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SPORTS IN INDIA

The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai

India - known for its fanaticism for cricket and hockey; started its sports odyssey long back during the great Vedic Era of India. Initially, the development of sports (games) in India gathered momentum after its important role, in maintaining the physical health, was coined by the people of India. Hunting, swimming, boating, archery, horse riding, wrestling and fishing mark the stage of infancy of Indian Sports (Games). Then came the Martial Arts which was also a strong way of self defence apart from a vigorous physical exercise.
In India, sports (games) is seen as 'a way of realizing the body potential to its fullest'; also known as "Dehvada" in ancient India. The philosophical foundation of the sports (games) in India lies in the history of India dating back to Vedic Era in which the Atharva Veda said: ," Duty is in my right hand and the fruits of victory in my left". These words in the traditional mantra hold the same spirit as that of the Olympic oath that implies: ".......For the Honour of my Country and the Glory of Sport." The history of India also beckons of an interesting link between Greece (The Motherland of Sports in the world) and India which dates back to 975 B.C. when both the nations pioneered in the sports (games) like chariot racing and wrestling.
The golden history of sports in India is also evident in the immortal Indian epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. Whereas during the period of Ramayana; hunting, archery, horse riding, swimming were the royal games; Mahabharata made a mark in the sports like dicing, gymnastics, wrestling, chess (Shatranj) and gulli danda. Puranas mention about the threatening game of rope fighting. The archeological excavations of Harappa and Mohanjodaro along with the religious manuscripts like Puranas and Vedas are the standing testimonials of this glorious history of Indian sports.
The historians believe that many sports (games) like hockey, archery, wrestling and chess originated in India, which are synonymous to strength and speed nowadays. In the late Vedic Era, besides sports; the Yoga and Meditation, the inevitable parts of the toughest "Yogashastra" made India, acquire the seat of spiritualism, all over the world. This dignified discipline of Indian Sports finds its place in Bhagwat Gita too.
Today sports in India have achieved a zenith in terms of popularity and as a career option. Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, SAF Games, Wimbledon and many other world sports tournaments see Indians as one of the most leading sports participants in the world. From Tendulkar, Paes, Bhupathi, Anand, Geet Sethi, Karthikeyan to Sania Mirza lead the present sports generation of India. Cricket, Hockey, Football, Weightlifting, Snooker, Kabaddi, Kho Kho and Archery are the sports of India that have been deep seated into an Indian psyche, whether of a sports person or a sports lover. Not only physical strength, power and satisfaction but also a strong alternative of recreation; sports in India have paved a long way towards the road of success and have made themselves a hallmark in the world of sports.

Field Hockey
Field hockey in India, India national field hockey team, and India women's national field hockey team
The Indian Hockey team at the 1936 Berlin OlympicsField hockey is India's national game. Until the mid 20th century, India dominated international hockey, winning 8 Olympic gold medals, the World Cup in 1975 and were runners-up in the 1973 World Cup. The Indian player Dhyan Chand, arguably the most famous Indian hockey player, was described as a 'wizard' by the European press. However, India's recent performance have been below par and India is currently ranked 8th in the world.
Even though cricket has by far overtaken hockey in popularity, hockey still strikes an emotional chord especially with the older generation. India's men's hockey team recently won the Asia Cup held in Chennai, defeating South Korea by a very convincing margin. However, they failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, the first time they have not made it to the Olympics since 1928.

Cricket
The two leagues are competing fiercely with each other. Most cricket boards have banned the ICL players.

Football (Soccer)
Football is one of the major sports in India. It was introduced during the British occupation, and in some areas of the countequally popular as cricket. India was an Asian powerhouse till the sixties, but gradually the standard of football has gone down compared to other countries and currently India ranks 153 in the FIFA Rankings as of the 29th of June 2008. India was the Asian Games Champion in 1951 & 1962 and were 4th in 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
The AIFF (All India Football Federation) is the parent body of football in India. The league structure in India follows a pyramid pattern with the ONGC I-League at the top most tier. There were 10 teams in the inaugural I-League 2007-08. It is followed by 2nd Division National Football League, 3rd Division National Football League and Local Leagues. Apart from the leagues, The Federation Cup is India's premier knock-out Cup tournament.

Lawn Tennis
Tennis is popular among Indians in urban areas. However, India's fortunes in the Grand Slams singles have been unimpressive although Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have won many Men's Doubles and Mixed Doubles Grand Slam Titles. Leander Paes has also won an Olympic Bronze medal in the singles competition at the 1996 Atlanta Games. In Davis Cup, India have been runners-up twice, in the years 1974 and 1987. The most successful Indian men's singles players have been Vijay Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan, Ramanathan Krishnan and Leander Paes. Sania Mirza, is the only notable Indian woman tennis player, having won a WTA title and breaking in to the Top 30 WTA ranking.

Kabaddi
Kabaddi originated from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, the southern states of India, but is also popular in states of Punjab and Haryana. The sport highlights Agility and most importantly hand eye coordination. This sport is played by a person called a "raider" goes to one side where 4 teammates will be holding hands forming a semi-circle. The raider has to try to touch one of the teammates and run back to his line. But the teammates holding hands can grab the raider and pin him down, which will earn their team a point. These are just the simple rules, there are more complex rules. India bagged gold at the 2006 Asian Games in men's event and won a gold in kabaddi world cup held in India.

