India's Competitive Advantage

As the World Cup unfolds, there have been a number of articles and posts talking about - Why is a nation of a billion people not among one of the 32 teams in Germany? Here are a few thoughts that discuss the Ghost of India-in-the-World-Cup; Past, Present and Future . What's wrong, what's being done and what needs to be done. Shall we ever find 22 people to kick a ball around properly?

We might not be competing, but we are definitely participating. I am far from upset; in some sense, India has won the World Cup and the World of Sport. How?
Let me explain.

During the last WC, I was in India and hence could not appreciate or assess our contribution to the World Cup or any global sporting event, for that matter. Germany 2006 is my first experience of watching the World Cup in the company of people from all nations. The first big game Brazil vs. Croatia expectedly drew massive crowds in the 'student lounge'. (Note this exception to this post). Between 11am and 5pm on gamedays, graduate students are clearly not doing much work and can be found lounging in front of the massive TV screen in the Pierpont Commons.
Guess which country has the largest contingent? Mera Bharat Mahan! Isn't it remarkable that we turned out in such large numbers to watch a sport which is not even a minor sport in our country, and for whose biggest prize we have never qualified, except once (even then, we did not make the trip for tragic reasons). Amidst a sea of nations, the rather contented Indian faces (mine included) made me realise India's contribution to Sport. In this era of globalization and capitalism, should we not leverage our competitive advantage? India has a long way to go before calling itself a great sporting nation, but there is no doubt that we are truly the world's finest spectator nation. We would easily win every possible medal if 'Spectating' were a real sport. Why?

1. Sport Omnivores: We are truly catholic in our tastes - we watch anything you can throw at us.
2. Endurance and Stamina: We can watch forever. While the average American tires after 2-3 hrs, we can go on and on. We can watch for days on end. Why is cricket so popular in India? Because it provides so many hours and days of spectating. Too bad that even Tests have to end after 5 days.
3. Professionalism: We don't watch just for petty parochial or nationalistic reasons. We cheer teams from other countries playing sports we don't even play. We are truly professional in our attitude.
4. Intelligence and Agility: It does not take more than a few games, at the most half a season, for the worst among us to pick up the nuances of any sport and start talking like an expert. Plus, we don't even need to leave our armchairs to do this. Take American football or ice-hockey, two sports which most Indians have little experience playing, or would not be able to play even if they wanted to; yet we can advise Peyton Manning what to do next.
5. Indian women also rule: While watching and discussing sports is still largely a male bastion, relative to her sex the Bhaartiya nari kicks some serious **tt. I still do not know of any videshi female who can compete with the Indian female fan. She can often be any man's equal when it comes to watching sports.

So, whatcha worried about? Grab the remote and plonk yourself in the coziest chair. No matter who wins, we have won!

Ode to the Indian Spectator

In the shade, beside the green glade,
Wherever a game is being played;
Fought to be lost or won.
There will be at least one
Quick to grasp and understand
An alien game on an alien strand
Neither does he tire nor does he pespire
Going swifter, stronger and higher
Sports' common denominator
The Great Indian Spectator.

Update: India@the World Cup (from the official website)


Ashutosh said...

Good analysis. I am sure that the Indian spectator's verve speaks about his nature. But are you sure that the greater population of Indian specs in the 'student lounge' is not just a manifestation of their greater percentage in the student population? Even if that's not the case, I think it could be a combination of both factors, so anyway the point about Indian sports spirit is well taken.
Even I was surprised by the Indian enthusiasm for football as evidenced through Indian blogs and talk among the few Indians here (excluding me of course)

Hirak said...

This matter merits more study and than conclusions drawn from casual observations. :) Sometimes, it's better if your country is not actually playing - if Brazil loses you can support Germany or France!

Sinfully Pinstripe said...

This post is PERFECT.

Hirak said...

Thanks! Coming from a self-confessed sports crazy person as yourself it's quite a compliment.