Emerging trends, technological boost has put India on cusp of sporting revolution

A wholly unexpected chain of events has put India on the cusp of a sporting revolution. It has taken a long time coming. But the signs are there to be seen.

Vedam Jaishankar December 12, 2020 15:10:48 IST
Emerging trends, technological boost has put India on cusp of sporting revolution

Representational image. Getty Images

A wholly unexpected chain of events has put India on the cusp of a sporting revolution. It has taken a long time coming. But the signs that scream out the nudging of the population from certified couch potatoes to active sports-pursuing practitioners, are all out there.

Pointedly, it has come from unexpected quarters – a riveting mix of technology and IPL.

Take the seemingly unrelated case of golf in Bengaluru and cricket in Margao, Goa. Be assured that these are merely two of the many examples of unforeseen developments that are now setting the tone for a seemingly tectonic shift in the way sport is played, seen, marketed and taken advantage of. The ripple effect is sure to lead to a humongous boost and revolutionise the way sport and aspiring sportsmen are driven in the coming days.

To appreciate the change being ushered in, some background information is needed.

Sports pages in newspapers have traditionally published inter-school, college, club and league tournament match scores and any individual who scores more than 20 runs or bags two wickets or more could look forward to the thrill of seeing their name in print the following day.

In earlier years it was not uncommon to see a very young Rahul Dravid or Anil Kumble, come to newspaper offices armed with their school scorebook and request for their match scores to be published.

The school sports master or principal would usually send the day’s best performer to the media offices and thus Dravid and Kumble were a familiar sight.

The simple one-line mention of youngsters’ names in local newspapers would make them heroes in school and among family and neighbourhood circles. These would inspire them to greater effort in subsequent matches. The thrill of seeing their name in print and being hailed by friends was a terrific shot in the arm.

Virtually all leading cricketers, in particular, but also badminton, tennis, athletics and other sportsmen came to prominence through this route.

However, now there is a new medium in the offing. But for COVID-19 protocols, school and college kids would have had this new thrill to bask in. In the meantime, it is others who are enjoying the limelight. Ergo, back to Bengaluru golf and Goa cricket, to name just two.

It is interesting that it is IPL’s unique structure that has opened the eyes of sports enthusiasts in India.

Not just the 20-over matches, but also the concept of franchise sport, auctioning of players and more importantly, live-streaming have been gleefully embraced.

The Karnataka Golf Association’s Premier League, or KGA Premier League as they call it, has a field of 24 teams, each sold for a modest price of Rs 2.5 lakhs (Royal Calcutta Golf Club & Mumbai’s Presidency Club which have similar tournaments price their teams considerably higher).

Each team is allowed to have four first picks but the rest of the 14 golfers (all club members) are bought through an auction, a la IPL style. While the team is purchased with real money, the players are bought at an auction with notional money from a pre-fixed notional budget. The whole process, including the matches are live-streamed.

KGA has been abuzz with great excitement for at least a couple of months now, with team owners insisting on regular practise, mock matches, meetings, strategizing, etc. This has substantially boosted footfalls and thereby revenue of the clubhouse, according to Prithviraj Urs, secretary of KGA.

Goa’s Margao Cricket Club too has seen an unbelievable surge in energy levels with the introduction of MCL, according to former Ranji Trophy cricketer Jude Cardoza.

“This T-20 cricket is a great leveller. I have kept myself pretty fit and worked hard on my batting skills. Now I hit a great shot for a boundary but someone else who is unfit and without any technique edges the ball to the fence. Both shots fetch the same dividend! It is so crazy that spectators cheer both strokes.”
Cardoza said that the six teams in the fray were drawn from MCC members. “But the interesting thing is so many others from Mapusa, Ponda, Benoulim, Panjim, Vasco have rushed to become MCC members and take part in the tournament, nets and practise games. They have paid good money, over Rs one lakh, to become member of MCC.

“Our bar and canteen do excellent business during the matches. Along with karaoke music, dancing and other fun and fellowship events after each match, the whole atmosphere turns so festive and inspiring.”
Cardoza said that they would probably start webcasting of matches next year. “Broadband and excellent data and video carrying capacity have made these easy. Our 45-day event finishes with the finals on January 10. But the response has been so overwhelming we could well have more teams, more matches and more sponsors next year.”

It is obvious that webcasting and sharing the best moments on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube will change the dynamics of local sports. It is already happening in KGA’s event. Other sports, badminton, basketball, table tennis too have embraced it. By early next year, when inter-school and collegiate tournaments are expected to be back in force, webcasting will be the new norm for all local sports.

The boost it would give for the growth and development of grassroot level sports would be staggering. The best of this amazing revolution is yet to come! Watch this space.

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