After a two-month festival of democracy with the general election, the country is waking up to the fiesta of sports. With the curtain going up on the 12th World Cup Cricket in Kennington Oval, London, the heartbeat of a billion-plus Indians is also set to quicken. For, now there is no game other than cricket that has taken so deep roots in India with so much of popularity.
Team Kohli is all set to re-create on 14 July 2019 the epic victory clinched by Kapil Dev and his men in the Lords turf on 25 June 1983. And the cricket fans of the country are all prayers for that to happen. Sports writers here seem to strengthen the hope that the team will be able to bring home once again that crown which Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team had won in 2011 at Wankhede stadium – this time from the birthplace of cricket. Among the favourites tipped to win the title, 'the most favoured' is naturally India.
True, India's loss of the warm-up match against New Zealand has dimmed hopes of victory, but the Shikhar Dhawan-Rohit Sharma opening pair is a world class combination. Captain Virat Kohli at No: 3 and former captain Dhoni are in peak form. No:4 KL Rahul proved his mettle in the warm-up match. The bowling domain enjoys the strength of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami in their robust state. The hope and prayer everywhere is that with consistent performance of them all on the ground of Lords, Kohli and his men can raise India's glory to the skies.
Like football to Latin America, cricket is the game that can unite and divide south Asia. Not only for the players and sports fans, even for the politicians cricket is a tasty delicacy. Of the 10 teams lined up for the World Cup, five - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan - are from this region. Although the history of the game is rooted in British colonialism, cricket by now has turned into a popular event, a mark of national pride in these countries.
The passion of cricket, which often morphs into a national frenzy by a mixture of politics and nationalism in sports, creates a brand of bellicosity in our country of a kind not seen in other sports events,. From the sports writings of media, right upto its live commentary, using a language of war has become common. And most tend to watch matches with the thrill and anxiety similar to facing a war in the border. The fact that a win or loss in a match between India and Pakistan results in hypnotic jubilation or frustration, is because cricket ceases to be a mere sport. We are in the periphery of experience where an unexpected reverse swing can perplex a batsman and claim his wicket, and can equally knock down diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Modern man created periods of sports for the pleasure of enjoyable occasions. What blossoms in the sporting soil are seeds of creativity through competitiveness. Each sporting event renders man and society capable of seeing win and defeat in a spirit of sportsmanship without harbouring permanent dislike of bate. And the reason why sports extravaganzas are able to neatly cut the borders of hate and intolerance, is that they uphold a broad vision of humanity. As a game that connects and regales the people of south Asia , cricket and its apex championship should be able to play a historic role in the present day world.
If, as it happens in all sports, atheletes and sports organizers can take love and friendship to borderless playgrounds through word and behaviour, the history of the region will turn into something different. When extremism and intolerance spread in the region, cricket should be able to call 'Howzat!'. Perhaps where politics has failed, sports and sportspersons have been able to succeed. But for that to happen, cricket should be redefined as sports alone. We should be able to approach cricket as a game watched and enjoyed by all together. Our region and its people do crave for peace and fearlessness. May the global cricket fiesta become a sports festival capable of generating love and joy among human beings. Like a cricket ball that goes across the boundary over and over, may the cricket gala be able to cross the boundaries of hatred consistently.