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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

Cricket or other sports? It’s a tie

The Class 7 winners of the HT Scholarship Programme 2018 tell us if they think football, F1 racing and tennis can overtake cricket’s popularity in India

mumbai Updated: Nov 20, 2019 17:58 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustantimes
         

Other sports gaining ground

SHIVADITYA PANDIT
Don Bosco International School

The year 1983 captivated Indians’ hearts when ‘Kapil’s devils’ lifted the World Cup and transformed cricket into a religion in the country. Chants of “Sachin…Sachin” echoed throughout India when “God” walked out to bat, carrying the hopes of an entire nation. Though cricket rules our hearts, Indians are also increasingly taking to other sports such as tennis, football and Formula One racing. Football fever is gaining ground but is hampered owing to poor grassroots-level training and a regional audience. The Indian Super League may give cricket a run for its money. Watched by 44% of Indians and the sixth-most played sport in India, the inclusion of tennis in the Khelo India games provided a major boost to the sport.

Tennis could look to rally it out with cricket, say 20 years from now. Another sport that is speedily gaining popularity is F1 racing. India’s audience for F1 has grown by 87% and it is only fair to say that if the Indian Grand Prix is drafted back into the mix, F1 will have a lot of takers.

Football fever may take over
AANYA KOCHHAR
The Cathedral and John Connon School

Cricket is not just a popular sport in India. It is a uniting force across religion and language barriers.

Cricket’s popularity got a boost post India’s 1983 World cup win. Sponsorship money poured into the game, and infrastructure improved. In the years to follow, players like Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar gained a cult following. However, corruption scandals, and overexposure have taken off some of its lustre. Change is also evident as international cricket is giving way to league cricket, and test matches are giving way to T20s.

TV and media played a role in the rise of cricket, and we can see a similar push for other sports today. Many people in India have started watching football, tennis, and F1 racing more passionately than cricket. The recent spat between China and the NBA highlighted the deep inroads a primarily American sport has made into an Asian country.

The FIFA has set its eyes on India. It has opened new academies here so it can recruit more football players. Incidentally, FIFA 2018 World Cup set new viewership records in India. A change is visible among the younger generation, and cricket’s perch as the only mass market sport in India is definitely not secure.

Odds are in cricket’s favour
MALAY MEHTA
Campion School

Cricket, undoubtedly by far is the most popular sport in India. Regular telecasts and promotion of cricket matches, India’s consistent top performance, its ability to produce world-class players, the emergence of T20 format, etc, have been instrumental in enhancing cricket’s popularity in India.

However, over the past few years, football, too, is gaining popularity in India, thanks to a sizeable following of European Premier League and the Indian Soccer League. Even tennis has a keen following in India. After all, India has produced top quality players like Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, etc. Formula One racing, too, is a fascinating sport, but I feel racing infrastructure is not easily available here in India and the common masses cannot connect to it. Consequently, I don’t think racing will ever be able to topple cricket from its number one position in India.

Men in Blue unite the country
ETHAN ROBIN
Fr. Agnel Multipurpose High School, Vashi

Once at the airport, while travelling with my family, I heard a commotion. It was Sachin Tendulkar, who was also flying out of Cochin. The crowd settled only after he had passed by with his bodyguards. Later, I saw a man sitting quietly a few seats away from me. He looked familiar and so I asked my parents. My father said it was our famous Indian footballer – Sunil Chhetri. It was weird that hardly anyone recognised him! This led me to think that how the Indian population is so much more attached to cricket than any other sport.

Most Indians give up their daily work during any game of cricket. This craze has blocked out the popularity of other sports. There are so many associations, powerful lobbies and people involved in making money out of cricket, who would not allow any other sport to hog the limelight cricket enjoys.

The popularity of cricket in India can’t be replaced by football, F1 racing or tennis, as for India it is a sport that brings people together.

Wankhede to streets, cricket is a religion for all Indians
KIARA UDAY BANGERA
Dhirubhai Ambani International School

A sport’s popularity depends on how many people follow it and I believe that to follow a sport you need to have some kind of connection with it. A sport like cricket is an Indian’s identity, whether its played by a king in his courtyard or by children on the street. A sport such as tennis or F1 racing is a rich man’s sport. People from simpler backgrounds, who form a major part of India, are unable to relate to such a sport and hence, are unable to follow it. Football, which began as a sport for the upper class was reinvented by a lanky boy lobbing a ball against a battered wall among the favelas in Brazil — you all might know him as Pele, the greatest football icon. He was able to change the world’s perspective on football, but the ripples of this event barely affected India. Thus, with its historical backing and cultural appropriateness, cricket’s popularity is unbeatable in India whether it’s in a gully in Kolkata or Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

Open your hearts to other sports
ABHIKALP SHEKHAR
St Mary’s School (ICSE), Mazagaon

It will not be an exaggeration to say that in India cricket is treated as a religion. Even though our national game is hockey, cricket is the game of masses. But if we reflect upon this situation, we may find that this is not ideal.

