Cricket Diplomacy
on Cowboys and Indians (India), 14/Apr/2011 06:07, 34 days ago
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Normal0falsefalsefalseMicrosoftInternetExplorer4st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;}Late in the evening of Saturday 2ndApril at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni thumped the final ball of the World Cup for six to clinch a victory that brought India’s billion people together in fist-pumping celebration.That sudden rush of collective joy may have brought them together, but the moment soon passed.As Manu Joseph, the editor of India’s ‘Open’ magazine,wrote in the New York Times:“Cricket is the only manmade phenomenon that connects the nation’s upper classes with its vast masses. There is absolutely nothing else.”Dhoni himself provides a neat encapsulation of India’s two worlds. In return for leading India to success in a World Cup for the first time in 28 years he received a bonus of 20m rupees (£286,000) from the chief minister of Delhi on top of the 10m rupees (£143,000) that each player received from the Indian cricketing authorities. Both figures aredwarfed by the amount he will now command for commercial endorsements – estimated at around £2 million each – and believe me, he does a lot of adverts, mainly for cars, motor oil and expensive whiskey.Meanwhile in the other India, politicians in Uttarakhand jumped on the Dhoni bandwagon to announce that to honour the great man, they would finally get around to building a road to Lwali, the tiny village where the Indian captain’s father grew up.The plan was greeted with skepticism.“We have heard that there will be [a] road for Lwali,”said Dhoni’s uncle Dhanpat Singh Dhoni.“But I am not impressed as many such announcements come to nothing.” It wouldn’t be the first time an Indian politician has tried to hijack a celebration for publicity and then quietly reneged on their promises.It wasn’t just local politicians seizing the opportunity presented by the goodwill around the World Cup.In what was dubbed“cricket diplomacy”,the semi-final between India and Pakistan saw IndianPrime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh invite his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani to come to India and watch the game alongside him. Gilani agreed, and it became the first time he had visited the country since the 2008Mumbai attacks– the investigation of which is still very much an issue of contention between the two countries. Despite their fierce rivalry the match highlighted how much they have in common. TheUS Ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer,described the talksas:“A very successful dialogue,” and added that from: “Cricket diplomacy we have real substance, engagement on issues which are critical and people-to-people ties.”There are many different Indias, but cricket holds a special place in each of them: whether you’re in the grounds of an expensive private school or a rural field with twigs for makeshift stumps, or whether you’re a VIP at Eden Gardens in Kolkata or huddled round a flickering television set, sport has a way of levelling things, if only temporarily. There’s a sense of confidence and ambition to India that their cricket team seems to embody, and while there’s still a long way to go until we see social justice on India’s streets, the knowledge that the universally-adored record-breaking batsman Sachin Tendulkar finally has his hands on the World Cup is just enough justice to bringa smile to the face of India’s cricket fans.