Blame it on the kabaddi

Too popular by half

The blog has lightly dealt with the sporting underperformance of India on the global stage before. The level of analysis you come to expect from this source was again on display with your correspondent’s flippant explanation that “too much cricket” was the cause of India winning one medal per 190,198,333 adults at the 2008 Olympics. As 2007 Twenty20 World Champions, the Indian public probably didn’t mind too much. However, despite being the current ODI World Champs, there was a reported dissatisfaction with being left in the shade by Grenada et al at the recent London Games.

In winning only six medals, none of them gold, India again grossly underachieved. A country on the rise is no longer willing to tolerate such humiliation. Cricket, clearly, takes up the focus, time and attention of a large swathe of active Indian youngsters. But, could other – non-global – sports also be to blame for absorbing potential Olympic talent? As I rack my brain for answers to that conundrum my mind dredges up what, at first, appears an obvious explanation: it’s all the fault of kabaddi.

A failed kabaddi player, earlier

Back in 1992 the Channel 4 programme (imaginatively titled Kabaddi) impressed upon this pre-teen that the sport was the pre-eminent time-filler for young men all across the vast nation on India. There were no barriers of entry to a populace often without the means to invest in sporting equipment. Sport in its purest form; may the best man win (actually, kabaddi is hugely popular amongst the fairer sex too).

1992 was a halcyon period for Channel 4, with their renowned Football Italia transmitting the exotic Serie A to a football public largely starved of live action in the wake of Sky hoovering up the rights to the English top flight. But, for some, the Sunday morning Kabaddi was the pinnacle of foreign sporting fare; the heavyweight clash of West Bengal Police versus the Punjab more than matching Lazio versus Sampdoria, etc.

For a sport which seems to closely resemble the Olympic event of wresting (freestyle and Greco-Roman) India won only one silver and a solitary bronze at the 2012 Games. Surely this is an avenue for further exploration by the Indian Olympic Association in its pursuit of more metal. Either that or outlaw it altogether and give the nation a chance to produce world class sailors and gymnasts.

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