There’s more people understanding me this week than there were last week. And, they now also understand that there is life beyond cricket.
They may also get to know that India is good even in hockey and badminton. And in case some don’t already know – Indians are not too bad in chess and golf either. There is a fair bit of that happening, too, this week.
While every Indian on this planet, regardless of which corner or time zone he or she is in, knew there was India meeting Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy cricket final, a small percentage were vaguely aware that there was also some hockey going on.
And even smaller numbers knew that an Indian badminton player, Srikanth Kidambi, was in contention for his third Super Series title – that is badminton’s version of Grand Slams or Majors, if you know what I mean.
In a single week, this same one, Kidambi beat world number nine, Jan O Jorgensen, and also the current World No 1, San Wan Ho. And then in the final he added a Japanese scalp, Kazumasa Sakai, to win the Indonesian Super Series.
Going down the ladder, an even smaller number knows that the Indian chess teams – men and women – are both ranked inside top-5 in the world and are competing in the World Team Chess Championships. They even have a good chance of a medal.
And yes, there is also a 19-year-old Indian women’s golf prodigy, Aditi Ashok, competing against the very best in the world, with a realistic chance of finishing in top-10. By the way Indian women’s professional golf has less than 25 active players! And among them Aditi is a future world star. So, she is truly a star.
So, there is life beyond cricket.
On Sunday, while Indian hockey players were grinding to dust the Pakistanis in London at the Olympic Park, the reverse was happening in cricket at the Oval, less than 10 miles way.
A fellow journalist, who represents a prominent website tweeted, “For a day, hockey becomes India's national sport again.” Sorry mate, hockey was and stays India’s national sport. He added something like, ‘Cricket’s so because of the salaries and facilities.’
Maybe cricket has better money and facilities, but that is no reason to change your national sport. You don’t change your name, because someone else’s is nicer or is easier to spell.
Cricket may be popular, but like it or lump it, hockey stays the National sport. It gave India eight Olympic gold medals – India will need to win as many World Cups in cricket to get similar bragging rights.
Now for sport in London this week. A better part of my time last week was spent explaining why I was in London. I had to keep repeating that I was here for Hero Hockey World League Semi-finals and not ICC Champions Trophy cricket. Given a chance, I would have liked to see both sports, but I had to choose, and you know which one I chose. Hockey.
As far back as a year ago, some of us who follow both cricket and hockey, joked that Sunday, 18 June 2017 could see India clash with Pakistan in both cricket and hockey.
That, however, seemed too remote – Pakistan cricket was in shambles and they themselves were in the way of their own progress. As for hockey, it was a little different. In hockey, both India and Pakistan were in the same pool, so a clash was certain.
To clash in cricket, both India and Pakistan would need to get to final. India certainly would, felt all fans – the Indian team is invincible, isn’t it? And hardly anyone follows Pakistan cricket ! Or so we thought.
As things turned out, Pakistan surpassed their own expectations – or maybe they did have some and we didn’t notice – and reached the final, where they were expected to roll over and die. We now know, that it sadly did not happen.
Pakistan hockey meanwhile was rapidly going the cricket way – from bad to worse. Once No 1 in the world, they were now No 13 and falling. But they are still a team India is wary of.
But this Sunday, Indian hockey banished a 35-year-old nightmare – a 1-7 loss at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi – with a win that was by an identical margin.
Next week, Virat Kohli may once again be the flavor, but for now it is Akashdeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Talwinder Singh, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh and all their teammates. There is also the shuttler, Kidambi, and the chess players and a lady golfer, too.
Indeed, there is life beyond cricket.
(The author is a veteran sports journalist and is in London covering, not cricket, but the Hockey World League semi-finals in which India are fielding a young team severely depleted by injury to key seniors.)