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The Gentleman's Game

Autor:   •  August 3, 2017  •  2,866 Words (12 Pages)  •  173 Views

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As has been noted, cricket is The Gentleman’s Game with no physical contact between the players. However, as George Orwell stated, sport is “war without the shooting” (Biswas, 2011). As stated earlier in this paper, India and Pakistan have been “at war” since 1947, disputing the region of J & K and cricket serves as a proxy for that war. It’s no wonder that early cricket matches such as the 1996 World Cup, in which Pakistan lost the quarter final match against India, saw the two nations engaging in nationalism and jingoism. Pakistani fans smashed televisions, a college student fired bullets into his TV set and then killed himself, another fan died of a heart attack, captain Wasim Akram received death threats, one fan filed a court petition against the "disappointing performance" and a cleric said Pakistan would never win at cricket so long as a woman, Benazir Bhutto, was the prime minister. Even the plane carrying the players had to be diverted to Karachi as irate fans waited in Lahore carrying expletive-laced banners and rotten eggs (Biswas, 2011).

Further instances of violence include death threats against players from fundamentalists on both sides as a result of India beating Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. During a World Cup match in 1999 at Manchester’s Old Trafford Stadium, flags were set on fire in the outfield and numerous fights broke out in the stands. Earlier in 1999, when the Pakistani team visited Calcutta, 70,000 people were cleared out of the stadium by police after a riot broke out; the remainder of the match was played to an empty stadium. When India was to return to Pakistan in March, they insisted the five-day match be reduced to one day. On the eve of the visit Pakistan test launched a Shaheen 2 missile, which had the potential to reach the farthest corner of India with its nuclear payload (Price, 2004).

Cricket matches are catalysts for both political protests and terror attacks in India and Pakistan. Some say cricket is a vehicle to voice otherwise unpopular opinion; others posit that the game is a useful instrument to divert the interests of common people of both countries. As a result of the attack on Mumbai by Pakistani militants in 2008, India cancelled its participation in a tour of Pakistan, citing “Match abandoned due to terror attacks.” Some considered this payback for the attacks and the cost to the Pakistan cricket board was estimated to be around $40 million USD (Biswas, 2011). This is a staggering amount of money considering poverty, unemployment and malnutrition are at all time highs. These are viable concerns for the citizens of both India and Pakistan.

However, given the nature of social and political unrest in both countries it seems that cricket would offer an outlet, or catharsis of sorts, to the many fans, spectators and players who follow and are involved in the game. Foer (2004) shows how fans use stadiums as vehicles for political protest. Kuper (2006) also points out that the soccer stadium can serve as the only outlet for free speech and that “when a region is silenced it turns to soccer” (p. 104). This reasoning can be applied to any sport, not just soccer. When fans come together in large numbers there is a collective mentality that enables them to voice opinions that would otherwise be silenced. In the case of India and Pakistan this is what is termed nationalism; not in the negative sense, but in the positive sense of identifying with their brothers. Foer (2004) posits this is an innate instinct that all humans crave and since the dismantling of the family and tribe, the nation has become the vessel that provides for self-determination.

Attempts to Diffuse the Conflict

When India and Pakistan meet on the cricket field it is much more than a game, it is history being played out in the hearts and minds of both nations. Similar in nature to the rivalry between the Celtics and the Rangers Kuper (2006) writes about, there is an incredible amount of baggage that accompanies fans to the stadium related to religion. It was not until 2004 when India played Pakistan in Lahore that Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims sat side by side instead of in partitioned enclosures (Price, 2004). So perhaps the religious divide is narrowing. However, for India and Pakistan, the baggage has almost become too heavy to bear concerning the dispute over the J&K region.

In an effort to begin to diffuse some of the tensions between the nations, the term “Cricket Diplomacy” has been coined to describe efforts by both sides. Cricket has been used to express coldness and as an ice-breaker in relations. An Indian cricket team toured Pakistan in 1977 to foster warmer diplomatic ties between the two countries after the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh. In 1996, India and Pakistan sent "friendship" teams to Sri Lanka during the World Cup because Australia and the West Indies refused to tour Sri Lanka due to a bomb attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Colombo. Top Indian and Pakistani cricket stars played together in Sri Lanka to express solidarity with the island nation. A 2003 Indian tour of Pakistan led to unprecedented kindness between the two neighboring nations. In 2005, Musharraf attended a cricket match in New Delhi, the city of his birth, to improve relations between the two nations (Murthy, 2009).

More recently, in a move to quell perceived differences, the prime ministers of India and Pakistan sat together to watch the 2011 World Cup match in a rare show of sporting diplomacy between nuclear-armed and cricket-obsessed neighbors (Bremmer, 2011). However, the populous is growing increasingly restless over the issues in Kashmir and the Mumbai attacks. A new approach is necessary if a resolution is to be reached between the nations of India and Pakistan.

Strategies for the Future of the Rivalry

Kuper (2006) sums up what may be one of the problems with Cricket Diplomacy: “…the game is a good way of studying what is going on in repressed societies, but it rarely changes these societies” (p. 292). Kashmir continues to be torn by internal clashes and external rivalry between India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan also continue to suffer, especially where the game of cricket is concerned. Players have been tormented due to the political unrest concerning the J&K region. It is time for the leaders of India and Pakistan to make a clear choice between conflict and cooperation, if they want their people to live in peace.

With the various factions that exist in J&K and Pakistan’s refusal to admit that government-backed guerilla fighters cross the LOC to fight the Indians, as well as the looming question of

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