Once you start thinking about it, it does not take long to appreciate that sports are essentially a vehicle for channeling primal urges – especially of competition and conflict – in a civilized manner. For that reason alone, South Asia as a region, with its long history of conflict and confrontation continuing into the present day, needs more sports.
Yet sports, today, are much more than that. They are a source of national identity and pride, a conduit for international exchange, a source of entertainment and of livelihood, an expression of self-esteem, a diversion and a distraction, and, ultimately, a major global industry and an integral part of national and global economies. Modern sports, collectively, are a behemoth.
The Legacy of Cricket
As with most things about South Asia, the region's relationship with sports has been heavily influenced by its colonial past. This is the primary reason one cannot talk very long about sports in South Asia without talking about cricket. Through the latter 1800s, as Englishmen posted in India began openly indulging in this most British of pastimes, native South Asians realized this was a game in which they could excel as well.
It is difficult to see Indians getting attracted to cricket as a leisure activity per se, for it is very much an acquired taste. Rather, a servant called upon to bowl at his English master in the nets would have discovered that if he cut the seam just so, and angled the delivery just so, and pitched the ball just so, then every now and then he would get past the edge of the master's bat to clip the off bail.