Sport is an important part of life across the globe. In the UK, everything grinds to a halt for the FA Cup Final and the Grand National, while in the USA, Super Bowl Sunday is as important a date on the calendar as Thanksgiving. Yet even in these sporting hubs it is accepted that no nation has quite the same passion for sport as India.
Whether it comes down to national pride, enthusiasm for the game itself or a combination of factors, the Indian populace has an affection for its biggest stars that is unrivalled. Here, we have identified three of the most popular names from the world of sport, past and present. Grab a tissue, this could get emotional.
Let’s not beat about the bush, there’s never been a batsman quite like Sachin. Averaging more than 50 over 200 tests speaks for itself, but it’s about more than the statistics. Sachin was everyone’s brother or next door neighbour. Despite all the adulation, he remained humble and firmly grounded. The affection for the Little Master was just as strong within the team, and when India won the World Cup in 2011, the refrain from everyone was that they were spurred on to win it for Sachin. When he retired at the age of 40, he’d been a constant part of Indian cricket for 24 years, and anyone under the age of 35 had no real memory of an India team without him.
Tennis has traditionally been seen as something of an elitist sport in India, and the lack of grass roots support is part of the reason there have been so few Indian tennis pros who have challenged at the highest level. Sania Mirza is exceptional in more ways than one. Six grand slam titles confirm her sporting prowess, but she has also helped set up a tennis academy in Hyderabad and has never been afraid to stand up and be counted, even if it has earned her some political enemies. In 2010, the Economic Times named her in their shortlist of Women Who Make India Proud. Despite becoming a mother and turning 34 last year, she’s still playing and fans are flocking to the sites on SportsBetting to show their support in forthcoming tournaments.
M S Dhoni
They called him Captain Cool. Dhoni’s cricketing skills were supreme, but it was his ability to lead a team that made him a true great and prompted the waves of affection that are still felt for him today. In 2011, he wanted it to be all about Sachin, just like the rest of the team. But it was a gesture that the nation noticed and would never forget. Sure, from a statistical perspective, Kohli has achieved even more as captain. Yet their very differing characters mean that if it was a choice between the two, Dhoni is the man you would bring home to have a cup of tea with your mother. Another great man, Sunil Gavaskar, feels Dhoni’s popularity possibly surpasses even that of Tendulkar. It’s a bold claim, but ultimately, they are both deserving of their place among India’s sporting greats.