Though hockey is the national sport of India, sometimes one is forced to wonder if it is cricket which deserves this honor. For when one compares the excitement and frenzy generated by a cricket match in India to that surrounding a hockey match, the latter pales into insignificance. So it can be said that cricket is the ‘unofficial’ national sport of India. In fact, its development has been closely connected with the history of the country, ‘mirroring many of the political and cultural developments around issues such as caste, religion and nationality’.
Cricketers in India have the status of Demy gods. Politicians, big businessmen and film stars fawn over them and MNCs pursue them for endorsements and mega advertising deals. But all this fame and glory lasts only as long as they win the current match. Indian fans can be an unforgiving lot as many seasoned cricketers have discovered by now.
International cricket in India generally does not follow a set pattern. Generally, more one-day matches are played than Test matches. Cricket in India is managed by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), the richest cricket board in the world. Cricket is the most watched sport in the country and attendance often dips sharply in schools, colleges and offices every time a major international match is played.
There is a lot of politics involved in the game and this has caused many controversies regarding player selection and captaincy issues. The scandal involving Greg Chappell, the Australian coach and Saurav Ganguly is one example. Allegations of match- fixing have also sullied the image of the sport during Azharuddin’s captaincy.
Now we have film stars and business tycoons bidding for players like farmers buying prized cattle breeds! Cricket has eclipsed the importance of other sports in India. Hockey, football, tennis, etc are the stepchildren of Indian sports thanks to cricket. This neglect does not bode well for the future of Indian sports.