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Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Do South Asians take cricket too seriously?
India is celebrating its Test performance after defeating the international champions Australia. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are downcast after their recent defeats.
Nothing arouses so much emotion in South Asia as the game of cricket.
But is the sport a fuss about nothing, just "flannelled fools" at the wicket? And why is it so closely tied to national pride?
Shouldn't national identity be based on weightier standards? Or is sport at this level symbolic of more than just the game itself? Tell us what you think.
This Talking Point is now closed. Read your comments below.
Kevin Fernandes, Canada
Vyom Akhil Sambalpur, India
The enthusiasm and emotion
cricket evokes in SE Asia is
quite comparable to the emotions
football evokes here.
In no other places have people committed suicide if their country loses a sports game! Cricket, sadly , has claimed the lives of not only people but also has banned the existence of other sports.
Cricket is a sport which brings together people of different ethnicity. It's a uniting force in South-Asia which has, of late, seen a lot of political tension. Why not glorify it if it helps lifting the spirits of millions of people?
It is the right of every free citizen to feel elated or downcast after a national game. There has been no political or social upheaval based on cricket outcomes. So, where is the problem of South Asians taking cricket seriously?
Indians, though happy
to see their country
win, are fair minded.
How else can you
explain the splendid
letter sent by a fan
from Lucknow which
was read out by the
Archbishop in the
memorial service for
the greatest player
ever to be born -
English and cricket
are the legacy of British rule apart from parliamentary democracy about which we Indians are really proud of!
The game is enjoyed by the intelligentsia as well as common folks and is a strong binding force.
Nothing turns people's minds away from politics more than cricket does, especially so in South Asia. It is definitely more interesting.
But few things hurt more than politics in cricket.
It is better that people of the sub-continent have got refuge in sport. In a region where rulers are traditionally war mongers and where religious hatred prevails upon compassion, for the masses, sport is a refuge. It is better to think about Tendulkar than to think about Agni and Tirshol.
Hell with dirty politics, long live sports!
I totally agree with Richard, and I believe that there is nothing special with it. I mean at least the authorities don't have to call the police to arrest hundreds in every match.
True. Cricket is considered a religion in South Asia, with more than a billion people following it. It's really not surprising, because, what cricket is to South Asia, is what the NBA is to the US and what football is to South America and Europe.
Ram Mohan Maganti, USA
I am from Bangladesh where people seldom have the opportunity to be proud of their country due to poor economy and bitter political situation. But I have seen wildest jubilation among the common people at events like winning the ICC trophy or beating Pakistan in the world cup. It seemed to me that they did not celebrate a mere game winning; they wanted to express their intense desire to be always proud of their country. Cricket can be used as a symbol of our national integrity.
Competition always brings excitement and pride.
Let the competition be on a wicket, on a hockey field, or on a battle field in a third remote left/right nation! Cricket is a harmless competition! Let us accept reality. Cricket is the game where India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka excelled, and still dominate.
They are still top teams in the game. Wouldn't it command the pride.
It's time the English realise that people from the sub continent can play cricket. And also the English players should realise that the colonial master servant relationship is no more and we are all equal.
Disgraceful behaviour of the English cricketers was not picked up by the press (except Ian Botham). Also the match refs let the English players off the hook. Cricket is a gentleman's game and sadly we can not see any these days.
Of course we take cricket seriously like people in the UK take football seriously. To us (Indians) cricket is like a religion!
I am of the view that the popularity of cricket in
South Asia is a good thing.
With nearly one sixth of the world's population lodged there it is great that there is so much support for the sport.
It helps in a big way to make cricket a 'sport' rather than a village green past time that it once was.
On the downside of things the money that has invaded every aspect of the game is of concern - but I guess cricket will have to grow up and deal with like all other sports.
There is no question that cricket is associated with National Pride, especially amongst expats (even naturalized ones) within the US. There is a certain joy associated with staying up the entire night watching (or listening to) a good cricket game here in the US. None of the traditional American sports can compare ... and it's great fun to explain why one was up all night to someone who just doesn't get it.
Makes the decision by a certain country to politicize their participation and decline to play even to benefit humanitarian causes
quite irritating. India should be ashamed of themselves!
Many cricket involvers have become rich and famous in cricketing, since a great amount of money is involved in any international game. In Sri Lanka, our people don't take it that seriously in their personnel lives except those who are involved. But it is a great deal of entertaining. This was the only game we were kept on the top of the world. Obviously we love cricket in that sense. But there is neither hard attachments no detachments to cricketers or supporters. If a cricketer does any wrongful act, our people don't hesitate to condemn them. So it is not that serious in our lives.
Thushanga De Silva, Sri Lanka
It has been a symbol of triumph over colonial powers. Whenever India defeats the UK and other western nations, I feel proud of my boys as it shows a great pride and is a kind of revenge for the past. Cricket has become part and parcel of daily life in South Asia. But we should not neglect other sports. In India we have sports persons like Paes, Anand, Bhupathi, Malleswari and of late Gopichand, so we have to give enough support to other sports as well.
Cricket fever has gripped people of all ages. It is very obvious from the fact that the celebrations continue even after the match fixing exposure. That scandal hurt a whole country of a billion people.
I think it is more due to a feel-good factor than due to genuine interest in cricket. When India starts losing cricket matches, then the interest in the sport declines. Again this is human nature to like something that one wins in. For example while India used to win gold medals in Olympic hockey, there was a lot of interest in hockey. Now the interest has declined because India hasn't won any Olympic hockey gold medals recently. Similarly, after V. Anand became India's first grandmaster and started winning a lot of medals abroad, more and more Indians started learning chess.
