By Ashok Kumar
Whenever a cricket match is played between any country and India, a huge crowd prominently throngs the stadium. But in any other sport crowd is conspicuously absent. The same situation was witnessed during the Australian Badminton Open tournament where the Indian crowd was hard to find even though top Indian stars were participating.
Cricket is now the unofficial ‘national’ game overtaking from the official national game hockey in which India is has fared very well. A recent RTI enquiry revealed that India has no ‘official’ national game while all other games are played at the national level.
Cricket is the most popular sport in India played in all nook and corners of the country. In fact, cricket can be easily termed as religion in India. Backed by recent glories, cricket deserves to be the national game. It is supported by the richest Cricket board in the world. Tennis is the other rising sport but fails to attract good audience. Badminton is said to have originated in India but the game came into prominence after the likes of Prakash Padukone, Pulela Gopichand and his disciples Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and now Kidambi Srikanth and Sai Praneeth. But the huge crowd still eludes the stadiums.
The organisers of the Sudirman Cup badminton tournament in Gold Coast Australia last month, left no stone unturned to attract Indian spectators but still no show. The organisers appointed Community Ambassadors to promote the competition even they could not collect sizable numbers despite constant promotion on the social media.
At the event one could see Chinese, Korean and Japanese spectators thronging the venue but no Indian.
People are often left wondering where are the so-called nationalists who are in the forefront of any issue that emerges on the national scene. Saina has been a title winner twice in the Australian Badminton Open but hardly a soul could be seen to cheer the Indian players. An exception this time in the finals was that some rants of India, India or “jeetega bhai jeetega India jeetega” only India will win could be heard from all the directions.
A colleague from another paper lamented that there was hardly any Indian spectator during the hockey matches where India was participating. A parallel could be drawn from the fact the stadium is packed when Australian footy is being played no matter which state one belongs to. That’s Australian culture.
No matter how popular a player is, the fact remains this culture of appreciating the sport needs to be inculcated.