Every child who goes to India is taught that the peacock is the national bird of India, the Jana Gana Mana national anthem and the national hockey sport.
But surprisingly, hockey is not really the nation’s national sport. So what is it?
If you are one of the first year old kids who grow up to believe that hockey is the country’s national sport, you’re in for a shock.
This revelation became light when a 12-year-old girl named Aishwarya Parashar submitted an RTI request to the Prime Minister’s Office to receive certified copies of the orders related to the national manifesto, sports, songs, birds, animals, flowers and the symbol of the country. Inquiries about national sports were sent to the Ministry of Youth and Sports. In response to RTI, the Sports Department confirmed that it did not claim any sport or game as a national game.
This makes us wonder why hockey has long been known as India’s national sport. Some will say that the international success of hockey since the Olympic launch in 1928 has made the sport a household name.
Hockey is not eligible to receive that honor. The next criteria may be popular, as cited by Indian cricket lovers. But cricket wasn’t popular in India before winning the 1981. World Cup. Therefore, popularity is not an appropriate measure to make any game about the status of national sport.
Accessibility is another factor that determines which games can achieve national sports status. Hockey and cricket are both expensive sports. While hockey requires a stick for each player and also a synthetic playing surface, cricket requires a bat and a ball, alongside other equipment such as gloves, shoes and a helmet. A large part of the Indian population is disadvantaged and has no means for a square meal a day, let alone sporting equipment. This makes most sports inaccessible to the majority of the population.
Football is a relatively inexpensive sport. You only need one ball for two teams to play with. In many lanes and paths, you can find young boys playing football with coconut shells or plastic bottles when they don’t have the ball. But unfortunately, India has almost no place on the international football field. Although local clubs are quite popular, since a sport is named a national game, it must have international success. That rules out football.
Cultural relevance becomes the remaining element in a country’s national sports decisions. But because India has so many different cultures, it is difficult to choose a sport that is important for all cultures. Therefore, it is impossible to find a single sport that is important to everyone.
Now it makes sense why India does not have a national sport. For so many people and cultures, it is impossible and impractical to choose a game that will appeal to the entire nation. Until India learns what its national sport is, people will be excited about cricket and read about hockey in history books.