With more opportunities and new heroes to look up to, youngsters are keen on pursuing other sports besides just cricket.

“Cricket is not just a game, it is a religion” this cliché best describes what the game means to our country. This has been the mantra in the hearts and minds of every youngster in India, be it in Mumbai or Madurai. Every kid has grown up admiring this game and the players it throws up.

But times are changing. From being fanatics of the game, youngsters are slowly being confident and zealous in other games. There was a time when cricket was their ‘everything’. But this scenario has changed. At this point, it would be apt to rephrase the cliché to “sports is my religion”. This change is good, this change is for the better, agree most.

With the glamour quotient in place over cricket in India, the development of other games was always tough. The kids are always inspired by the sports personalities who are prominent and this was almost always from the game of cricket. “I want to be Sachin Tendulkar,” “I want to be Dravid,” were common statements made by youngsters when asked about their ambitions and dreams.

Rising stars

It is hard to break this stereotype, but not impossible. Today’s youngsters are willing to dream beyond cricket and want to be involved with sports other than cricket because their passion is immense. With players like Aravindh Chithambaram, S.P. Sethuraman in chess, Sriram Balaji N., Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan in tennis, Derryl Munro in football, Venkatesh Shreyas, Rahil Noorani in motorsports, it can no longer be said that India concentrates and produces only high quality cricketers only.

Shivani Senthil, an internationally rated chess player (#1202) from Yuva Bharati School says, “My parents are the reason I took up chess in the first place. They wanted me to think and handle my opponents the same way like in chess. They have been supportive through my journey as a chess player,” when asked about her passion for it and her international chess career.

“Sports other than cricket in India are developing and this is because there is at least one sports icon who is giving his/her best to the game. There is Saina Nehwal in badminton, Rohan Bopanna in tennis, Mary Kom in boxing and so on, and these icons have a huge impact on youngsters who choose these sports,” said Gowtham Ganesh, a Chennai division II India Cements fast bowler when asked about the development of other sports in India.

Parental support and encouragement are two things that are very important for youngsters to not only take up sports but to do well in the same. It is also important for the kids to have interest and dedication to take up the sport seriously.

“I think the scope for any game is the same in India. It is the interest of the individual and the support of the family that matter the most,” says J. Prasanna Venkatesh, a State-level cricketer from Tamil Nadu when asked about the scope for other sports in India.

Malini Balaganesh, mother of Arrvind Balaganesh, a National-level table tennis player, said that the encouragement and the support given by the Table Tennis Association and the government are very good. She added that the coaches are all national level players and are very dedicated and help the budding table tennis stars to give their best.

Aravindh Chithambaram

Age: 14

Sport: Chess (Grand master)

Most recent: Won the Chennai Open International Grandmaster Tournament.

City: Chennai

S. P. Sethuraman

Age: 19

Sport: Chess

Most recent: Runner-up in Chennai Open International Grandmaster tournament.

City: Chennai

Sriram Balaji N.

Age: 23

Sport: Tennis

Most recent: ITF Futures, Bhopal.

City: Coimbatore

Venkatesh Shreyas

Age: 25

Sport: Motorsports

Most recent: Selected for racing at the Volkswagen Polo R cup.

City: Coimbatore

A.V. Jayaveena

Age: 14

Sport: Swimming

Most recent:

Holds national records in the 100m and the 200m breaststroke, individual medley events at the under 15 level and is also the youngest swimmer to be winning a medal at the national games.

City: Chennai

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