Gone are the days when a lady was expected to be a certain way, behave in a way which was presentable irrespective of India or other nations. A woman though has evolved beyond time matching up to the stereotypically competitive man in every profession starting from aeronautics to sports.
Tennis as a sport has gone through a tough phase as many of the ace stars were under the radar for fixing and the use of prohibited game enhancing drugs; the victim to which was none other than ace shuttler, Maria Sharapova. Sharapova used to be the richest female athlete in her times and this sudden hit has taken a toll on her monetary momentum but another vintage female shuttler, Serena Williams has bagged the highest paid tennis athlete position. This in itself is a reason for motivation for many young girls as dreams today aren't far away from reality.
In Pakistan, many haven't heard of a certain Diana Baig. Diana, the dynamic 20 year old is not only a cricket sensation but also a football sensation in Pakistan. Diana represents her national side for both sports and was recently spotted during the countries recent T20 outing where she was also practicing her penalty shootouts. She spoke to the media on her appearances in national colours stating that, "It was an honour to be selected for the T20 squad", she says, in between glances at her watch.
She did not make the starting team, but being at the tournament – even from the sidelines – was "very encouraging for me, it gave me new life, a new energy". Diana added that she had a tough time convincing her parents to pursue her dreams and started by playing both cricket and football on the streets and at the Hunza Valley with the local kids. Baig though added that her journey isn't as easy as people presume it to be today. She stated that, "A time came when I could not see my future bright like this. Being selected for the A side changed all that. After that, I started to work hard."
In Australia, Cricket is probably the biggest sport one can talk about. It is hence that it happens to be one of the few nations where there is a Cricket league for women too. However, the sporting fraternity in India is now at its zenith as the franchisees at the Women's Big Bash league have shown keen interest in calling over some of the finest Indian talent to play for their respective teams during this season of the big bash. Maiden Champions, Sydney thunders have been very vocal about their interest in bringing on board the Indian players to keep their reign on the trophy.
Some of the key players on the wish list of the WBBL teams are Smriti Madhana, Harmeet Kaur and Juhlan Goswami. Skipper Alex Blackwell of the Sidney Thunders confirmed to the media at a press conference that they do have one space vacant for an overseas player and are keen on the Indian participation. She further added that, “I think we saw in the Indian team some very dynamic players, including Veda Krishnamurthy and Harmanpreet Kaur, I think these two stood out.
And of course Jhulan Goswami, she’s a legend of the game and someone I’d love to see in the Women’s Big Bash. She’s a great team person and I’ve certainly enjoyed many battles with her over the years. We have a pretty solid team and we’re hoping our list stays consistent after a successful first year, but we have an opportunity to bring overseas players in and we’ll be looking to spend that spot wisely. Hopefully we’ll get one of the best players around the world. We’re the champion team and hopefully a team people want to play for, I’m looking forward to seeing who that person might be.”
When Sport and India come together, in spite of a series of options available, the direction has been extremely uni dimensional. The country's love for cricket, followed by the Indian Premiere League has ensured the right pumping of sponsors leading to the high profile sport that it is today. As for other sports, football too has been quite popular within the country. However, the popularity has been limited to the diversity in the acceptance of the sport only within a few states in India.
Football though did see the light of the day after there were funds pumped into creating the Indian soccer league popularising the sport all over again. Just like Cricket and football, there are a number of other disciplines the country participates in. However, recognition is what most of them lack. It is unfortunate that Mary Kom was more popular as a film than the athlete that she is. Advertisers form a major market as far as sporting in the country is concerned.
The revenue generated by these advertisers not only serve as the marketing for the sport but also happen to fund the sport in totality. Kabaddi as a sport was considered a village time pass just a decade ago. Many Indian villagers and small folks from the small town practiced the sport for fun knowing that it may never go beyond that. However, things took a dramatic turn when Star Sports decided to initiate the pro Kabaddi league.
It is now a career choice that one can make. Over a couple of seasons down, many pundits even predict that Kabaddi, might just be the next big thing in India. As unfortunate as it sounds, sport today needs the push both in terms of endorsements by celebrities and revenue by advertisers.
However, considering all of the above are absolute necessities in today's times for sportsmen, India's first Olympic gymnast representative, Dipa Kumar, considers all the above as secondary as she feels the only way to succeed is discipline and to sweat it out in the heat for people to look and cheer at. The 22 year old confident gymnast spoke to the media about her journey stating that, “You have to take risks if you want to achieve something in life.
I knew that the Produnova vault is a high-scoring apparatus and that is why have learnt it. It paved my way to Rio.” She further added that, “I am glad that the sport is getting a lot of attention. I am under no pressure whatsoever. My aim is to give my best. Those gymnasts who have qualified in the test event held in Rio, barely have three months to prepare for the mega event. But, I am doing my best and for every athlete the main target is to win a medal, I feel delighted that someone of the stature of Simone spoke highly of me. Her achievements are unparalleled. I am glad that people are talking not only about me, but the sport. I would like to thank all my fellow sports persons and wish the best for them."
The age of promoting a sportsman more than the sport itself has affected the sports community as a whole. It is hence that revenue is the sole decider of whatever sport one choses to discern. It is hence that some sportsman, who are indeed stars worldwide but go unnoticed. One of the popular, rather not so popular example of the same is, Dipika Pallikal.
Though the sport squash is yet to make its way within the mainstream Indian framework, Dipika started her career back in 2006 when she was only 15 years old. By 2011, Dipika had represented India in more than a 100 fixtures and managed to tumble records one after the other. It is sad though that many have refrained from identifying such stars of the game. She was the first female squash player from India to have been ranked within the top 10 in the world with moe than six titles at that level. She along with Joshna Chinappa were also the first to win the first Gold at the commonwealth squash games for the first time in history in India.
As far as Chess is concerned, Vishwanathan Anand wasn't the only tourch bearer of the sport in the country. There were others too, just that they lacked the popularity that the otherwise famous recieved.
Humpy Koneru was the first lady ever to win the national children chess championship in the year 2000. She was also the youngest chess player to win the title of a grandmaster. Humpy whose name means Champion, is till date ranked at world number 2 in the FIDE rankings. She has also been a reciepent of the prestiguous Padmashree and Arjuna awards.
The times have truely changed as sports has evolved beyond gender in modern times and it is only unfair to call it a man's world. Women and sports are as much in a relationship as men married to sport for years. They all go hand in hand.