India Uncut

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Friday, February 04, 2005

The celebrity syndrome in sport

Harsha Bhogle, in an (as always) excellent column, writes:
Narain Karthikeyan. Sania Mirza. Rajyavardhan Rathore. Anju George. Pankaj Advani. Dilip Tirkey.

Are these signs that India is at last moving out of a one-sport syndrome? Or are these fine individuals who have flown above a decadent system?

My answer: India isn't in a one-sport syndrome, it's in a celebrity syndrome. For all the received wisdom about how much Indians love cricket, the domestic game draws negligible audiences, and most Indians don't particularly care for the finer nuances of the game. It's the stars they come to see, which is why, until Rahul Dravid became a star in his own right, his dismissal would be cheered lustily by crowds across the country because it would, often, bring Sachin Tendulkar to the crease.

It does not detract from Karthikeyan's or Mirza's achievements that they are idolised by tens of thousands of people who don't know the first thing about the sports they play. No matter what they do in the sporting arena from here on in, most of the column inches they will get is because of their celebrity value, not because of their sporting excellence, which is now secondary to their public personas. That's just the way it is.
amit varma, 6:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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