(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
As someone douchey enough to think that he doesn’t need any personal heroes, I thought I had found one this week when I heard that some guy called Unmukt Chand was battling his college administration to let him sit for his exams even though his attendance record was not as good as they’d like it to be. He even had a minister intervene on his behalf! Finally, the world was coming around to enacting policies I had been advocating for so many years. Maybe the dream I had of the government pumping whiskey instead of water into our taps was not that far away!
Alas, this was not to be. My bubble burst when I heard that Unmukt Chand was not some teenage rebel who believed that he could change the world but the captain of the under nineteen cricket team which had recently won the world cup. He’s probably a nark who has never woken up with a hangover because he goes to sleep at 9pm everyday as he has to get up early in the morning and head to the stadium for ‘net practice.’ Ugh.
The silver lining is that his college finally relented and taught everybody else in his batch an important lesson about life in this country: you can do anything you want as long as other people deem you as someone ‘important.’ We don’t believe in any of that crap about equality or all people being the same. Who do you think we are, some socialist European country which doesn’t even have a cricket team?
I am old enough to remember when some guy called Jaspal Rana was everybody's favourite sports prodigy, having been awarded the Arjuna award when he was eighteen. Even he couldn’t get his college to extend to him the same privilege vis-a-vis his attendance and he had to join some other institution. But that was Rana’s own fault. We just don’t care about shooting as a sport. Not all of us are regional recruitment officers for dacoits in UP.
This is my problem with sportspeople who aren’t on the men’s cricket team (haha, it’s hilarious that a women’s cricket team even exists. If they’re watching cricket too then who will make the snacks when we invite all our office buddies to watch the match at our house?). They expect people to give a crap. Look, if you want us to pay attention, make your sport more interesting. Add a wicket or two. Or a pitch. And enough scandals so that even if the team we cheer for loses the match we can console our bruised egos by trying to convince ourselves that the match was fixed.
We can overlook how boring your sport is if we can be assured that you will win something. We even cheered for the '”great” Khali when he won his first WWE championship. So what if the WWE does not pretend to be anything other than a soap opera with pre-determined results? At least that tall, garbled bose speaker won some gold. That’s more than I can say for our Olympic contingent.
We were so embarrassed at the Olympics last month. We had to hang all our heads in shame because we did not do well at that global ‘P.T. class.’ Now, we can’t show our face at any international meet without being pointed and laughed at by countries with more medals than us, thanks to the incompetent sportspeople who don’t play cricket. Not having stadiums & infrastructure to practice in or any token financial assistance so that you have access to basic nutrition or not having anybody besides your family & stadium staff cheering for you is no excuse for such a lacklustre performance. How can a country of billion people not produce even a single gold medal winner? Okay, even if a substantial amount of people among the billion are busy playing ‘hunger games,’ what are the rest of us doing? Look at China. They won so many medals. Granted their government took care of the members of their Olympic squad and provided them with all the things they needed to propel them to victory but . . but. . . we have freedom?! I bet if cricket was an Olympic sport we’d have won more medals than Michael Phelps.
This is why I still think Unkumt Chand’s story is very inspiring. It should make for a great movie: Boy sees some guy playing cricket on teevee. Boy decides to be like that guy. Boy starts to learn how to play cricket. Boy gets access to coaches, training facilities and support from family to continue to have a single minded focus on achieving his dream. Boy battles all the odds and despite facing stiff opposition from unrelenting opponents like puberty and attendance registers, boy leads his team to world cup victory.
I’d watch that.