– V.N. Balakrishna | November 18, 2013
Ahmedabad | Indian cricket took a giant leap when legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar was given the highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna. It was epoch-making decision of UPA government in sync with cricket crazy mood of India.
Sachin played his 200th Test last Saturday at the Wankhede drawing global cricketing greats like Brian Lara and Shane Warne; Congress strongman Rahul Gandhi, corporate bigwigs and many Bollywood stars to witness Sachin´s swansong.
Just hours after Sachin bid goodbye, Bharat Ratna was awarded and questions India should be asking if this extraordinary award is sending the right message as cricket will now be seen as summum bonum in the pantheon of Indian sports.
Overdose of politics and cricket in our daily lives make us inure to poverty, unemployment and sheer indifference. With cricket now made ‘Gem of India’ what will happen to football, volleyball, hockey (our national game), kabaddi, kho-kho and innumerable other games that are in doldrums? Will sweet will of policy planners prevail over them once again?
After embracing a leisurely game of British, the new rulers of India have gone head over heels in recognizing cricket as befitting Bharat Ratna when other sporting greats are kept in cold storage. Cricket mania is so strong that even an aam admi knows his slip from the gully but has no idea that hockey is our national game and is in shambles.
Sports as a serious activity almost nonexistent in India thanks to lack of sports culture. Neither are we worried about health of our masses when India already has the dubious distinction of being “coronary & diabetic capital” of the world. By default a huge vacuum exists willy-nilly filled by cricket. Where are we actually heading?
In his autobiography former US President Jimmy Carter reveals an interesting tidbit that whenever he felt tired sitting in White House he wore his sneakers and jogged around the White House doing several rounds. Can we ever dream of an Indian minister or prime minister doing that?
Creating Olympics history is the true way of bringing eternal glory to a country and not by creating personal records in cricket which looks good only on paper. How India treats its Olympians is a sad story to tell. In 2008 Beijing Olympics young Abhinav Bindra created history winning the first gold medal in any individual category for India in the 108-year Olympics history. Gopi Chand won all-England badminton championship in 2001 but no one cared because Harbajan Singh had taken a hat-trick and VVS Laxman had scored 281 in the Kolkata Test against Australia.
Even our women Olympians like Karnam Malleswari who won Olympic bronze in Sydney (2000) or the indomitable PT Usha who missed her bronze by a whisker at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics have largely been forgotten. Usha became the first Indian woman (and the fifth Indian) to reach the final of an Olympic event by winning her 400m hurdles semi-final. Her Asian glory comprises whopping 17 medals ( 13 gold, 3 silver and a bronze).
What is pathetic is India failing to honour its most prominent son the hockey great Dhyan Chand who won three gold medals at the Olympics of 1928, 1932 and 1936 and the government still mulls over whether to give a Bharat Ratna to him. No Indian sportsman has been as dazzling as Dhyan Chand. Many of his opponents even believed that he had applied some glue to his hockey stick to carry the ball fast forward!
A huge nation and yet we keep scrounging for a bronze at the Olympics while cricket hogs the limelight, a game barely played in 10 countries. Could our sports planners not learn from states like Kerala or West Bengal or the European and American nations where there is life beyond cricket?
Cricket is embroiled in match-fixing scandals and none is sure if a player is playing honestly. Australia, with a great cricket team, encourages other sports and is in top five in the Olympics medals tally coming always home with a handful of gold. India is rich in budding talents. Can we turn these ratnas into Bharat Ratnas?