India has undoubtedly etched a historic chapter in its sports legacy with the remarkable achievements of the year 2023. For the first time since the 1950s inception of the Asian Games, the nation’s medal count surpassed a hundred, a feat that fills every Indian heart with pride for our exceptional sportsmen and sportswomen. Across various disciplines, our athletes garnered multiple medals, elevating India’s stature on the global sports stage. The final tally for India stood at an unprecedented 107 medals, comprising 28 golds, 38 silvers, and 41 bronzes.
The emergence of new sporting icons like Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy in badminton, Ojas Deotale in archery, Jyothi Surekha Vennam in women’s archery, and Avinash Sable in men’s 3000m steeplechase athletics has catapulted them into household names.
While the last Olympics celebrated Neeraj Chopra as a national icon, the 2023 Asian Games has introduced a constellation of sports stars who now share the spotlight with renowned cricketers such as Suryakumar Yadav, Shubman Gill, and Virat Kohli. Despite this surge in recognition for non-cricketing talents, it’s evident that cricket’s influence on India’s national consciousness remains formidable.
India’s prowess resonated across a diverse spectrum of sports, from athletics and badminton to kabaddi, hockey, archery, mixed doubles tennis, shooting, equestrian events, and squash. This notable achievement signifies a remarkable societal shift, where sports once deemed inconsequential now enjoy unprecedented passion and dedication.
However, the stronghold of cricket remains evident on social media, where the success and pitfalls of cricketers continue to captivate our attention. Social media platforms sometimes contribute to the homogenisation of public opinion, drowning diverse perspectives in a chorus of similar voices.
Despite the burgeoning success of athletes in various disciplines, the spotlight on cricket seems unyielding. As the Cricket World Cup unfolds, cricket enthusiasts flood social media with their opinions on India’s prospects, overshadowing the achievements of athletes like Jyothi Surekha and Avinash Sable. Cricket’s deep connection with our lives is unmistakable, creating an intricate tapestry where our dreams, anticipation, and daily lives are intertwined with the sport.
While cricket dominates our social media feeds, it’s essential to recognise the exceptional achievements beyond the cricketing arena. The allure of cricket runs deep in our veins, fostering the illusion that it is the sole competitive sport in our country. Furthermore, the Indian Premier League (IPL) adds another layer to this cricket-centric narrative, offering unparalleled opportunities for young talent that are unmatched in any other sport in the nation.
Sports today witness a transformative shift in aspirations, diverging from the traditional dream of sons emulating cricket icons like Sachin Tendulkar or Kapil Dev. While some parents still envision the next Virat Kohli or M S Dhoni in their children, a ground-level change in perspective is underway.
Determined and diligent young individuals from average middle-class backgrounds are boldly pursuing ambitions in sports beyond cricket. Their audacious leaps of faith have yielded success, as reflected in their medal-winning feats at events like the Asian Games. Crucially, these accomplishments are made possible through the support of government institutions, private organisations, and dedicated coaches.
The Tokyo Olympic of 2020 witnessed a historic moment as Neeraj Chopra clinched a gold medal in Javelin Throw, sparking a significant surge in the sport’s popularity in India. This unprecedented accomplishment by Neeraj marked a departure from the past, where no Indian sportsperson had achieved such a feat. It is heartening to witness a shift in focus, with youngsters now expressing interest in pursuing javelin throw as a profession, indicating a move away from the longstanding prioritisation of cricket.
The sentiment has grown that if India can secure the Cricket World Cup twice, similar achievements are within reach for other sports—an affirmation seen in this year’s Asian Games. Importantly, there is a growing recognition that national pride should extend beyond cricket to embrace all sports.
Whether it’s a gold medal in equestrian or a silver medal in golf, these achievements should evoke feelings of pride and happiness. Media coverage, often heavily tilted toward cricket victories, should also allocate attention to other sports, ensuring a balanced representation of our nation’s sporting accomplishments. As India looks ahead to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, hopes are high for an impressive performance and a rich haul of medals across various sports.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)