India, cricket and change
India, cricket and change
Why isn’t India’s sport and development sector dominated by its most popular sport?
“There is no place other than the sub-continent, at the moment, where cricket is so successful in terms of the number of admirers as well as in commercial terms" BBC World Service
As cricket dominates India’s sport sector it has managed to significantly influence people’s attitudes towards what sport means. It is well known that cricket is the ‘football’ of India: dominating the sport scene as youth dream of becoming the next Sachin Tendulkar. Other programmes globally often use the popularity of football. Does this difference limit the diversity of the sector in the country?
On the contrary, there are many successful Indian initiatives that use other sports. Professionalism in India has developed for football, basketball, badminton and hockey to name a few. Sport stars have been moulded outside cricket and the growth of sport overall is rising rapidly as the economy grows.
This has created a wide array of disciplines to choose from for sport and development organisations. Additionally, there are many benefits to using a sport that is non-mainstream, free of the commercialism and without the hero worship of popular sports. Therefore, the dominance of cricket has not stunted the success of this sector or variety of programmes within it.
However, there is a link between popular sports and the success of a sport and development programme. The reach of football, rugby and basketball has helped organisations to gain support and opened access to resources in many countries. Picking a sport that is not as widely popular globally can drastically restrict access to funding, models to learn from, toolkits, qualified personnel and more. Then it comes as no surprise that many organisations choose sports more popular outside India rather than cricket, which has a limited reach globally.
There is no denying that cricket has achieved greatness, inspired many people and put India on the world stage many times. Its ability to attract professionals from UK, Australia and South Africa to compete in the Indian Premier League (IPL) is testament to that. At the same time, it has unfortunately helped fuel the rivalry with Pakistan. Might there come a time when cricket is used to instead forge bonds between the two nations? Or change the lives of those in poverty? Or work towards gender equality by including girls as equals on the cricket field? The future may well include such innovations and it doesn’t seem too difficult to imagine that world. In fact, we dream of it and that’s always a good place to start.
This article is part three of four in a series highlighting various aspects of sport and development in India.