2019 cricket world cup kicked off this week and I don’t have to mention how many people are going crazy about it as cricket is the world’s second largest played sport after football. The 2019 Cricket World Cup takes place in England from May 30 until July 14 and its Global broadcast partner Star Sports is targeting $143 million in revenue for the Cricket World Cup. The ICC has also signed up more than 20 brands as commercial partners for the World Cup in England and Wales. Almost a third of them come from India and include MRF Tyres, beer brand Bira 91 and food company Britannia Industries.
While commercial companies and brands celebrate this season as a festival they are not the only ones who benefit from cricket without even touching the bat. The game of cricket has been used as a tool to enhance or worsen the diplomatic relations between two cricket playing nations for decades.
The first instance of cricket diplomacy in India dates back to 1987 when Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq watched an India-Pakistan Test match in Jaipur in the company of Rajiv Gandhi. However, sports diplomacy dates back to the famous ping pong diplomacy between China and the united states. When the table tennis team of America participated in the world championship held by Japan they were invited over to Beijing to play a friendly match with the Chinese team. This further was used to initiate bilateral relations between the two nations.
If we even dig deeper into the roots of the relationship between cricket and international relations, we see colonialism. The game which is widespread today holds its credit to the British empire which promoted this game to the colonies which they ruled. It was then a means of seeping into the colonies the British culture and also leave a mark which has yet stayed in the countries and expanded even more. Psychologically cricket helps take the mind off bad things as the basic purpose of a sport is to channelise aggression. As the game helped channelise the aggression and rage of the locals in the colonies it also helped them. Soon, the colonies became better at cricket and it became a way to beat the colonists at their own game and get back the self-esteem they had been losing in serving as slaves of the British empire. This real-life situation later inspired the movie Lagaan which showed a deal of waving off taxes between the British officers and the locals of a village if they beat them at a game of cricket. The dedication towards cricket that we see today is a result of this nature of cricket that was realised by our forefathers.
Whether it is baseball diplomacy between the USA and Cuba or football diplomacy between Turkey and Armenia, sport can be a powerful diplomatic tool. Sports diplomacy transcends cultural differences, provides different avenues for increased dialogue and unites disparate peoples through a mutual affection for the sport. More specifically, sports diplomacy involves representative and diplomatic activities undertaken by sportspeople on behalf of and in conjunction with their governments. The basic concept of the world cup is free from racial biases and the game is solely brought down to skill and talent. This gives countries to have a relationship which is not dependent on the economic status, cultural disparities of the countries rank on the power index. It helps create an inclusive environment to foster healthy relations.
This is not limited to the world cup alone but also to the Olympic games which have served as a global platform for addressing social issues like that one time when players from 20 African countries refused to play in the Olympics as a form of protest against the appetite bill of Africa.
In modern diplomacy, there are obvious benefits and appropriate reasons for governments using cricket as an instrument of diplomacy.
As cricket is a worldwide played sport all thanks to the marketing by British it is a common ground for nations to meet and exchange. It is also a simple of friendly chat as inviting envoys of other countries over to watch a match of cricket is regarded as an altruistic gesture. Radical changes in the modern diplomatic environment have forced traditional diplomatic institutions to reform, adapt and experiment. By employing sports, the image of a state’s diplomacy can change from aloof, hermetic and irrelevant to one that is innovative, effective and public (and even fun). Moreover, in the postmodern information age, foreign publics are more likely to be engaged by soft power overtures from nations, such as cultural or sporting exchanges.
Sport and sportspeople can amplify a state’s diplomacy. They are symbols of the country that represent the entire ecosystem of international relations. The US Department of State, for example, hold the Sports United, an international sports programming initiative designed to help start a dialogue at the grassroots level with non-elite boys and girls, aged 7–17. The programmes aid youth in discovering how success in athletics can be translated into the development of life skills and achievement in the classroom. Foreign participants are given an opportunity to establish links with US sports professionals and exposure to American life and culture. Americans learn about foreign cultures and the challenges young people from overseas face today. This has helped the united states to showcase that they are welcoming of the foreign individuals and have an eye to strengthen foreign ties.
The Cricket Mania:
Everything that happens in a cricket match touches a lot of people worldwide differently. Cricket is that one game that is planned in the gully of your house and even in international stadiums like the lords. The last time India played Pakistan 1 billion people tuned in to watch. Global games used for international relations
It captures eyes of billions of people at once and there is no other way of sending a message other than it.
In the book Between and Beyond Politics the author says that, “To stage a mega-event is confirmation that the host nation is a good international citizen and if the diplomatic posture, image and message are thoughtfully crafted and aligned to positive sporting values, the perception of a foreign public can be significantly altered.”
The cricket fever has helped us achieve what cricket is seen as today. A game for the rich and the poor, the submissive and the dominant, the developed and the developing all alike.
You don’t play for the crowd, you play for the country.
– Ms Dhoni.