Scene 1: The Indian hockey team won their third match in the Hero Hockey World League semi-final against Pakistan on Sunday evening at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Stadium. Soon, the Twitter and Facebook feeds were filled with Indian hockey team posts and what made the win more special was the fact that it came against the arch-rivals on a day when the cricket team was being humiliated just 10 miles away. The love for hockey was instantly re-found back and the number of hockey fans in the country increased manifold. But, what next? How many of these new-born fans will actually go on to watch the next match against Netherlands on 20th June?
Scene 2: On December 23, 2017, Aamir Khan’s Dangal was released in theatres. The film based on the life of Indian wrestlers Mahavir Singh Phogat, Geeta Phogat and Babita Phogat got an incredible response at the box-office. People watched, they cheered, clapped, danced and even stood for the National Anthem at the end without anyone asking them to do it. After getting a massive opening in India, the film went on to break records in China too. The Nitesh Tiwari-directorial officially surpassed the $300 million mark worldwide and became the fifth non-English movie in history to do so.
???? Relive all the Indian wickets as Pakistan secure the #CT17! ???????????? pic.twitter.com/WSaA0mvoRm
— ICC (@ICC) June 19, 2017
Suddenly, there was hope that wrestling, a sport which has remained underrated in India over the years might get a boost. Fans had two new icons to look up to who may give them new hope. And, yes it may happen as well in the next few years but the history says something else.
Something similar had happened in 2008 when Shah Rukh Khan’s Chak De India was released. Within days, its title track became nation’s unofficial anthem and is played in the matches even now. Back then, it looked like that this is the boost that Indian hockey needed. A bit of limelight will help in improving the condition of hockey in India. Fast forward to nine years and we wake up to scene 1 where half of the nation doesn’t even know that their hockey team is playing a match in some part of the world.
#SpiritOfCricket #CT17 pic.twitter.com/jcEWZo3Oe4
— ICC (@ICC) June 19, 2017
And, the story is same for almost every sport in the country except for cricket. We had films like Paan Singh Tomar, Mary Kom and even Bhaag Milkha Bhaag but none of them could help the cause. Yes, the fans paid and cheered for Salman Khan when he won match after match in Sultan but how many of those actually go to a stadium and cheer for Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt.
Sadly, we look for heroes and idols in film stars and not in those who are achieving in real life. As a result, sports in India continue to suffer.