Cricket and Politics in Sub-Continent

Article first published in Pakistan News International (PNI) on 21-Sep-2021. Article being published on with the consent of writer.

The successive cancellation of New Zeland and England cricket teams tour to Pakistan is a serious blow to the game of cricket. Cricket is most popular game in Pakistan, New Zealand and England. Though the reason for cancellation of tour has been quoted as security concerns but reality is different.

It is a political decision by both countries. Pakistan has been facing similar situation in the past when international cricket teams or their players refused to visit Pakistan on the pretext of security concerns.

Pakistan has been the frontline coalition partner with US in war against terrorism and also the biggest victim of terrorist act which including severe blow the game of cricket. Pakistani cricket fans have witnessed a blackout of ‘international cricket’ since 2009, when Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked at Lahore. A recently revealed report discloses that “Exactly 40 days before the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, the Crime Investigation Department (CID) Punjab on Jan 22, 2009, had issued a precise threat alert about a RAW plan to target the touring team to defame Pakistan”. The report has been published in most widely circulated English daily of Pakistan.

Pakistan since then have been playing international cricket at neutral venues, Sharjah or AbuDabi. Only few teams including Srilankan team has visited Pakistan since Lahore incident.

The Sri Lankan cricket team visited thrice and once West Indies team came to tour Pakistan, since 2009 thus depriving the fans from most popular game in the country.

Pakistan Cricket Board did arrange Pakistan Super League at Dubai and had been playing its final matches at Pakistan since 2017. It restored some galore to the lost game but without participation of international cricket teams.

It was New Zealand cricket team’s first visit since 2009 which was mysteriously cancelled at the last hour. Similarly cancellation of England Cricket team tour in succession is reflection of some sinister game being played against Pakistan. Game of cricket has been biggest hostage of this conspiracy, which is apparently being led by India on the behest of some international power players.

Propaganda against Pakistan has been going on for quiet sometime in international media to label it as promoter of terrorism. Fact is, it is the India who has woven a network of terrorism and propaganda to destablise Pakistan. Indian aim is to heart the soft image of Pakistan.

The first major intrusion of ‘politics’ in cricket surfaced in 1932 when during tour of Australian, the English bowler were instructed by home organization to use ‘ leg theory’, meaning to aim at the body of the batsman. Australia officially complained to England on this mischievous act aiming to destroy the basic essence of sport. However, relations, between both cricket playing nations, remained strained for a very long time after the series was over.

In South Africa, cricket has been the most affected game due to ‘apartheid’. South African Cricket team was banned to participate in international cricket from 1970 till 1991. It was 1992 world cup, when South African cricket team was allowed to participate first time in the world cup.

In the Caribbean, individual governments of countries such as Trinidad and Tobago are currently pressing individual Boards on the possibility of playing international cricket independently of the West Indies, a move that many feel would be at the cost of collective strength.

Cricket in respective countries are not controlled by Board of Cricket only rather it is the governments. Recent cancellation of cricket team visits to Pakistan were cancelled by respective government of England and New Zealand.

India has emerged as biggest spoiler of cricket in sub-continent. Indian cricket fans are equally affected due to political decisions of their government in the game. Absence of cricket in Pakistan has equally harmed cricket in India. Pakistan and India two arch nuclear rivals which co exist in South Asia. Despite the fact that both nations have fought four wars, during last seventy years, they have many cultural similarities.

Among these common cultural norms cricket is the most significant of all. Cricket is the most popular game of sub-continent. It is widely played game in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and now in Afghanistan. Out of eleven cricket playing nations in the world, five are in the sub-region of South Asia.

Bilateral Cricket between two neighbouring countries has always been a ritual in the past but it has been discontinued since last many years due to political confrontation between both countries. Pakistan and India has jointly hosted two world cups in 1987 and 1996. The game played between cricket teams of both countries, in World Cup 2015 was witnessed by over one billion people.

Cricket has been used as a diplomacy between both countries in the past. During 1987, Pakistan and Indian forces came closer to a war. President, General Zia Ul Haq, went to India to witness a cricket match but met Indian Prime Minister on the sideline which resulted into easing tension between both countries.

Before 2004 tour of Pakistan, Indian cricket team was invited by Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. India Prime Minister asked his team not to win only cricket but also hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. It shows the importance which political leaders attach to cricket for easing tension between both countries.

On 17 April, 2005, President Musharraf visited India to witness a cricket match but it was a diplomatic move to normalize relations between two countries. In 2011, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also engaged in cricket diplomacy and met his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh at a world cup match between India and Pakistan. Peace talks resumed between India and Pakistan after the meeting between two Prime Ministers.

In 2015 world cup yet again Indian Prime Minister, called Pakistani Prime Minister, before the cricket match.

Cricket, the game of gentlemen, emerged during colonial era in 1720s. Since its emergence the game has been under political influence because of imperialism. The cricket in sub-continet has been subsumed by politics mostly due to hardliners in India. Sports are most essential part of cultural promotion of a nation. It creates healthy nation and mitigate many short comings leading towards stress in the digital era.

Cancellation of cricket series by New Zealand and England will not auger well for both countries and will definitely harm the overall spirit of the game.

Writer is avid fan of cricket in Pakistan.

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