(Looking at the growing worldwide popularity of the game of football, this article is about the importance of the sport, especially for the poor and developing nations).
Cricket has been a national obsession in most of the developing and Third World countries.
It is about time that the game should be dropped from the status of being the most popular sport. Rather football, aka soccer, must be promoted as such.
Despite generating millions of fans in countries like Afghanistan to Zimbabwe along with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc., from a crop of only a few hundred cricketers, that a needed exit from its elevated prestige is worth for the survival and flourishing of other sports.
Over the past half of century, cricket has so much dominated the sports scene in South Asia, parts of Africa and Europe, the Middle East, and Caribbean Islands, that most other equally worthy sports have been discriminatorily relegated to lower grades.
Cricket is an elite sport. It has acquired its status symbol among the middle and rich people. It is an expensive outdoor indulgence. A vast majority of poor youths can only enviously enjoy watching it (only on TV). But they can not actively participate in this “gentleman’s game.”
Compared to that the “common man’s game” of football is an all-inclusive sporting event. It is undoubtedly the most popular of all the world sports. It costs only a few bucks to buy a football. In cricket, the total cost for all the equipment, bats, balls, wickets, and the protective gears runs into thousands.
Not only that, in cricket of all the 22 players comprising the two opposing teams, just three players, two batsmen and a bowler, actively play the game at a given time. The rest of the 10 players supporting the bowler are fielders. They come into action only when the ball is delivered in the direction of any of them. Still, the nine players from the batting side are sitting idle waiting for their turns to bat which may not come at all for some or most of the players. The players are in the game, but not playing!
And many times, the stretched out the game just drags on. The thrill of either playing or watching the game is taken over by yawns, even brief naps too. Perhaps patience and boredom are essentials in the cricket regime.
Now, let us compare it with the strenuous game of football. One ball and that is it. Cheap and very much affordable. And all the players, 22 of them, are involved together in the vitality of the game. They are running, jumping, hitting, and bouncing in an action-packed and meditative focus on the ball. Full value for both the players and spectators.
The downgrading of cricket from its elite status will help the game of football to cover more ground involving every economic class of youths for their much-needed physical activities.
In Britain after all, where the game originated and exported to its colonial domains, cricket is gradually receding in popularity. It is being replaced by the more lucrative sport of football.
It is about time to end the cricket hype. It has gone too far. And let the football kick in.
By Promod Puri