Cricket Diplomacy: A New Dimension of the Gentleman’s Game?

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: India captain Virat Kohli and Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed hold the ICC Champions Trophy ahead of tomorrow's final at The Kia Oval on June 17, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Cricket, a popular sport in the Indian subcontinent, has been often termed as a unifying element between people from different cultures, ethnicity, and country. But, over the years, a new usage of the sport has gained traction among the countries playing it. It is termed as ‘cricket diplomacy’. No one could have ever thought that a sport like cricket would be used to settle political/diplomatic grudges.

As far as the definition goes, as defined by the world’s largest encyclopedia, Wikipedia, ‘Cricket diplomacy consists of using the game of cricket as a political tool to enhance or worsen the diplomatic relations between two cricket playing nations.’

Even countries not famous for playing the sport have used it as a medium express their various sentiments. Cricket has been used both to ease tensions, as well as increase tension. For example, in an attempt to boycott American sports, Fidel Castro tried to make the Cubans play cricket. In another event that occurred not that long ago, China built Grenada a cricket stadium, just before the ICC Cricket World Cup-2007, as a thank you note for not recognizing Taiwan as an independent state.

India and Pakistan remain its chief practitioners

While, the above examples may seem a bit okay, but the way it has been used by the governments of India and Pakistan would make anyone think twice before saying that sports can’t be used to express political and diplomatic sentiments. After the terrorist attack in Kashmir, India had threatened to boycott their match against Pakistan, scheduled to take place in the ICC Cricket World Cup- 2019. That’s not it. The two countries have not played any bi-lateral series in the last half of the decade.

Meanwhile, India in an attempt to better its ties with the terror affected the nation of Afghanistan by giving access to three cricket grounds in India, like the Shahid Vijay Pathik Sports Complex, in Noida. The grounds are used by the Afghan team to host their home series and to practice during the offseason.

So, as much as the sport of cricket has been good for many nations, it has also been a medium for people and the governments to express their dissent as well as support. It continues to be a form of expression used by everyone, from the common man to lawmakers.

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