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7 Apr, 2015

11 Ways The Cricket World Cup Can Make the World a Better Place

The recent Cricket World Cup competition in Australia and New Zealand was watched by more than two billion people worldwide. Amidst the sporting frenzy and the heavy-duty competitive pressure, there was much to learn. Constructive, well-meaning competition is good for the system. Although all tournaments must end with only one winner, they are accompanied by dozens of smaller “wins” that are often missed by the naked eye. Here are just a few which I considered meaningful:

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1. If sports is about building peace and friendship, the advertisement for Fevi-Kwik by Pidilite upheld that principle best. The product is an adhesive glue to fix broken parts. The advertisement ran heavily during the India-Pakistan match. Such matches are considered war by other means between two countries divided by decades of religious, military and political conflict. To soften that rivalry, this ad used humour to convey a powerful call to unite, not divide. It was a superb example of the role businesses can play to advance peace and friendship and counterbalance the messages of conflict and mayhem conveyed by the mainstream media. If other companies follow suit, it will go a long way towards advancing global understanding. If I ever need a glue, I will buy Fevi-Kwik by Pidilite.

2. Travel & tourism is a primary fringe beneficiary of sports. Both contribute to peace. Australia and New Zealand earned a visitor windfall of thousands, especially from South Asian countries. Certainly, many new friendships have been forged, which is always good for advancing peace. I trust that Australians, too, had a chance to see Muslim visitors from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan in a positive light.

3. Technology has enhanced transparency and fairness in sports. That ensures justice, the importance of which can never be underestimated. The technological ability to review decisions and redress mistakes goes a long way towards overcoming human error and biases which in turn fuel animosity and resentment. Decisions on catches, stumpings, run-outs and LBWs are no longer the sole and final purview of the two umpires. The playing field is now well and truly level.

4. Performance indicators are critical to measurement of results. Again, technology has come to the fore. Statistics are incredibly detailed, across the entire spectrum of batting, bowling, stumping, catching and more. Virtually everything and anything can be measured, even the distance a ball was hit for six. What can be measured, can be fixed. A scientific evaluation of results allows under-performing players to be eased out, allowing others waiting in the wings to get a chance. Again, fairness prevails.

5. There is no better evidence of our globalised world than when the camera pans over the crowds. Migration has made the world truly multi-national. But a borderless world generates divided loyalties. The UAE team did not include a single UAE citizen. It was comprised entirely of expatriates, including Indians and Pakistanis. When the UAE played Pakistan, did a Pakistani living in the UAE cheer his country of residence or nationality? When India played Australia, did the Indians living in Australia cheer for India or Australia? On the flip-side, we now have Indians and Pakistanis playing together under one flag.

6. The rise of small countries was a highlight of the tournament. Both Afghanistan and Bangladesh performed spectacularly well. Afghanistan’s win over Ireland was the equivalent of them winning the World Cup. Bangladesh went all the way into the quarter-finals. Both teams put up feisty performances that were applauded worldwide. With adequate training and preparations, they will become a future force to be reckoned with.

7. Competing in such tournaments requires intensive homework and focussed teamwork. Good preparations mean bolstering your own strengths and exploiting the opposition’s weaknesses. Executing strategy involves all hands on deck. And it’s not just the players. Everyone plays a role, from the dietician to the physiotherapist. As any team is only as good as its weakest link, a single player who fails to perform because a row with his girlfriend disrupted his sleep can make all the difference between winning and losing. Teamwork matters, both on and off the field.

8. On the day of the match, the players must be energised and motivated. Their mental and physical conditions must be in sync. Arrogance, egos, superiority complexes and hot tempers are lethal. Those who perform best are those humble enough not to consider themselves a cut above the rest. While their individual physical skills are important, the matches repeatedly proved that mental equilibrium is far more important, especially in crux moments.

9. Tournaments impact on the public mood even more profoundly than movies. It’s just amazing to watch the body language reactions of the crowds, and no doubt the millions of TV spectators. Like heartbeat-monitors, the crowd hits emotional highs and lows in direct proportion to whether their team is scoring runs or losing wickets. Winning lifts spirits, losing does the opposite. Winning makes an entire nation feel good. In theory, it also inspires losers to try harder next time around.

10. Leadership matters. Indian captain M.S. Dhoni became known as Captain Cool. His facial expressions seldom betrayed any emotion (except when the team won). His management of the bowlers and fielders was exceptional. Getting Indian players to rise above their private interests can be a monumental task. It is all about managing egos, choosing words carefully and ensuring no-one feels slighted. In an interview, India’s top-performing bowler Mohammed Shami said this about Dhoni, “I like the way he handles the team and handles me as a bowler. I am always free and I have never been tense when he has captained the side.”

11. Finally, the wildcard. An abundance of prayers are offered for both teams and individual players by families, friends, supporters and entire countries. Players themselves seek divine help to bolster performance and give thanks when that help materialises. Some prostrate themselves in gratitude, others kiss a talisman around their necks, others make the sign of the Cross, still others just look heavenwards. The Australians do none of the above. Yet, they won. Sometimes, it does make me wonder.


Overall, the CWC was a magnificent spectacle of sportsmanship. But winning and losing is a superficial aspect of the tournament. The short-term thrill can yield long-term returns if the pursuit of excellence is harnessed for fulfilling a greater purpose. No doubt, budding cricketers will use it to improve their cricketing prowess. At a higher level, however, it is about surfing that wave of talent to make communities, companies and countries more just, peaceful and stable. If that materialises, the tournament will have done a far greater good than providing short-term entertainment value.