Shooting
Shooting used to be a pastime for the maharajahs of India. Lately, India has produced several champions in shooting. At the 2008 Olympics, Abhinav Bindra won the gold medal for India in the 10m air rifle event. This is the first individual gold medal for India in any Olympic discipline.

Formula One
The Formula One Motor Racing is gaining popularity in urban India. It is one of the fastest growing sports where viewership is concerned. In 2010, New Delhi is slated to host the first ever Indian Grand Prix. Although at present there are no F1 circuits in India, there is an F3 circuit at Sri Perumbudur near Chennai. In October 2007, the Indian multi-billionaire Vijay Mallya bought the under-performing F1 team Spyker and renamed it Force India. Force India F1 represents India's increased participation within Formula One. India has also produced some good drivers. India's Narain Karthikeyan has driven for Team Jordan in 2005. Karun Chandok, arguably India's second best driver, has been competing at GP2 level and might feature with an F1 team in the future. Red Bull has expressed interest in him, and he recently tested for them at Barcelona.

Badminton
Badminton is supposed to have originated in India 2000 years ago. Although India is not among the top teams, it has consistently produced players of high international ranking. Prakash Padukone and Puellela Gopichand have won the prestigious All England Badminton Championships. Badminton is a popular recreational sport all over India. Young talents like Saina Nehwal are emerging from different states.Saina Nehwal entered the quarters of the women's singles event at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Boxing
Boxing is one of the lesser profiled sports in India. India is yet to produce a world champion in any weight class. In November 2007, India's M. C. Mary Kom won the best boxer title and also secured a hat-trick of titles. India is a regular medal-holder at Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. In 2008 Beijing Olympics Vijender Kumar won a bronze medal in the middleweight boxing category and Akhil kumar and Jitender Kumar qualified for the quarterfinals.

Basketball
Basketball is primarily a school sport in India.

Rugby
The British introduced Rugby to India. The game is being played domestically for over 100 years now. The popularity of the game has increased over the last few years and the game has spread all over the country. The main centres that play rugby are Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore. Rugby is predominantly played in clubs but lot of work is being conducted for grassroots development. The Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU) is the governing body of rugby in India and hosts the All India & South Asia Rugby Tournament annually which is the premier national level tournament in the country. India right now has a National Rugby Union team. Well known Indian actor Rahul Bose is a member of the Indian Rugby team. India started playing internationally since 1998. India has played 18 tests: Won 2, Draw 1, Lost 15. India also competes in the 7-a-side format at the international level but doesn't have a women's rugby team.

Golf
Golf is an emerging sport in India. It is popular sport with the rich. It has not caught on with middle class and poor people due to the fact that it is expensive. However, there are numerous golf courses all over India. There is an Indian Golf Tour. Many Indian professionals have competed on the Asian Tour and a few have made the top level European and PGA Tours. Examples of Indian golf stars are Jeev Milkha Singh, who became the first Indian to make the top fifty of the Official World Golf Rankings in late 2006, and Jyoti Randhawa. India's men's golf team won silver at the 2006 Asian Games.

Billiards and Snooker
Billiards and snooker are popular club sports in India. India has produced players of international ranking, Geet Sethi, Michael Ferreira , Pankaj Advani to name a few.

Volleyball
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai hosts a variety of sports including volleyball. Volleyball is a sport played all over India, both in rural as well as urban India. It is a popular recreation sport. India is ranked 5th in Asia and 27th in world rankings. Recently India won the Asian central zone championships beating high-ranked teams like Kazakhstan and Iran. India is doing well in the youth and junior levels, having secured 2nd in the 2003 World youth championships. This sport lacks sponsors at present.

Table Tennis
Table tennis is a popular indoor recreation sport in India. It has caught on in states like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, which are now producing a few world class players. Table Tennis Federation of India is the official sports body which controls the game in India. India had produced some good players like Kamlesh Mehta, Chetan Baboor and Achanta Sharath Kamal who is currently ranked 90 in the world. He is also the current Commonwealth champion. Chetan was ranked around 66 when he was at his peak. Unfortunately the amount of money being pumped into table tennis in India is meagre as compared to other games like cricket & golf. Due to the lack of good performances by Indians in World Championships and Olympics the sponsors are not interested in the sport.

Squash
Squash is a primarily recreational sport, commonly played in clubs in urban areas. Some of the leading Indian Squash Players are Ritwik Bhattacharya, Saurav Ghosal, Joshna Chinappa and Anwesha Reddy.

Bowling
In the recent past, bowling has gained some popularity in urban India, but is still a recreational sport and not yet considered as a competitive sport. It involves expensive infrastructure and space which is hard to come by in many Indian cities.

Polo
Polo probably originated in India, the Mughal emperors being the first players. Considered a royal game, polo is popular in the Indian army as well as in northern India.

