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|Globalization -- it's not cricket!|
|Tuesday, 09 June 2009 02:17|
After successfully hosting the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Cricket South Africa chief Gerald Majola said that the concept has the potential to globalize the game for the first time. "This should enable the longer forms of cricket to prosper, but only if they are made to be publicly attractive in the 21st century and beyond," Majola said.
The IPL had to be moved from India to South Africa at a short notice because of security concerns related to India’s general elections. While the tournament was won by Deccan Chargers, with the Bangalore Royal Challengers being runners-up, many cricket stars from Australia, England, South Africa and the West Indies participated in the event.
The IPL is a sort of “MacCricket” using the “Twenty20” concept. Each team has a single innings, batting for a maximum of 20 overs. The game is all over in about three and half hours, an ideal and attractive format for television. The Twenty20 game is a far cry from traditional “Test matches” which can last up to five days.
Cricket used to be one of the least globalized sports. English by origin, cricket was essentially played by countries of the British Commonwealth, namely Australia, Britain, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. It was considered by many to be rather technical, obscure and boring. A game for the purists.
But cricket, like most things, could not escape modernisation and commercialisation. And so a one-day version of the game was developed, and made the game more entertaining and accessible, and attractive to other countries. It also made it possible to hold a World Cup, something which would be impossible with 5-day matches.
The most recent edition of the World Cup included the participation of countries like Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland, with Ireland making it through to the final Super 8 stage of the competition.
Further evidence of the progressive globalization of cricket can be seen in the arrival of a national team from Afganistan. While cricket has been played in Afganistan since the 19th century, it is only in the past decade that a nation team formed, thanks to the enthusiasm of return refugees who had caught the cricket bug in Pakistan. Afganistan recently just missed out on qualifying for the next Cricket World Cup.
A Twenty20 cricket World Cup is underway right now. And cricket minnows like Ireland and the Netherlands are winning games, partly thanks to the efforts Australian nationals who could not make it into their own national side. Trent Johnston and Dirk Nannes, though born in Australia, were able to pull out of their pockets Irish and Dutch passports thanks to their parents.
The globalization of cricket was given perhaps is biggest boost by the Academy award winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire – a film based on a slum dweller’s improbable winning of a television quiz show. The final question for winning the prize, and the subject of incredible suspense, was which cricket batsman had scored the highest number of first class centuries.
Now, thanks to this wonderful but violent movie, the whole world knows that it was Jack Hobbs. And what’s more, the whole world (even American!) knows that cricket exists.
What hope is there for global cricket to become a force for prosperity, peace, stability and security the world over. Certainly, many people are making lots of money, and many more people are enjoying the game. On the Indian sub-continent, while some poorer people do make it through to the national side, cricket is basically monopolized by the elite.
Cricket’s contribution to peace is also questionable. Like all sports, it can be a vent for nationalistic feelings, but it can also stoke up nationalism. And as we saw in the recent incident involving Sri Lankan cricketers in Pakistan, cricket players can also become targets for terrorists.
In short, we have to conclude that “It's Not Cricket”!