Changing times – these sports are on the rise in India – The sports that are popular tell you a lot about a nation’s culture. America tends to shun the rest of the world, with baseball and its own version of football being the pastimes of choice. Across Europe, conventional football, or soccer, holds sway. But what about in India?
On the face of it, India’s sporting passions show clear signs of the nation’s colonial past. Cricket is, of course, at number one, while football and hockey also have a large and dedicated following. But times are changing. Take a look at these sports that are gradually capturing the imagination across the length and breadth of India.
Here’s an ancient sport that is enjoying a real resurgence. Kabaddi was originally played in ancient India, but its popularity waned in the 20th century. All that has changed since the turn of the millennium, as Indians have looked to reconnect with the nation’s pre-colonial heritage. The game has proved popular internationally, too, although India has yet to be defeated in Kabaddi World Cups.
The World Series of Poker led to a global change in perceptions. Back in the 1970s, people would have laughed at the idea of poker as a sport. Today, there is a real chance of it becoming an Olympic event. The ability to play online means location is irrelevant for poker pros, and Indians are taking up the game at the speed of light. The media profile of Muskan Sethi has led to plenty of women being inspired to follow in her footsteps, so poker really is seen as a symbol of progressive attitudes. Sites like comeon.co.in provide an easy platform for would-be poker stars to master the basics from their laptop or smartphone.
Despite being as colonial as pink gins on the verandah, tennis is a sport that did not initially capture the imagination in India, at least not to the extent of cricket and football. That has changed over the past decade, and tennis clubs are springing up in cities around India and welcoming new players at a greater rate than ever before. Vijay Amritraj is one of the most popular names in sport and was India’s first international tennis legend. But again, it is a pioneering sportswoman who can take much of the credit for putting tennis on the map. Sania Mirza has courted controversy over the years, but has certainly catapulted her sport into the public eye.
Cricket lovers might shake their heads in fear, having seen how basketball’s popularity in the Caribbean contributed to the fall of the once-mighty West Indies. However, India should have plenty of room for both sports. Over the past decade, basketball has become the game of choice at schools, colleges and universities, and leagues are being formed across India’s major cities. This grass-roots and infrastructural support means the nation could well become a force to be reckoned with on the international stage over the next few years.