I am a minority in the sense that I believe that South Asians do take cricket a little too seriously. It is not a game that is in any way indigenous to the region. To speak bluntly, it is a white, elitist game that South Asians embraced in order to subconsciously elevate themselves in the minds of their colonial masters. The legacy of that still lives on.
People must have something to feel proud of as a nation. In South Asia where corruption and various forms of bigotry are rife, cricket offers a means of participating on the world stage with the "big guys". In short, it's a form of escapism for the masses. They'd be better off facing reality and venting their spleen on those largely responsible for their misery - namely politicians and religious bigots (of all denominations).
Cricket is part of everybody's life in India. Any country in the present situation cannot wage a war and win, but the same satisfaction of winning a war is achieved through sports. We can beat Pakistan, Australia and any other country we wish to. It gives immense satisfaction to everyone who is supporting the winning team especially if it is with our archrival, Pakistan. We don't want to lose the war (match) at any cost.
Irfan Jaffry, Germany
What kind of idiotic topic is this to debate about? It is pointless and can easily be countered by saying, do the British take football too seriously - especially the Geordie fans? Sports are important no matter where you go - different sports dominate different regions.
South Asians are more emotional in character. One can experience it in South Asian films. Poor performance in football has also boosted the feelings for cricket. Huge population, high unemployment and family support for educational and day-to-day expenses allow young people to devote time to such a lengthy game. Gradually they become part of the process and start feeling all the joys and sorrows of cricket as their own.
I just can't think of any logical reason why as a nation we Indians take cricket so seriously. Not only are illiterates crazy over the game - as is the case with politics - but the educated elite also, unfortunately, are equally crazy. For a nation devoid of anything to cheer about even in sports, an isolated win in cricket against Australia is surely something to rejoice about. Similarly, for a country where indolence is not considered shameful, wasting precious time watching just moments of excitement in an otherwise dreary game is considered perfectly all right by any standard.
Even Indian expatriates in various continents are mad after cricket. Recently, we had a gathering of Indians at Kigali in Rwanda and some of them were seriously discussing the recent cricket match between India and Australia. Soon it became a debate in which many took part. My nephew is just 7 years old and his knowledge of cricket is tremendous; he knows the names of all the cricketers in the world and their records. At times various state governments in India declare public holidays in view of some cricket finals. This makes people lazier. Another reason why the game is popular in India is that the game is played the whole day and it helps people escape from reality.
Waj Syed, US
Not all South-Asians take cricket too seriously. It is popular only among the non oriental South Asians, especially Indo-Arian and Indo-Dravidian, whose regions were unified by British direct rule. So it is not a surprise that the game is popular among these ethnic groups. In the predominantly oriental present-day north-eastern region of India - which was not under the direct rule of Britain - the game is not popular at all.
Nothing turns people's minds away from politics more than cricket, especially in South Asia. It is definitely more interesting. But few things hurt more than politics in cricket.
It is better that people of the sub-continent can take refuge in sport. In a region where rulers are traditional warmongers and where religious hatred prevails over compassion, for the masses sport is a refuge. It is better to think about Tendulkar than to think about Agni and Tirshol. To Hell with dirty politics, long live Sports!
Mohammed Abdul Munim, Bangladesh
Cricket is considered a religion in South Asia, with more than an billion people following it. It's really not surprising, because what cricket is to South Asia, NBA is to the US and football is to South America and Europe.
I would like to object to Kevin's idea that there is no national pride. It is very fascinating to know that a person who might never have set foot in a country that is considered a mother of all civilisations, makes up his mind and makes such a statement. At least we have a sport that we excel at all over the world and produce world class players. Definitely Indians would be proud of such things.
Competition always brings excitement and pride. Cricket is harmless competition! Let us accept reality. Cricket is the game where India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka excel, and still dominate. They are still top teams in the game. Wouldn't that command pride?
It's time the English realise that people from the Indian subcontinent can play cricket. Also the English players should realise that the colonial master-servant relationship is no more and we are all equal. The disgraceful behaviour of the English cricketers was not picked up by the press (except Ian Botham). Also the match refs let the English players off the hook. Cricket is a gentleman's game and sadly, no, we can not see any these days.
Of course we take cricket seriously like people in the UK take football seriously and South Americans take soccer seriously. To us (Indians) cricket is like a RELIGION!
There is no question that cricket is associated with national pride, especially amongst expats (even naturalised ones) within the US. There is a certain joy associated with staying up the entire night watching (or listening to) a good cricket game here in the US. None of the traditional American sports can compare...and it's great fun to explain why one was up all night to someone who just doesn't get it. It makes the decision by a certain country to politicise their participation and decline to play even to benefit humanitarian causes quite irritating. India should be ashamed of itself!
Cricket has become part of many people's lives. If India wins they think they have personally won.
I don't think the deep passion for cricket is any worse than the passion held elsewhere for football across the world or for baseball in the US. The legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankley once said that football was not a matter of life and death, "it's much more important than that!" It's the same across the world. People take their sport seriously and those who aren't into that sport sit back and wonder what they are getting so het up about.
In a region where there is so much ethnic diversity and where politicians have failed to instil in people a sense of national pride, cricket among other sports has been able to fill that void for a national identity, transcending social and ethnic barriers.
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