Monday, June 5, 2023
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HomeOpinionTele-scopeMore cricket, no chess — India’s sports channels are hurting national pride

More cricket, no chess — India’s sports channels are hurting national pride

If golf can be telecast, why not chess? 187 countries are competing at the Chess Olympiad in Chennai, but cameras are elsewhere.

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Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan’. This simple, straightforward headline, be it in Hindi, English — or Taiwanese – seemed to go down well with news channels. It’s as if they almost relish the idea of what Republic TV saw as a ‘China Vs America’ standoff. From a very cynical point of view, a conflict makes for good headlines and great news – just think of the mileage the Ukraine-Russian war has generated – and if China is left ‘huffing and puffing’ as Times Now said, then all the better.

From Tuesday evening when we watched the US Air Force aircraft carrying US House of Representatives’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi land in Taipei, to Wednesday afternoon when she left, news channels emitted war cries: ‘Will there be war over Taiwan?’ asked Zee News, ‘Xi flexes muscles,’ added Time Now while India Today began to compare ‘China vs Taiwan weapons’.

Times Now Navbharat warned of ‘maha yudh ki aahat,’ TV9 Bharatvarsh had bomber aircraft and helicopters fly in between headlines such as ‘America’s threat’.

News channels also detected a ‘red alert’ in China (NewsX). ‘Dragon frets and fumes,’ reported CNN News18 (with a hint of satisfaction, perhaps?), ‘Chinese military drills around Taiwan,’ warned India Today. ‘This,’ said its reporter Abhishek Bhalla, is how China ‘bullies’ nations. And this after Pelosi was in Taiwan for just about 18 hours.


Also read: Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan with a burden of course-correction — ‘US has lost China’

ED’s Kabaddi and India’s sports moment

The Enforcement Directorate is behaving rather like a kabaddi player, don’t you think? In the last week, it has successfully ‘raided’ Partha Chatterjee, former minister in the Trinamool Congress government of West Bengal, the house of Shiva Sena leader Sanjay Raut in Mumbai and subsequently arrested him on Sunday, and then there was the raid on the premises of the National Herald newspaper in Delhi, Tuesday.

Indeed, the agency is so adept at raids, it could have represented India in kabaddi at the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK– if only the sport had been a scheduled event!

Oh well, maybe it can join the Pro Kabaddi League?

Jokes apart, sports are top of the mind, this week and with good reason. Besides the Commonwealth Games (CWG) on several Sony10 channels, there’s the India-West Indies T20 competition in the West Indies (DD Sports), the Chess Olympiad in Chennai, and let’s not forget the women’s Euro Cup soccer final that resulted in an England victory over Germany on Sunday.

All of these games are being hailed and promoted as national events, not just individual or team victories or defeats – that bring collective pride to the entire nation. The English, by all media accounts, have gone berserk with joy over the ‘Lionesses’ success. So, each time India wins a medal at the CWG, and we see it hung around the athlete’s neck, we imagine it is decorating our bosoms too.

How lovely to celebrate a win we have done nothing to achieve! No matter that we may be divided by religion, class, caste, community, gender, economic status, et cetera, et cetera, we momentarily unite and celebrate as one the triumph of a fellow Indian, be it Jeremy Lalrinnunga (weightlifting) or Lovely Choubey (part of Lawn Bowls’ team). Such is the power of nationalism in sports.

Actor Amitabh Bachchan says as much in his promos for the Commonwealth Games, when he exhorts his fellow countrymen to support the Indian contingent ‘zor se’ because in this 75th year of Independence, ‘jeet poora India ka’.

But as cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was to find out, it is a huge burden, to carry the expectations of over 1.30 crore people—guess sportspersons get accustomed to it.

Also read: From BoJack in veshti to black queen’s triumph, Chess Olympiad’s ‘Tamil identity politics’

Why isn’t India watching Chess?

This is what makes it all the more incomprehensible why the Chess Olympiad isn’t being telecast, live, on any major sports TV channel – at least not by DD Sports, Star Sports or Sony 10 Sports. Instead, DD Sports is showing us the West Indies-India T20 series and before that, it showed the 50-over contest.

DD Sports did broadcast the opening ceremony of the Olympiad, live, but nothing thereafter. For television, it’s as if this biggest (187 countries) and most important international chess championship isn’t taking place, that too in India for the first time. As if India doesn’t possess some of the world’s best players on the black and white board who could well end up as winners.

Alright, alright: Chess is one of the most difficult games to capture on camera and broadcast – it is a quiet, mental game of skill and intelligence not filled with grunts and physical prowess. Nothing may happen for minutes on end….

However, it can be exciting, as anyone who has watched a game of chess knows, or if you watched the series Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. Even if you don’t know, if we are rooting for our team, as we have been told to do, then it’s the job of a TV  commentator to explain the moves until it’s checkmate or a draw. If golf can be telecast, live, for days, why not chess?

At least, DD Sports could have come forward to telecast the Olympiad when commercial channels failed to. Surely, this is an insult to India’s national pride that is being linked so all sports? The Olympiad is being played on Indian soil – we are able to watch a cricket tournament thousands of kilometres away for which many top Indian players were rested, but not a tourney in Chennai?

Luckily, the CWG made it to Sony Sports and we have been able to enjoy watching it – never imagined lawn bowls could be riveting, but it was.

Meanwhile, how about a tiranga protest for the Chess Olympiad?

Views are personal.

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