It's okay Sharapova, even Indians can't identify many of their own icons

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The way millions of Sachin Tendulkar fans reacted after Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova said that she didn't know him is shocking and shameful. By posting aggressive remarks on the social media, these fans of the cricketing God has shown why India is and perhaps will never be a sporting nation.

Indians proudly claim that they love sports, be it any, but the reality is that they don't take sports as it should be. India's so-called passion with sports is a narrow and negative sentiment for it is displayed in a limited space and comes with an overdose of pseudo-nationalism.

Cricket: A limited but nice short-cut to fame

It is not an accident that Indians love to love cricket more than any other sports. The reason is simple. It is an engagement which is far from being universal but yet a game and to dominate the small world of cricket and have a false pride as 'world-beaters' is a nice shortcut to fame that the people of the sub-continent relish. The feeling has very little to do even with the sweat and hard-work of the cricketers on the ground for it is them who face the flak after losing a game or two in important competitions.

Sports-loving? We don't care for domestic matches and players

Passion should not recognise the status of the game. But in India, the 'sports-lovers' have little attachment with domestic cricket and care for domestic players for only the razzmatazz of international cricket or that of the Indian Premier league excites them. This is quite strange for in the football-loving nations of the West, club football is highly followed, even more than the World Cup. Indians actually admire the brand and not the real game, that is why they are upset when the brand called Sachin Tendulkar was 'overlooked' by Sharapova.

Sports-loving? We don't even know how other national sporting heroes exist

Of those Indian who feel extremely humiliated if a Sharapova, who hails from a non-cricketing country called Russia, says that she doesn't know Sachin Tendulkar, how many know who is a Sita Sahu, for example?

No, Sita Sahu is not an American basketball player or a Australian rugby player. She is a teenage girl who had won a couple of bronzes for India in athletics in the 2011 Special Olympics in Athens. The promised cash prizes hardly went her way and she was left selling gol gappas on the roadside to make a living. And Sahu is not the only one in this country which often regrets for not being able to win enough laurels at the highest sporting stage despite being home to a billion plus people. How many of those who don't know Sharapova know Sita Sahus?

Sports-loving? We even booed Sachin Tendulkar for scoring low

In 2003, when India lost badly to Australia in the World Cup, houses of national cricketers were attacked. In 2006, Sachin Tendulkar was booed out by his own fans in his home ground Mumbai for getting out for low scores against England and just a few days ago, Yuvaraj Singh was criticized for failing to entertain the crowd in the final of the T20 World Cup against Sri Lanka.

Passion for sports or frustration of an underachiever in sports?

Hence, it doesn't look out of place when the 'sports-lovers' of this country abuse Sharapova for not knowing Tendulkar for her limited knowledge was too much for India's pseudo-nationalists to digest. This pseudo-nationalism is a negative energy that reflects the frustration of remaining an underachiever in the world of sports (never been to World Cup football and an also-ran in Olympics) and is also chauvinist in nature for it doesn't tolerate a woman showing 'disregard' for its biggest sporting icon.

Indians of course know Sharapova, more for her looks than her game

Indians know Sharapova but more than her forehands and fitness in the court, Indians admire her more for her looks. A survey could be undertaken to find out how many walls of the study rooms of India's youth are filled with Sharapova's pictures, her playing form notwithstanding. They nail the lie that we 'don't know' Sharapova.

We made ourselves look a bunch of fools

But the callous retaliation all over the places makes us look a bunch of fools, more because we don't actually care for our sporting heroes. We love Sachin Tendulkar because he provided entertainment for 24 years, something unparalleled even when compared to chewing gum serials of Indian television, and because he gave us an unprecedented opportunity to engage in world-beating statistics.

How many Indians would have cared for Sharapova if she looked ugly?

In terms of pure cricket, very few people ponder why Tendulkar never had a triple century in test matches given his gigantic stature as a batsman.

Worship Sachin if you want but don't pull down other sporting icons

Still, Tendulkar is great because of his records of achievement. There is no harm in admiring his greatness. But worshipping one sportsperson doesn't mean we belittle another who works equally hard for his or her nation. This is not how a sporting mind functions.

But we are hardly a sport.

Story first published: Thursday, July 3, 2014, 23:31 [IST]
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