The pandemic gave rise to quite a few pastimes and trends, from baking bread, quilling and dance and plank challenges to boasting about one’s dalgona coffee-making skills, but while most of them (fortunately) faded away, some have endured and thrived. One is fantasy sports, another pickleball, both of which feature in our issue this week. Neither of these pastimes is new to India but their popularity has zoomed in the past three years, aided by the boredom of having to stay indoors or maintain small social circles, and they have gained devoted players, fans, followers and promoters.
India is the fastest growing market for fantasy sports, having about three times more players, or users, than North America, going by the latest report from the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports and Deloitte India. Fantasy sports exist entirely in the online world—players pick their dream teams, whether football, cricket or kabaddi, based on real-life players and scores. These compete against similar teams put together by other users and the winnings depend on the performances of these sportspersons in live matches. Essentially, everyone gets to play selector, with the prize running into lakhs. Our story, written by an avid fantasy sports player, goes into the mindset of users who insist that these are games of skill and not gambling, explains the big wins, and looks at the sector’s future.
The other big pandemic trend (apart from hybrid work) that has remained is pickleball. A hybrid of table tennis, tennis and badminton, pickleball can be played almost anywhere. During the lockdowns, people marked makeshift courts on terraces and in parking areas and got their friends and families to join in.
Pickleball has had its fans in India since the early 2000s, when Sunil Valavalkar got hooked to it after he played it in Canada and brought it to Mumbai. We meet pickleball’s tireless champion, who is thrilled that his favourite game is finally being played by everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Andy Roddick. And if these two sports, one real and the other online, aren’t something new you want to try this weekend, you can spend your time on the rest of our stories on food, cinema, music and culture.
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