If I were to answer the question of my post title, I can easily say “No” to that. Naturally one might ask, why not? How is it more than a Sport? To find the answer of this question, you need to go back in History and see it through the lenses and try to understand it from a South Asian’s perspective. I know, it won’t be any easy ride but I will try to explain as much as I can.
Right after WWII, British left greater Indian sub continent in chaos. After ruling the nation for over 200 years, they also left their permanent mark at the very core of the conservative Indian society. Religion, Sports, Education, Language, you name it, it won’t take long for one to find the British touch on nearly every single social elements that you can think of. To keep my discussion simple, I will focus on Sports or Cricket to be very specific.
Since 1947, British Indian diaspora changed it’s map over and over which eventually led to the birth of four different nations, India, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka & Bangladesh. So naturally we witnessed the appearance of four different National Cricket Team representing all these nations at the International Cricket along with other nations. Despite of their cultural and religious differences, there are similarities, at least when we talk about Cricket. They all love cricket and hates to lose against their so called “neighbors”.
The mentality is as such that you can loose against Australia, England, New Zealand or South African Cricket Team for that matter and it’s not a big deal but you can’t loose against your South Asian rivals. Perhaps it’s more true for India and Pakistan than any other Cricket playing nation in the entire World. Rivalry between these two nation on many issue is pretty well known and such attitude can also be traced at the Cricket Ground. More than 1.5 billion people from that part of the world loves Cricket, so much so that they didn’t and still don’t mind spending disproportionate amount of money for Cricket over any other sport on their respective countries. The biggest irony is, none of these country’s national sport is Cricket yet it is the most popular sport in South Asian nations. Some of the poorest people on the planet lives in South Asia, yet their generosity, their love & dedication for Cricket can’t be found for any other sports. As far as I am concern, it is almost impossible to find such madness about cricket even in England, the birth place of Cricket.
Cricket is Lot more than a Sport to South Asians.
All of a sudden Cricket became a symbol of National pride, a sense of Patriotism built around this sport. A segregated, class system based society found a reason to be united once again under the same flag regardless of their color, creed & culture. Indeed, it’s a good sign but then again the negativity that grew up over the years because of Cricket is also unimaginable. Corruption, Anger, Hatred, Cultural pride over others eventually poisoned the minds of Millions if not Billions. Little investigation in online should give you ample amount of example of such bigotry. Unfortunately, it didn’t stayed at the Domestic level. Losing against the rivals, not performing well or even under performing cricketer often become the target of National hatred. Perhaps, it’s more visible in India & Pakistan than any other South Asian countries. Don’t get me wrong but I understand that it all comes from South Asian’s genuine love for Cricket. It’ just sometimes it goes little too far.
India’s top Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had already been through a lot over these issues. Only recently, after loosing against Australia on Semi-Final in World Cup Cricket 2015, the Government of India had to deploy at least 30 armed police guard to protect Dhoni’s family and his residence in Ranchi, Jharkhand. This is just one example out of thousands that already took place in India alone. Let’s not forget, Dhoni became first time father only a week before India’s 2015 World Cup tour. So, basically people can go as far as they want without even noticing one’s personal issue. Indeed Dhoni did what he thought to be the best for his Country, but where is the recognition? In India or South Asia for that matter, recognition comes only after success, effort means nothing at least that’s what I could make out of this story.
As far as the Corruption issue goes, simply go through some of the stories covered by ESPN Cricket site. There are overwhelming corruption related evidences are available and unfortunately the birth place of these stories are South Asia. This is sad as much as it is unacceptable. No doubt that popularity of Cricket in South Asia brought hope for many young cricketer, created job opportunities for many and most importantly it created a sense of Unity within the Nations. Contrary to that, it also gave birth of National hatred and Corruption on an unimaginable scale. It’s more of a bitter-sweet relationship between people and a sport. It is anything but simply a Sport.
I as a huge fan of Cricket, would love to see Cricket flourishing in South Asia but that needs to be within a sensible level. Long live healthy Sports.