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So cricket won't be India's national sport - not for the moment, at least. Populism be damned, India's sports minister, MS Gill, a highly respected former bureaucrat and Himalayan mountaineer, not only batted for hockey but also took swipes at cricket and Sachin Tendulkar. "Hockey is a spiritual sport in India and is directly related to one's heart," he said, drawing a distinction. "Let cricket be as it is."
He was evoking that spirit when he pointed to how cricket had changed. "Those players [of the past] would face balls at 90mph with very little protection - there would just be a thin cap and cotton clothes. Now, however, there is all sort of protection, head gear, shoulder gear and things like that. In fact, a batsman is so covered with protective gear that if I go into the middle to bat one might say (Sachin) Tendulkar is playing."