May 2019 will go down as a special month in the annals of international sport. It began rather sedately, with Barcelona storming past Liverpool and Ajax pipping Tottenham Spurs in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League, the Holy Grail of European football. The week that followed, though, was hardly foreseeable, as the Reds came from behind to stun the pride of Catalonia, and the following day Spurs pulled off a similar miracle in the second half to edge out the Dutch underdogs. Two days later, Arsenal and Chelsea ensured that Britain would lord over Europe—Brexit notwithstanding!— when they made it to the Europa League final.
Two days later, in the country that seems keen to exit the EU but doesn’t know how to do that, Manchester City clinched the Premier League (PL) on the last day by a point. Back in India, on the same day, the Indian Premier League took precedence over the PL as Mumbai Indians squeezed past Chennai Super Kings in a last-ball finish to clinch the title for the fourth time.
The action will only pick up in June, with the Champions League final in Madrid, the Women’s World Cup football in France and, of course, the most-anticipated sporting event in this neck of the woods—the Cricket World Cup. Against such a backdrop, the Forbes India Sports Special couldn’t be more timely. Helmed by Kathakali Chanda and Kunal Purandare, it is a veritable feast of stories and photographs that captures the best of sporting talent and trends.
Our Cover Story is on the likeable captain of the Mumbai Indians and vice captain of Team India, Rohit Sharma
. Unassuming yet outperforming, Sharma’s level-headedness comes out well in Rajiv Singh’s exclusive interview with the man who prefers to let his bat do the talking. “You will have good days and bad days. You can’t have a great ride forever. Just remember to maintain the balance, and keep moving.”
If cricket lies at the heart of Indian sport, kabaddi may well be its soul. A sport that some insist dates back to ancient India has got a ritzy makeover, found billionaire backers and millions of viewers. Don’t miss Singh’s feature on the millionaires that this hitherto largely rural sport has spawned.
Singh also met industrialist Anand Mahindra who explains why he, counter-intuitively, chose to go big with kabaddi. Mahindra also talks about his dream to start India’s first professional sports league for football—much before the IPL—and what went wrong.
It’s competitions like the Pro Kabaddi League that have helped make such largely-ignored sports viable commercial ventures. Ruchika Shah takes us through similar formats in other sports—from badminton and wrestling to football and volleyball—and the numbers they’ve generated in terms of viewership, prize money broadcast fees.
More leagues may mean more viewers, but your involvement with sport doesn’t have to be restricted to being at the stadium or in front of your TV set. More Indians are realising the health benefits of participating in some sport or the other. Running is one of the more accessible ones, and Pankti Mehta Kadakia examines a trend that’s picking up pace: Barefoot running. Not all sneaker-makers may approve, and if you want help in deciding whose shoes you want to step in—or none at all—‘Baring their Soles’ is a must-read.
Editor, Forbes India
(This story appears in the 07 June, 2019 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)