New Delhi: The Indian cricket team may be the toast of the country after beating Pakistan and South Africa in the ongoing World Cup, but the captain of national rugby side Nasser Hussain rues the fact that the gentleman's game has robbed other sports of their sheen in terms of development and exposure.
"We are not competing with another sport but we do get an unfair amount of support in every possible way. Be it infrastructure or visibility or the private sector investing or government taking initiatives towards that. We (rugby) are not even in the top three of Indian sport, but the likes of hockey, which is our national sport, does not get that sort of support, which is unfortunate," Hussain told PTI in an interview.
"Even other sports, which are part of the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, that get you the medals don't get that much of support, so it is a bias towards cricket. Having said that we don't hold it against the cricketers," he added.
The Mumbai-born player is also concerned about various dedicated cricket facilities, which lie vacant for most part of the year, but cannot be used for other sports.
"There are infrastructures which are not used throughout the year because it has a cricket pitch on which just a handful of games are played in a year. Whereas world over there are multi-sport facilities which are used by different sports all throughout," he said.
"So that's just unique to India I think, where if there is a cricket field it's only for cricket, and football or any other sport cannot use it. It's a shame and bit disappointing because there is lack of space and facilities and then you make it a dedicated field. Even if you use it every single day it is understandable but it's just being used on weekends or the odd event that they (cricket) hold," he added.
India, who are ranked 69th in the rugby world rankings led by New Zealand, have improved by leaps and bounds in the last few years and Hussain is hopeful of the game spreading its wings in the cricket crazy nation.
"The sport in terms of development has grown in the last few years. I mean in the last 5 years, say before the Commonwealth Games we did get a fair amount of publicity. Upto the CWG it was only restricted to the major metros, but in the last five years we have seen it trickle down to cities and smaller towns and in states where much rugby had not been played," Hussain said.
"Awareness of the sport in states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir is growing and they are playing rugby now. Lot of them were in the quarterfinals of the National Games. At the National Games we had a women's team from Kerala winning the bronze and it was great to see that," he added.
Hussain, who is upbeat about the teams' performances in the recent past, believes that the sport has seen sunshine since the 2010 Commomnwealth Games in New Delhi.
"In the Commonwealth Games we were up against the best of the world. We were against the likes of Wales and South Africa that we played in the first two games. They were obviously much stronger but they were very competitive games and they are in the top-15 and we were at that time in the late 70s in terms of ranking. But we still did compete and it was because of the exposure and opportunities that were given to us prior to the Commonwealth Games in terms of preparation," said the 34-year-old player.
"So if we do get opportunities like that then definitely there is lot of scope. We have seen the standard go up quite a bit in the last few years. We are currently ranked 9th in Asia out of the 28 countries that are playing. So if given the right support in terms of resources, to be in the top-5 in Asia would be very easy and that would automatically take us in the top-40 of the world," he added.
Sony Six is televising the popular 6 Nations Rugby tournament and Hussain feels that more TV-time for Indian rugby will certainly give the game the much-needed exposure.
"Publicity of any kind would help any sport for that matter. Just getting more rugby on TV will not only get more people watching it but also create more awareness in the sport. There is World Cup coming up at the end of the year and the Olympics coming up next year, where rugby is a part. So there are loads of milestones if Indian television and media get involved it will certainly help the game," he said.
"We have had the Asian 5 nations in Delhi 2010. We were meant to host the Asian Under-19 last year but it was postponed by the Asian Rugby Union. There are talks to host one event this year plus we are hosting an Olympic pre-qualifier in two-and-a-half weeks time. So March 7 and 8 is the Asian pre-qualifier for the Oympics where India will be participating and you would be seeing 8 or 9 countries from Asia that would be part of that tournament," he said.
"We have held the Asian 7 series in Mumbai since the last two years, women's Rugby World Cup qualifiers was held in Pune. So we do host a fair amount of tournaments but yes we have not had the visibility as much as we would have liked," he concluded.