Hundreds of thousands of Indians were glued to their television screens on Wednesday as India played against New Zealand in the semi-final of the ongoing Cricket World Cup. It was a moment the citizens of this cricket-crazy nation had been waiting for – hoping to see the men in blue enter the final and eventually lift the cup. The expectation was sky-high and fans wanted nothing less than the championship cup. Experts were busy talking about how Virat Kohli’s men should and shouldn’t do both on and off the field, while critics questioned the form of some players, especially former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But the end result was disappointing for many with New Zealand beating India by 18 runs. Unaffected by criticisms, Dhoni kept his cool after the collapse of the top order and came close to taking the team home with Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant. Victory was so near yet so far. It was a heartbreaking moment for Indian cricket fans. Some swallowed their pride and accepted defeat while others resorted to blame game as usual. Amid this drama, Indian athletes and weightlifters gave the nation a reason to smile this week, and one happened on the same day India’s journey in the Cricket World Cup 2019 ended.
Close on the heels of Hima Das from Assam winning the women’s 200m gold at the Poznan Athletics Grand Prix in Poland earlier this month, Dutee Chand from Odisha created history on Wednesday by winning gold in the 100-metre dash event at the World Universiade in Napoli. She became the first Indian ever to win a 100m gold in a global meet. She made Indians and the gay community in the country proud besides silencing those who questioned her sexual orientation ever since she opened up about her same-sex relationship as if it made her a lesser human being. “Pull me down, I will come back stronger,” she tweeted after winning the title on Wednesday. That was her spirit. She braved the social stigma and came out a winner.
With cricket hogging all the limelight, another big sporting event — Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship 2019 – almost went unnoticed. Indian weightlifters have won several medals, including eight gold in the event, which started on July 9 and will conclude on 14th. Out of the gold medal winners, five of them are women, including former world champion Saikhom Mirabai Chanu and Soroikhaibam Bindyarani Devi from Manipur. Cricket may have blinded most Indians but winning in this championship is important as it is a qualification event for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Das and Chand are also touted as strong prospects for India at the world’s biggest sporting event that will kick off next year. India cannot afford to ignore these athletes and several others who are silently working hard far away from the limelight to make India proud. It’s time to push the gentleman’s game, which is not ‘gentle’ anymore, to the backseat (as it will survive anyway) and give special attention to other sports, especially athletics if India wants to improve performance at the Olympics. There is a dire need to develop a competitive sporting culture in the country by making world class facilities accessible in all states, catching the young talents early and providing enough funding.