Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVIII No. 22, March 1-15, 2019

From India’s Digital Archives

– Karthik Bhatt

Supplementing a sports need

The Digital Library of India (DLI) project, an initiative of the Central Government, aims at digitising significant artistic, literary and scientific works and making them available over the Internet for education and research. Begun in 2000 by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and later taken over by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, it has to date scanned nearly 5.5 lakh books, predominantly in Indian languages.

The twelfth edition of cricket’s most awaited annual extravaganza, the Indian Premier League gets underway this month. With Chennai Super Kings starting as defending champions, it is but appropriate that the subject of this piece is one of the country’s earliest sporting magazines that was published from our city, Sport and Pastime.

The Hindu, founded in 1878 by six young men initially as a means to serve as the voice of Indian opinion and shape political discourse grew to become one of the country’s leading newspapers within a short span overcoming several challenges. Though its principal focus remained unchanged, it expanded over a period of time by adding a variety of columns by having its own foreign correspondents and also entering into special arrangements to print content published elsewhere. A Literary Supplement was added in 1927, while the main paper added columns on women’s welfare and education and a weekly trade and industry review from abroad. Cartoons became a regular feature when in 1936, the paper obtained the All India copyright for the cartoons of David Low.

One of the most popular additions was the sports page, which made its debut under the care of K. Gopalan, the younger son of Kasturiranga Iyengar. Amongst the world-renowned contributors who featured in the page were the likes of Neville Cardus, C.G. Macartney, Jack Hobbs, Rene Lacoste and W.T. Tilden. Joining the list of illustrious contributors and becoming one of the country’s finest sports commentators was S.K. Gurunathan, who joined the paper in the advertising department in 1928 and, a decade later, shifted to the sports section. Special arrangements were made to cover the overseas visits of the national hockey and cricket teams. Racing was yet another sport which was prominently featured.

With the coverage of sports becoming more extensive over a period of time, a magazine dedicated to it was the next step and thus was born Sport and Pastime in 1947. It was the brainchild of G. Kasturi, K Gopalan’s son, who had joined the paper in 1944. It was the first magazine in the country dedicated to sports and came as a boon for the sporting fraternity in the newly independent nation.

Flipping through the issues available online, it is not difficult to fathom the reasons behind its immense popularity. While it was majorly sport centric (cricket contributing a lion’s share) it had sections dedicated to hobbies such as stamp collecting and photography and films. A striking feature was the large-size photographs that accompanied the columns. Apart from sporting action at the national and international levels, the sporting scene in our city too was given good coverage. While it is interesting to read the magazine’s coverage of the early exploits of several legends such as Sunil Gavaskar, its seminal contribution is in its capturing the career of several others who are mostly forgotten today. The legendary contributors to The Hindu featured in the columns of Sport and Pastime too. Kasturi’s love for sport and cricket in particular was immense and he was instrumental in instituting the S&P Trophy for the limited overs format of the game.

Reviews of films and stage plays mainly from South India were featured under a column titled “South Indian Stage and Screen” by T.M. Ramachandran, well-known film critic. Film festivals were given good coverage. Bollywood and Bengali movies too were featured courtesy special correspondents. Women’s Corner dealing with various career, health and welfare issues concerning them was yet another regular feature in the magazine and was written by noted educationist Mrs. Y.G. Parthasarathy under the pseudonym Rashmi.

With a variety of content that appealed to every member of the family lined up every week, Sport and Pastime looked set for a long haul. However, its career came to a grinding halt in 1968 thanks to labour issues in The Hindu. A successor of sorts, the Sportstar was launched in 1978 as a sport only magazine and continues the legacy to this day.

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