasker who r best in thr business...comming to sania...u can easily question why sharapova is more famous than judith polger....its bcoz the sports she plays is much more glamorous...and is more promoted in much better manner....similarily 30 years back people used to watch they like to watch it..bcoz the team is nt performing...who would to like to watch u when u cant even enter the semis of Asian coming to football...u cant compare baichung bhutia with steven gerrard or thiery Henry....EPL is much more exciting than NFL...tats people watch it....conclusion of the above crap is quite simple....produce the champs..and people will enjoy the sports...and for producing quality u require quality infrastructure and politics free federations...Now i sincerely dont know whether this in possible in our country or not..

MountCleverest said...

A very interesting article...
but there are a few things that i do not agree with.
firstly, calling india a poor country as compared to US is just a rhetoric.
I am sure u are well aware of the entity called BCCI, and also abt it being the richest board in the world. I am sure, paying the scorers and the umpires, even if modestly and walky talkies for all official matches isnt all that difficult for our poor country :P

Abt Kaneru, well lemme just say, that i have visited this blog abt 6-7 times. And each time I have seen a small pic on the right side panel...Every time, it has been Sania Mirza.

Yes, undoubtedly Cricket overshadows the other sports in India, but then doesnt football overshadow all the other sports in Brazil?
No point blaming the media, it keeps only those ppl in the limelight, that us common janta like to read abt. No1 knows whats happening with Gopichand right now, what he is doing when he is not playing but when Sachin visits Sathya Sai Baba, his pics are printed in the papers... And people read it with interest(believe it or not, i have seen it!)

@DK, ever wondered how the academic centric kids in india manage to play a game of cricket which arguable requires more players and more time then a quick 1 on 1 match of footbal might take? cricket takes longer to setup, and longer to finish, coz basically u can just minimize the duration of half the match, while in games like footbal u might say whover scores the first goal wins, or score at end of 20 mins or something like that...
anyways, my point is that cricket is popular in india, and there is no unilateral or unidimensional reason that i know of...

if any of u guys do, then pls do enlighten me :)

MountCleverest said...

i wud like to change my stand on the pic on ur blog point...just saw a kournikova pic...i stand corrected!
but u get my point dont u? ;)

nitesh said...

nice post giri
i don't agree to u on many points

i think you have forgotten how we conducted matches in daiict
scoring was done in a official way everything was noted
in many cases umpires were properly dressed
though regarding time i agree there were delays but they were due to due factor :)

professionalism doesn't mean that the sport will become popular
its the zeal of the people and preformance of the team and
mounteverest has said

you have clearly validated your point by the pics

next time i will upload humpy's pic

nitesh said...

you should be knowing that
our richest board is giving 50 crores for encouraging other sports in india

its equivalent of 1/10 of our 500 crores sports budget

giri said...

OMG.......i dint know there was a comment section.....till desi sent me an email......gimme some time.....i'll get back to you....bye

giri said...


Calling India poorer than US is not a rhetoric. Its a fact. Lets face it.

And that thing about BCCI, I dont know what point you are trying to put accross. Having a board which is the richest in the world doesnot make the country rich.

And please......its Koneru Humpy......not Kaneru.....its like saying sonia mirza......


I agree professionalism wont make a sport popular......but what I would say is that professionalism is the first step you have to take in making a sport popular.

That walky-talky and umpires being well dressed thing was just an example.Please dont take it literally.

Remember the incident when that brazilian footballer, cristiano junior of Dempo, died because of lack of minimum facilities. Thats what I mean by professionalism or lack of it rather.


If we have produced sachin tendulkar and gavaskar....we have also produced Dhyan Chand.....arguably the best Hockey player the world has ever seen.


I think its a vicious circle.
1)To do well in a sport we need high class facilities,
2)for good facilities, we need money.
3)For money we need sponsorship.
4)For sponsorship, we need people to watch the sport.
5)And for that to happen, we need to do well in that sport which takes us back to point 1.

Yes, one place where this vicious circle can be broken is at point 2. And this is where I agree with the king--raja i mean [:p]. We need to take out politics from sport. I mean to say that without sponsorship, we can generate money if( and its a big IF) politics doesnot interfere.

desh said...

seems tht giri studyin recursion nowdays in algorithms :-)

Raja said...

yeah....giku agreed with me...and absolutelty the need of the hour is to separate politics frm sports..we dont associations to be headed by ministers...professional must managed them...
and more thing..when dhyan chand was at peak , hockey was the top sports...then come KPS Gill who had made our hockey a pile of laughing stock...

Vinod Shankar said...

Its sad but true. Its very hard for one sport to rise from the shadows of another in any country.

Its true here in the US as well. Look at soccer and how well the US team has been doing and yet soccer is not considered a spectator sport here.

I have been trying to popularize cricket here in the US for many years now. But it really does not appeal to the Americans and its a very tough sell - maybe the Twenty-20 version will be more attractive to them.

Follow cricket in the USA through my website -