The subcontinent’s love affair with cricket, how it all started

love of cricket in bangladesh

Whatever your belief in cricket maybe, one thing is for certain that is that cricket lives in the blood of all South Asians, it is what football is to South Americans!

Cricket is known world over as a “gentleman’s game”, that said it is known by many other titles too some of which include “a gentleman’s game, played by hooligans” or “the game of gods” and one that stands out is the reference by Gorge Bernard Shaw, who said “Cricket is game played by 11 fools and watched by 11,000 fools”.

Whatever your belief in cricket maybe, one thing is for certain that is that cricket lives in the blood of all South Asians, it is what football is to South Americans!

The cricket craze in this subcontinent is outrageously wild, it’s pretty much a religion, where people idolize and worship their cricketing heroes.  Although the sport was initially introduced by the British to Asia, it has definitely become more popular here than in England. All you have to do is wander down any street corner or public playground on the weekend and you are sure to see the neighborhood team battle it out for bragging rights!

Globally it is known as the second most popular sport, battling it out with Rugby for that spot. Any cricketing tournament between Bangladesh and India is a huge hit with tickets being sold out like hot cakes. A World Cup Cricket official Janelle Penny said that 90% of tickets between the two cricketing rivals is sure to be a sell out well ahead of the game.

It has not only become a religion in the Subcontinent it has also become a huge money spinner. With the introduction of much shorter versions of the game more sponsors are maximizing on branding opportunities. Recently there was a massive demand by global digital giants to get in on the action of the Indian Premier League.

One might wonder how the game of cricket became so popular in the subcontinent; considering it really isn’t the national sport of Bangladesh (kabaddi), India (hockey), Pakistan (hockey) or Sri Lanka (netball).  But for some reason, the national sports of these countries do not have the same effect cricket does.

Could this love for cricket be due to the lack of international recognition for the national teams in their said national sport or as it was quoted in a BBC article in 2006 “Fortunes of the Indian and other South Asian cricket teams encapsulate the story of post-colonial South Asia in microcosm – tapestries permanently being woven around the performance of 11 men who carry on their shoulders the demands of more than a billion people.” It really couldn’t have been said more beautifully, we the people that live in the subcontinent put our pride and honour on the shoulders of our crickets to make a name for our country in the international area.

All four countries: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan, have the test playing status from the ICC and with absolute pride, we can say three of them have lifted the prestigious Cricket World Cup.

Because of the general publics love for the game, cricket has had close ties with Bollywood, with several starlets having their share of love affairs with cricketing stars, example of controversial relationships include: Sharmila Tagore who perused a relationship and had eventually tied the knot to Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi; the Indian’s Mohammad Azharuddin married and later divorced Sangeeta Bijlani; The people hitting the news these days is Virat Kohli who is in a relationship with Anuska Sharma.

It seems the controversy of cricket and love doesn’t end in Bollywood. In Dhallywood Naznin Akter Happy and Rubel Hossain’s love affair caused a lot of controversies, then there is Mr. Smooth himself Imran Khan of Pakistan, who has married British socialite Jemima Goldsmith and is under constant scrutiny for his casanova lifestyle.

A lot of Indian movies have been made on cricket, some notable ones are Lagaan, Iqbal, Jannat. Some more had been made on the lives of the cricketers, like Azhar and most recently, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story.

There are many literary pieces on cricketers too, like Pundits from Pakistan by Rahul Bhattacharya, A Corner of a Foreign Field by Ramachandra Guha, Rahul Dravid:Timeless Steel by Sambit Bal, Chinaman by Shehan Karunathilaka.

The cricketers themselves have also sworn by the power of the pen.  Controversially Yours by Shoaib Akhtar, All Round View, by Imran Khan, The Test of My Life was co-authored by Yuvraj Singh are some of the examples only.

All these factors, have largely affected the youth of South Asia. Cricket also brings a sense of unity and nationalism amongst the citizens.  Cricket matches are religiously watched by spectators all over this sub-continent. The spectators, thus, idolize and idealize the cricketers, making them their heartthrob, role models, and youth icons.

All in all South Asians love cricket because it gives us a sense of pride in our nation and makes us believe anything is possible because of the 11 men that stand on the field for our nation.

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