The euphoria of India’s historic Cricket World Cup win on April 2, and the showering of praise, gifts and honours on Team India, is both understandable and laudable. However, the Indian government would do well to sit back, have a long think and devise a strategy to wean this country off its total fixation on cricket. With 1.21 billion people hungry for international recognition, it’s time India branched out a little in the sporting arena.
In the meantime, though, the 15-member Indian squad is at the receiving end of a breathtaking assortment of deals and handouts. President Pratibha Patil hosted a tea party for the new champions, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi are said to be seriously considering hosting receptions for the team very soon.
Indeed, Gandhi made a spontaneous and rare public appearance on the busy ITO road in New Delhi minutes after the Indian victory. She shook hands with ecstatic cricket fans, praising a team that had done the country proud. She spent a good 20 minutes on the road, reportedly causing a massive traffic jam.
While the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), the world’s richest cricket board, has announced cash reward of Rs one crore ($225,000) to each member of the squad, chief ministers and state governments are vying with one another to show their generosity. The Ministry of Railways, for example, announced on April 3 that members of the winning Indian cricket team would get lifetime 1st AC Complimentary Passes. ‘The passes will be available to players along with one companion for unlimited free travel from anywhere to anywhere in the country on Indian Railways,’ the ministry said in a statement.
But it hasn’t ended there. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, meanwhile, announced a cash award of Rs two crore for Captain M S Dhoni and Rs one crore each for four Delhi players: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Ashish Nehra. Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa announced a free residential plot for each member of the Indian cricket team in Bangalore. Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda, meanwhile, said that land would be allotted to Dhoni for building a cricket academy and a school in Ranchi.
The question now is whether these kinds of scenes will ever be repeated for any other sport in India?