Cricket a wonderful example for other sports to follow in India (Column: Close-in)

India’s successful cricket story, both on and off the field, has exemplified that sports can be a lucrative vocation for one to pursue. The T20 format has been a colossal success and with money pouring into the coffers of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), cricketers have become stars. The glamorous Bollywood tinsel world is now playing second fiddle to the live entertainment that cricket is bringing to the millions of viewers at home.

Each cricket match has a script and a story unknown to all and hence the unpredictability is what engrosses and excites everyone. Cricket followers have also gradually changed, from being the conservative types to ones who admire innovation, risk, and a bold approach. Failure is looked upon as a learning experience to being successful in the future and cricketers are appreciated for being positive and aggressive.

Indian cricket in this dire state of the pandemic has shown that its young cricketers have the hunger and the will to want to be winners. The incredible performances by the newcomers who recently made their debut in international cricket have turned them into overnight heroes. They have highlighted the newfound character of a present young Indian of being bold and aggressive in situations that they have not encountered before.

The success story of each one of them has been a remarkable tale of sheer persistence through hard work and hardship in their quest to achieve their dreams. The Indian Premier League (IPL) has become a centre of excellence that every young Indian cricketer with a good hand-eye coordination wants to become a part of. It is a platform that has given cricketers instant fame and fortune. Cricket has, therefore, reached every corner of India.

The money rightfully earned by the top 30 Indian players and each one of the cricketers playing first-class cricket has made cricket a lucrative profession. The talent that exists is enormous and one feels that at present that one is just skimming the top. The title of C.K. Prahalad’s famous book comes to mind: ‘The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’. Cricket in India, has to still systematically and properly exploit and unearth it.

Cricket has now become a vocation that was earlier frowned upon by families as it was not something that could sustain one in life’s journey. The sport was looked at as a healthy pastime and one that would play a part in building values, becoming a team player and help one compete fiercely in an environment governed by rules and regulations.

Once one graduated, the sport became for most into a weekend pastime. Young Indian graduates had many options in building a career for themselves. Unfortunately, the ones who disliked studies and were inclined towards sports had very few options. However, the passion and love was what sustained them to move towards their dream of playing their favourite sport.

Cricket has brought in money, similar to many of the sports played in the developing world. The BCCI now needs to structure the system that can nurture talent as well as give one education and skills to sustain them once their career is over. In order to do this, BCCI needs to partner with education institutes that can create a curriculum that helps individuals in pursuing their sporting dream as well as giving them an opportunity to graduate. After all an educated sportsman, that can think, analyse and plan would definitely be more successful than one depending on others.

Cricket has shown that if a sport can be packaged well, the business world will use it as a tool to reach their customers. The other sports need to follow the successful cricket formula.

India is bursting with talent and the words of the legendry athlete, Carl Lewis, comes to mind when he visited India: “I cannot believe that a population of 1.3 billion people cannot find a person who can run fast enough to get India a medal in the Olympics”. The problem is that sports needs to be developed in a structured way from the ground level onwards.

Cricket too does not have a structured programme that identifies talent. The advantage that cricket has is that it is played in every school and in the by lanes and corners of India. Cricket tournaments at all levels were established over time and so there was a platform in place for young cricketers to shine. The lure of wealth and riches has made the game even more popular for a youngster to pursue. In recent times, it has brought out many rags-to-riches stories.

If cricket can bring this change, the government of India’s sports ministry needs to think very hard towards creating a public private partnership in sports as well. Corporate social responsibility for corporates to invest in is only for the sports associated with the Olympic. If one cannot have a control on how ones money is utilised one cannot expect corporates to willingly contribute. The only way is to make them partners and a part of a well thought out sports development plan.

Cricket has shown how a sporting victory can bring a sunshine change into the lives of Indians. We need many more such wonderful moments in other sports as well.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal)