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Intoxication with cricket in South Asia

Updated: 2011-04-11 09:20

By Binod Singh (chinadaily.com.cn)

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Apart from the English language and a parliamentary government, cricket is supposed to be one of the greatest legacies the British left to Indians and to the whole South Asian subcontinent. Since then, the people in this region have been addicted to cricket and sometimes become intoxicated. People simply eat, drink and sleep cricket. Even the prime minister's office can be shut down if there is a cricket match between the two arch-rivals, India and Pakistan.

On April 3, India claimed the ICC (International Cricket Council) World Cup Cricket after it first won the trophy 28 years ago. The joy of more than a billion Indians knew no bounds. The chairman of the ruling coalition party, Sonia Gandhi, came out into the street to celebrate the victory. The final match was between India and Sri Lanka, which India managed to beat with the excellent captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Earlier, India entered the final match by checking out Pakistan in the semi finals.

It is rarest of the rare that the semi-final match for the Indians was more important than even the final. It was important because it was the first time after the Nov 26, 2009, Mumbai terrorist attack that the prime ministers of India and Pakistan met and shared a common platform. The gesture of Prime Minister Singh of inviting his Pakistani counterpart was much appreciated inside and outside the country, which is famously termed cricket diplomacy. In return, Prime Minister Singh has been invited to visit Pakistan. But in the past, the two countries have always disappointed the optimists of cricket diplomacy. Only time will tell if this move will become a milestone in improving bilateral relations.

But, one wonders how and why cricket has emerged to become the most important game on the subcontinent, which in the past has often descended into bitter rivalry with a mixture of nationalism and jingoism. Sometimes cricket and politics are so mixed that it is hard to distinguish between cricketers and politicians. Indeed, many cricketers have joined politics in both India and Pakistan, and at the same time many politicians have been active in promoting their own cricket clubs. Sachin Tendulkar, an Indian cricketer who was born in Mumbai and played 28 years as a master batsman for the Indian team, is not only a household name in India but across the cricketing world. This popularity makes him easy to join politics in the future, and the same goes for Imran Khan -- Pakistan’s cricket legend -- in Pakistan.

Traditionally, India has a similar game called “GIlli-Danda” which we used to play during our schooldays. But people’s obsession with cricket has overshadowed all other traditional games in the country. You can find kids playing cricket in every street and slum with the help of homemade bats and a few discarded clothes converted to resemble a ball. Nowadays, the fate of other games in India is decided by cricket. Not to mention the Indian athletes’ performance at the Olympic Games.

Because of its intoxication with cricket, India has not realized its potential in other games. Therefore, it is only right for a nation of more than 1.2 billion people to give equal importance to all games. It is wrong to promote cricket at the cost of all other games.

I personally like this game very much, but not at the cost of my other interests. Generally a cricket match could take 12 hours, and it could last for five days if it is a test match. The VIP movement in India on the occasion of a cricket match could hurt many common people. From an economic perspective, it has been suggested that cricket is not a feasible game in countries like USA, Russia, China and Brazil, and in most of the European countries. Except Australia, England and New Zealand, most of the countries playing cricket are riddled with extreme poverty and can better utilize their time.

Cricket may not be a familiar game for many Chinese, but in the latest Asian Games held in Guangzhou, cricket was on the event list. Some training camps have even set up in China for future cricketers. If that really comes true one day, and say India and China meet in the final, then that match will be destined to become one of the most watched in the world. It may also pave the way for a new type of diplomacy between the people of India and China.

This is a personal view and may not represent the majority view in India. The author may be contacted at binod@126.com


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