A Nation Starved of Sporting Heroes

A Nation Starved of Sporting Heroes*

Last week Sania Mirza reached the third round of the Australian Open. In an absolute sense, not very remarkable but relatively speaking, for India it was a HUGE thing. Why? Because no Indian woman had ever done it before. Even the Prime Minister got in the act and personally congratulated her.

We have waited for a decade and more for V. Anand to finally be the crowned the best chess player in the world. Still waiting for Narain Karthikeyan to finally race on the F-1 circuit. A few months ago, when Anju Bobby George was trying to jump to India's first individual athletics medal at the Olympics, I was watching every jump online and praying for one good jump. She remained sixth. I watched the progress of the archers who seemed to be making progress to the final rounds but then failed at the last hurdle. What a familiar story. Waiting for the day when the bronze and silvers turn into an Olympic gold?

Not that I have anything against cricket, but I just think that to excel in a sport that is played by handful of nations is not a big sporting achievement. At least some youngsters have decided that swinging the rubber ball in the colony or sitting in an armchair analyzing deliveries is not what they want to do in life. In sports that count (kill me for saying this!) we are climbing slowly but surely, and not crashing out 'fighting bravely' in the first round. We have had a number of podium finishes and some big tournament wins like Gopichand's victory in the British Open.

India is quite unfairly painted simply as a 'cricket crazy' nation. We like othe sports too. We don't really want to cheer adopted teams and heros like Schumacher, Manchester United, Federer etc. and vicariously enjoy the taste of victory. We want our very own. Sania Mirza was only second to Maria Sharapova in terms of hits on the Australian Open website. Even a small percentage of our billion would be enough to rack up the hits. India a nation of a billion is still starving for a real sporting hero* to emerge. Asking the Indian fan to give up hoping is hopeless. Give us one and see how a nation cheers.

*Please note hero is not gender specific

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