January 6, 2023: The Indian cricket season is in full flow. One is so pleased to see the domestic championship tournament, the Ranji Trophy, played in every corner of the country. With 38 teams in the fray, cricket and cricketers are flourishing playing it, like never before. The days of the frugal number of first-class matches have given rise to a cricketer’s calendar now being full of matches the whole year round.
The enormous number of runs scored and the competitive spirit that prevails at present from the junior to the international level is quite astonishing. There seems to be an air of seriousness amongst the young breed of cricketers that can be compared to one’s educational qualifications. Cricket is now no more just a sport but a subject and a profession that can be pursued to make one’s career and living. It has become a lucrative option for one to opt for as well.
All this truly reflects how successfully India has taken to the sport of cricket. One can see cricket being played on open fields, narrow lanes and any surface where a ball and bat can mesh together. There is rarely a piece of land where one does not see young or old, boy or girl, in India, swinging a cricket bat or playing the game with such gusto and pride.
The popularity of the game is not measured by the silverware won by a country but as to how the game has ingrained itself into the life and culture of their people. The British may have started cricket, India, however, has taken it to a different level.
Cricket is a religion for many in India. The huge following it attracts, with people playing it all around the country, is fabulous to see. Cricket is one sport that is competing well against the video games that the digital world is pushing every youngster into.
India is one of the only countries that have serious competitive cricket tournaments from the school level itself.
In India, cricket is gradually extending and flowing into the far corners of its landscape and in areas where cricket was never played. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have a challenging task, as they now require to create facilities and establish a system to capture the popularity and unearth the wealth of talent that exists.
The greatest gain that cricket in India has achieved is in the emergence of teams such as Madhya Pradesh, Saurashtra, Vidarbha and Gujarat all of whom won the Ranji Trophy in this decade. Earlier, Mumbai and all the major cricket-playing cities had dominated the Indian domestic scene. To break the camel’s back, so one says, beating the giants of the game in India, has been the reason for the major upswing that exists in its popularity amongst the smaller towns.
Cricket like other sports needs one to have good hand and eye coordination. This is a gift that comes naturally, whether, one is living in urban or rural India. The television and the advent of mobile phones in every home in India has further brought cricket into people’s homes. Watching and learning is one of the important parts of skilling and developing one’s game. This fortunately for thousands of aspiring cricketers is now available on hand even in the remotest corners of the country.
This has popularized the game to a great extent and has brought in thousands of cricketers and millions of cricket followers. This also, unfortunately, has brought on an enormous amount of pressure on the Indian international cricketers to perform and be successful every time they play.
The problem arises when the Indian side plays in an ICC tournament. The expectation of their fans and followers seem to affect them mentally when they are in a spot of trouble.
India requires each one of their contracted players to interact with a mental and psychological coach before the ODI World Cup at the end of this year. The 2011 Indian World Cup-winning side withstood the pressure brilliantly and they could be another source of learning for the present side to explore.
Cricket is not about winning and losing but about playing the game. Unfortunately, the present world only looks at winners and hence the vast spread of the game in India is not appreciated by most as the Indian cupboard has been bare of an ICC Trophy since 2012.
One should rejoice at the fact that India has kept the game alive and cricket is attracting crowds like never before.
The wonderful gain in Indian cricket has also been the gradual success of the Indian women cricketers. They have grown in stature to be one of the best sides in the world. The women’s IPL and the cricket structure being put into place for domestic tournaments should be a further boost to them.
The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup is being played in South Africa from February 11, 2023.
For the Indian women’s team to win it would be just the ideal icing on the cake. This would catapult Indian cricket even further.
Then one can say that cricket in India is truly and magnificently flourishing at its best.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)