There for children psychologically as they are physically.

There is a world of difference between the sporting atmosphere of, say, a tennis game played outdoors to one played indoors; and this difference gets more marked when it comes to a high-profile professional encounter— the spectators, the excitement and the spectacle of an open-air contest can rarely, if ever, be rivalled by its indoor version.

Since children take to outdoor games like ducklings to water, they often idolise sportspersons who excel in them. Cricket being India’s most popular outdoor game, players like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni are household names and a source of inspiration to youngsters. Similarly tennis stars like Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza and footballers like Baichung Bhutia are very popular.

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If one accepts that such role models provide an incentive to young minds and hearts to do something worthwhile in their lives, one must inevitably conclude that outdoor games are as necessary for children psychologically as they are physically.

I remember how, when I was young, I passed through a few different phases of sporting ambition. My father got my elder brother and me membership passes of a famous Kolkata club, thus enabling us to watch many hockey and football matches. On days when we had seen a particularly memorable display of skill, I would return home bubbling with enthusiasm; later, when I went to bed at night, I would daydream of feats like dribbling past five hapless opponents and shooting at the goal with pin-point accuracy from some incredible angle. Needless to add, there would always be a sell-out crowd watching!

After this I entered a cricketing phase, in which I kept hammering the world’s fastest bowlers all over the ‘park’!

Those daydreams are so inextricably interwoven with the texture of my childhood days that I don’t know how I would have felt without them. I think I would have had a far less colourful childhood than the one I did.

Unfortunately, pollution levels have risen so alarmingly all over that, often, the air one breathes is toxic. This eats into the health benefits of outdoor games, and may sometimes even make them harmful. It would be in everybody’s interest to ensure that this trend is reversed at a faster rate than is presently happening, more so as doctors propound those outdoor games play a remarkable role in reducing the levels of stress in this competitive and uncertain world of ours.