The popularity of cricket should not undermine that of other sports such as football, tennis, hockey, etc. Will we ever see these sports coming at par with or become more popular than cricket? It’s a tough question to answer. According to me, football has the potential to overtake cricket in terms of popularity. It is, however, hard to estimate how long this will take.

Cricket is played by only a handful of countries around the world, and as India is becoming more global, our main sport cannot be one which is played just by a few commonwealth countries.

The popularity of FIFA, UEFA, La Liga, and Premier League, etc, is continuously on the rise. Once India starts competing with the main football playing countries and clubs, its popularity will rise.

This we have seen in badminton too, where our shining stars such as PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal won numerous tournaments and now people have started following them too. I think our jubilation for cricket should not stifle the growth of other sports.

It’s time to rally behind Hima Das, Sunil Chhetri
LAVANYA GUPTA
Bombay Scottish School, Mahim

Cricket is the most widely watched sport in India. It is a way of life, a religion, and even a reason to live for many. Each one of us has a special place in our hearts devoted to the “gentleman’s game”.

“India, India!” As the chants of fans wearing the Indian colours echo in the stadiums, cricket becomes the vital force binding us together, reinforcing the feeling of nationalism in our souls.

With exposure to a variety of sports increasing, our support and love, however, is shifting towards other sports such as tennis, Formula One racing, football and kabaddi. We are missing Kohli’s sixes while watching Messi, Lewis Hamilton and Nadal.

How would this impact our love for cricket? I feel like just like in an Indian temple, where there is place for a variety of deities, every Indian heart, too, should make place for every shining sportspersons, whether they belong to the world of cricket or not.

We will always worship the ground our cricket idols walk on, but it is time to cherish Hima Das, celebrate the vaults of Dipa Karmakar, cheer every bullseye by Manu Bhaker and every goal by Sunil Chhetri. We Indians are large hearted, and it is time to open our hearts to champions and heroes from every sport.

Nothing can dethrone cricket
HIRNAY PARAG PRASAD
DY Patil International School, Nerul

Often adults put younger kids in a tight spot by asking them questions that need them to decide if the latter loves her mother more or her father. The child just nods her head, shouts out loud and clear that it is her father who is her hero; and yet it is the same child who runs into her mother’s arms when she is hurt. This analogy is somewhat suitable for us Indians who play football, follow tennis and watch F1 racing and yet are praying fervently for the Indian cricket team to win when a match is on.

Cricket is not just a sport for most Indians; it is a religion practised by almost the entire country. Cricket was introduced to the Indian soil by the British who believed that it was a gentleman’s game. Advertisers fill their coffers with unimaginable amounts of money during the cricket season. Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni have enjoyed unparalleled fan following.

Though the government has been promoting various other games in schools and colleges, none have so far managed to upturn cricket from its throne. Try with all your might dear footballers, tennis players and Formula One racers, for it may take you many lifetimes to dethrone cricket from the position it enjoys in our lives.

Govt, firms must bat for other games
MRINALINI SINGH
Oberoi International School

1983. The Cricket World Cup. No one expected us to win that day because cricket or any sport for that matter, wasn’t taken seriously. Back then, it was just a hobby. But that one match changed the future of Indian sports. Since then, cricket has risen up to be India’s most known and played sport.

However, other sports do have the capability to advance and reach the heights cricket has. Various parts of India have always had football fanatics, especially northeastern and southern states, West Bengal and Goa. They have all traditionally been football-playing states, and have the potential of reaching new heights. Government and corporate sponsorship can do wonders in terms of infrastructure, coaching, equipment and advocacy. Even tennis and F1 racing need patronage like cricket. Even though it has been a slow journey for tennis in our country, people have started taking it seriously because of achievers like Leander Paes, Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi. The government needs to throw its weight behind these sports.

Team football any day
ACYUT SARAF
V.C.W Arya Vidya Mandir, Bandra East

Cricket is being played, watched and worshipped in India not since decades, but centuries. Thus, I wonder if other sports like football and tennis will be able to overtake its popularity.

I, myself like other children, wanted to become a cricketer. However, as I grew, my love for football increased over cricket. Football is a more popular sport played globally. It is more exciting to watch an edge-of-the-seat ninety-minute football game over three hours of cricket. I like cricket and stay updated about it, but enjoy watching football matches live even past midnight as it gives me an adrenaline rush. Today there is infrastructure, money and fame in sports other than cricket also. We have our own Buddh International Circuit for F1 racing and Salt Lake stadium for football. New generation is taking to sports other than cricket, but for these sports to gain large-scale popularity, we need our Indian teams to gain fame. Once our football team qualifies for FIFA, the doors for football’s popularity will open. With Khelo India, I feel, sports like football will become as popular as cricket.