The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cricket' For beer guzzlers

New Delhi, March 8: Prodded by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, India’s MPs may have wished Rahul Dravid’s boys success in the World Cup. But today they made their contempt for cricket plain.

It’s a game only for “rich, lazy people drinking beer in the afternoon’’, Biju Janata Dal’s Tathagata Satpathy said. The Shiv Sena’s Suresh Prabhu compared “cricket fever” to another fever — dengue.

Yet it could be good news for Indian cricket, considering the health of the sports the politicians professed to love: football, kabaddi, hockey, archery, volleyball, kho-kho — almost any game as long as it wasn’t played on 22 yards.

“Too much” emphasis on cricket was pushing these “neglected” sports towards oblivion, the MPs were agreed.

What they didn’t say was that unlike cricket, the “neglected” sports have almost always been run by politicians.

Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi has been athletics boss for years, with hardly anything to show for it. V.K. Malhotra and his BJP colleague Yashwant Sinha manage archery and tennis.

The Congress’s Jagdish Tytler, Digvijay Singh and K.P. Singh Deo head the judo, rifle-shooting and rowing federations. The Chautalas, Abhay and Ajay, run boxing and table tennis. During P.R. Das Munshi’s two decades at the helm of football, India’s world rankings have slipped from the 90s to the high 150s.

In cricket, India’s steepest rise came when it had non-politicians managing the game in the country.

The MPs didn’t seem to spot the irony in their words — or the action accompanying them. As they trashed cricket, they passed a bill that forces private channels to share sport telecasts with DD — so that those without cable, too, can watch Team India play.

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