This really hasn’t been a prolific summer for me. I thought I’d care about the second Test between England and South Africa, but that was before I heard about Saina Nehwal.
I fully admit, however, that my following these Olympic sports — badminton, field hockey, and archery — is fundamentally dishonest. If India were not contenders — or rumored to be, anyway — I would not care for them. When the Olympics are over, I will again put these sports safely away in a drawer of my brain not to be re-opened for another four years. Why does it happen like this? When I watched the 1996 cricket World Cup, I couldn’t stop thinking about cricket (and haven’t yet). Was it just because I was 11, an impressionable age? Would it have been different if I had watched the Badminton World Cup?
On another note: Watching the Olympics and rooting for India provides ample evidence of at least some of the damage cricket has wrought on Indian athletics. Let me be clear: there are many other factors that have led to India’s repeated underperformance at the Olympics (poverty being, probably, the biggest one). But is it unreasonable to believe there were many more teenagers like me, who instead of picking up the hockey stick, or the tennis/badminton racket, also reached again and again for the cricket bat? Recall that Roger Federer began first in soccer before moving to tennis — I wonder how many Indian athletes could have prospered by moving away from cricket to any number of other sports if only there was a bigger audience (and thus, more money) to go around?
Which is why my rooting for Saina is dishonest. At the end of the day, I shall return my eyeballs to cricket, and by doing so, I will convey my money and preference to the powers that be, thus undercutting badminton and the Indian sports scene.