Well, why not? For me, a national sport of a country is more than just a sport in which the country has a rich history. That logic makes sense because it honours the sport which has brought laurels to the country and put it on the map. Hockey has done that so a stronger argument can be made for it to be the national sport of India. I’m trying to look at the issue with a different point of view.
From the point of view of potential and accessibility. Those are the two factors which are conducive to development of talent at the grassroot level. When I say potential, I’m not talking about the potential of talent of the players in the country. Potential here means potential of the country to provide the infrastructure and serve the requirements of creating an environment where the sport can flourish.
Would you rather be known for what you are good at or what you can really be great at? This notion could run itself in a circle; if you can be great at something, you ought to be good at it already. The thing is, that some of the elements which are in favour of development of basketball in India, have only surfaced recently. We weren’t always capable of being as good at basketball as we are now.
I’ve written about why it ought to be, even if it’s not. I’d rather have basketball as the national sport, and here’s why:
All you need is a ball and a hoop. Which can be attached to even a wall. The only problem with having it on a wall is that while taking a layup, one might go and crash into the wall. But you can still play while adjusting for that. A simple hoop can be purchased for as little as Rs. 200; they are the ones that can be affixed to a wall.
While one might say that cricket just asks for a bat and a ball, those belong to only one person, while a hoop is accessible to anyone around it. Ditto for a football.
2. Infrastructure and smaller playing area
When you have the world’s second-largest population plopped in your country, it’s easier to pursue a sport that requires relatively smaller space. Just put a basketball court and a football field side by side, or even cricket or a hockey field. Now watch the contrast.
Urban sprawl is an issue in our metro cities. Look all around. Look at the sky, provided you can actually steal a glimpse amidst the towering skyscrapers blocking out the view. Huge skyscrapers are coming up everywhere you look, mushrooming up faster than you can count. Space is of the essence in urban India. Basketball simply takes up lesser space.
3. Everyone gets to do everything
There are few people I snigger at more than goalkeepers and wicketkeepers. I did both kind of keeping and I loved doing it. It’s funny only when you compare it with the level of involvement you can have in a basketball game.
Individual brilliance can shine more in basketball than in cricket or football because of the extended length of time a player can be involved in the action. Idle time for players is more in cricket and football. In basketball, one player can make more difference than in football or cricket.
And every player gets to shoot, pass, dribble, rebound, play defense, etc.
4. More individual freedom
Basketball, more than any other sport I can think of, gives you endless room for improvisation. Improvisation and creativity are all about combining different elements. Creativity is painted out to be original, but every original act is a combination of existing acts. Creation is all about combination. Allen Iverson‘s murderous crossover with which he shook Jordan didn’t have one divine visit from the muses. A little known fact - Allen Iverson learned the crossover only in college, from a walk on teammate. Then he observed the crossovers of others and came up with his own.
That one move changed Iverson’s game so much that when he started devastating NBA players with it, it led to a rule change to stop him using it. Think about that. One small move learned by a player can make such a difference. One player knocking down spot up 3s can change the tide of a game. There are few other sports which provide such importance to the individual and allow for them to shine. Between a really good shooter in basketball and a really good free kick taker in football, the basketball player will have more chances to make a difference.
5. Chance to prove yourself
“Basketball is a game that gives you every chance to be great, and puts every pressure on you to prove that you haven’t got what it takes. It never takes away the chance, and it never eases up on the pressure.” - Coach Bob Sundvold
Coach Bob put it well. Learning happens through experience. In one hour of playing their sport, the players playing basketball amass more experience than those in cricket or football. In cricket you experience standing around idly, in football more time is spent in learning about relative spacing between the players on the field. In basketball however, there’s continuous action and reaction.
In a country as populated as ours, chances to prove yourself are few and far between. If you are good, you have a better chance of standing out in basketball. In cricket, one error and you are out. In football, you don’t get the ball for the duration that you do in basketball and in basketball, even when you don’t have the ball, you can make more of a difference through your defense, setting screens, rebounding, etc.
6. Duration of the game
A full match is 40 minutes long according to FIBA rules. 48 if you go by the NBA rules. At school and college level in India, the match timings are often variable, from 20-30 minutes with two halves to 8 minute quarters. Whatever the duration may, it’s always lesser than the time taken for a football or cricket match.
In schools, physical training classes are around 30-45 minutes at the maximum. If you want to play a proper cricket or a football match during that time, well, good luck to you.
7. Suitable for schools
Speaking of schools, even a condensed form of football such as 5 a side football can be difficult to play when there are so many kids on the field as there are in a typical school. Population can be an issue in basketball as well. But on a basketball court, one can reasonably have 20 people playing at one time. Half court basketball, with five players per team, two teams on one side of the court.
It’s rare to find a school with more than one football or cricket field. But there are quite a few schools with multiple basketball courts or at least multiple hoops scattered around. Basketball is more suited to be pursued in schools simply because you’ll find more schools with basketball courts then any other field.
8. Coach it!
Basketball, more than cricket or football, is a sport where a coach can exert an influence, both in terms of teaching the game and having an influence on how the team plays.
There are more ways to shoot, pass, dribble and otherwise manipulate a basketball then there are of doing the same with a football. There is more room for technical improvement in basketball then in most other sports. I’m not saying that batting or bowling require any lesser skill than basketball does, but there’s more scope for a player to improve with guidance in basketball.
Also, through Xs and Os a coach can really tip the scale between two equal squads.
9. The digital revolution
You can watch a lot of basketball and learn and improve your game through it. Everything I learned about basketball is through TV, the internet, and video games.
But with the advent of so many sources of information for a basketball player, one can really learn a lot and as mentioned, in basketball there are a lot more things to learn than in other sports. You have entire coaching dvds which can be pursued and learned from online. You may think that all that will only make you a intramural level player and won’t help if you want to play at the absolute top level.
Well, here’s a quote from Indian player/referee/coach Shiba Maggon:
“Am I taking proper nutrition? Do I know about my sports diet? Do I know how much rest my body requires? What is the water intake? What is the importance of conditioning of my body? I have always noticed players complaining that they don’t have good coaches. In my days I did not have any resources like the internet but I managed to gain all this knowledge. Nowadays if we Google any information, it’s easily available. So why we don’t do our homework and research and start understanding our responsibility?”
Read more from Shiba Maggon here - https://www.sportskeeda.com/2010/12/19/interview-with-shiba-maggon-basketball-captain-refereecoach/
We now have the tools needed for this to even go above the edge. The internet can help budding hoopsters get to the top level and even those at the top level to take their game beyond. While this point may hold true for other sports as well, in basketball as mentioned previously, there is more room for a player to develop the game in different directions then in most other sports.
10. Make it the national sport for placebo effect
We need to see the sport we love as the national sport before we can do it the justice it deserves in terms of bringing in laurels. In my mind, basketball is India’s national sport and once crowned as such, it will be a source of pride for all hoopsters. Something which they can point to when questioned why don’t they chase the cricket money or the popularity of football. Seeing as how it has the potential, making it the national sport will result in more kids taking it up.
I may write 10 more reasons why basketball ought to be India’s national sport soon if some cricket/football fanatic doesn’t get to me first.