Horse Racing & Equestrian
While horse racing is inherited from the British Raj, it is still alive and kicking in most cities in India. There are Turf Clubs that host horse races in Calcutta, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Mysore and Hyderabad. Horse racing is mainly conducted in the winter season to take advantage of the relatively cooler temperatures. Equestrian events are also held within India regularly, with the Chennai Equestrian Academy playing host to national and world championship events. Recently, India earned bronze medal in the Equestrian event at the Asian Games 2006.

Sailing
Sailing is popular among sailors that live on the coasts of India.

Gymnastics
Gymnastics is almost non existent after school level. It bears similarities to a local sport from Maharashtra called Mallakhamb, which is a pursuit of police and armed forces in India. However, interest and participation in gymnastics have not gained much popularity.

Baseball & Softball
Baseball has recently started to show up in India. Softball is played at school and university level.

Ice Hockey
Ice hockey in India is almost nonexistent due to a lack of infrastructure. Despite this, the first national ice hockey championship was held in Jammu & Kashmir in 2003.

Flat Water & Sea Kayaking
Indian flat water kayakers are considered emerging powerhouse in the Asian circuit. Aside from professional flat water kayaking, there is very limited recreational kayaking. Potential to generate interest in flat water kayaking is held by leisure resorts located near sea or other water bodies. But most often than not, Indian tourists consider kayaking a one time activity and not a lifestyle sport to be pursued. As such any exposure to Kayaking at these resorts is lost on India.

Snow Sports
Snow sports are uncommon in India due to a lack of snow except in the extreme north. Ski tournaments take place every winter in Gulmarg, Kashmir.

Whitewater Kayaking
Whitewater kayaking has its rabid enthusiasts mostly concentrated in north towards Himalayas, and some in the south on the Kali River, in Karnataka. Most of these enthusiasts are or were Whitewater Raft guides who took to the sport of Whitewater kayaking. Some of the prominent WW Kayakers based on their blip on the internet include - Abhinav Kala, Shalabh Gahlaut, John Pollard. Many of these above and other WW Kayakers have notched first descents (similar to Climbing Ascents), on rivers in India and Nepal. The race for first descents is probably what will fuel the imagination of Indian WW Kayakers in the future.
Gear availability is another problem that plagues Indian WW Kayakers. While the global designs for WW boats and paddles changing annually, Indian WW Kayakers have to pay heavy duties for importation of any of the gear, or have buy used gear in Nepal and still end up paying terrible amount of duties. More often than not, you will see Indian Kayaking guides riding down the river in a Perception Amp or Piroutte or Dancer kind of design while the Kayakers from abroad in their new design, planing hull, centered volume kayaks from Riot, Pyranha or Wavesport. Though India due to media coverage has started to get on the worlds kayaking map with more people visiting every season. Damming of rivers though assures that the speciality of kayaking in India will soon be changed with short sections of runnable river between dams as against the multiday expeditions now!

Sepak Takraw
Sepak Takraw is not very well known in India although it was a demonstration sport at the Delhi Asiad in 1982. The Sepak Takraw Federation of India with its headquarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra was founded on 10 September 1982. It is recognised by the Indian Olympic Association and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, New Delhi since 2000. The Federation has so far conducted 14 Senior, 7 Junior and 6 Sub-Junior National Championship in different cities and is also conducting Federation Cup Tournament and zonal National Championship. The game is very popular in the north eastern state of Manipur and some of the best players hail from Manipur. In the 22nd King’s Cup International Sepak Takraw Tournament held at Bangkok, the India men team lost in semifinal and claimed bronze in team event. In doubles event women team lost in semifinal but bagged bronze medals.

Rock Climbing
Annual competitions promoting rock climbing are growing in strength. Some events draw over fifty participants and hundreds of viewers, which is relatively good for an evolving sport. A growing number of climbers have entered the climbing scene in India, particularly in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Shillong, Kolkata, Indore and other parts of India. Along with the increasing interest in climbing, multiple climbing walls are sprouting around the country. These walls probably number less than 30, most of them single walls with one or two routes at most.

Mountain Biking
Delhi will host the 2010 Commonwealth Games; the second-largest multi-sport event in the world.Mountain biking is not widely organized for a variety of reasons, including the availability of gear and support groups. It is pursued by individuals who use either locally modified cycles or imported mountain bikes.

Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is carried out in Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep islands, Karnataka, Goa, Malvan & Tarkarli. Andaman, Goa & Malvan are PADI certified centers.

Adventure Race
The only adventure race in India is organized by NEF in Pune and is called Enduro3.

Koozhangal
Koozhangal is a game played in south part of India, in Tamil Nadu.

Kho Kho
Kho kho is a traditional Indian sport played by teams of twelve players who try to avoid being touched by members of the opposing team, only 9 players of the team enter the field. It is normally played at the school levels.

Ultimate Frisbee
Ultimate Frisbee is played in several cities in India. Chennai leads the sport in India in terms of number of people pursuing the sport. Ahmadabad and Delhi also have their own teams. In February 2008 Ahmedabad is hosting a tournament for teams from all three cities. Bangalore has an upcoming team as well.