Which sport is most famous in Pakistan?

Which sport is most famous in Pakistan?

Which sport is most famous in Pakistan?

In France, we have football. In New Zealand, they have rugby. In Ireland, Gaelic football. India and Pakistan have cricket, carrying millions of fans into stadiums every year. Shedding light on this little-known sport at home with two enthusiasts.

Sport little known in France with only a few thousand licensees, cricket is nevertheless the most practiced sport in the world with nearly 1.5 billion followers. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and of course India and Pakistan are countries where cricket plays a major role.

Conflicting relations and strong political differences since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, are the daily relations between these two countries. Yet a glimmer of peace regularly appears during cricket matches. Le Journal International met Haseeb Khalid and Anshuman Chutani, two expatriate players from the Rhône Cricket Club.

Le Journal International: Can you explain to us in a few words what cricket is all about?

Anshuman Chutani: Cricket is a game introduced by the British to their colonies during the period of colonization. In this game, each team has 11 players: a batsman, and the others placed around the oval field. The batsman hits the ball with the bat. Whoever is positioned at the other end of the pitch then has to run across the pitch and once they swap positions the batsmen can perform laps until a fielder returns the ball at the counters.

If the ball is out of bounds without touching the ground, that’s six points. On the other hand, if it touches the ground and goes outside, that is four points. There are many ways a drummer can be “out”. Innings end if 10 batsmen are out or when the decided number of runs is reached (1 run = 6 rounds). The team that completes the most laps wins the game.

JI: Is cricket a professional sport?

Haseeb Khalid: Yes cricket is very professional, the players are paid.

AC:There is a big structure and hierarchy of cricket in India (and all other major cricketing countries). There are leagues at the district, state, and national level. Playing for the national team is the ultimate dream. The BCCI (Board of Cricket Control of India) is the governing authority for cricket in India, although it is not affiliated with the national government.

JI: Do you have any idea how much the players are paid?

HK  : It all depends on the country and the level of the players. For example, Indian players earn between $100,000 and $200,000, add to that between $3 to $5,000 per game. English, Australian players earn almost the same. Pakistani players earn 50-60% less and Bangladeshi players earn 80-90% less than Indians. But the Indian captain (Dhoni) earns 30 million dollars (90% thanks to pubs).

MS Dhoni | Photo credits — Reuters

JI: What is the dimension of this sport in your country?

HK : Cricket is the most popular sport in Pakistan. The fans are numerous especially for the matches against India, the streets are empty on the days of the very important matches.

AC  : In India, cricket is the most popular sport. It also acts as a great unifier throughout the country, which is made up of people from different religions, backgrounds, languages.

JI: India and Pakistan are two rival countries. However, there is still a relative peace there, so much so that some speak of a “peace of cricket”. For what ?

HK: Cricket has played a very important role in the peace between the two countries. Pakistani players are friends with Indian players. They all speak the same language, so it’s easier to communicate.

AC : India and Pakistan are not at war at the moment, but there are political conflicts that exist. The “relative peace” you speak of in cricket is not unique to the sport. In times when the atmosphere between the two countries has been peaceful, there has been peace in other areas, such as the arts, music… I think society is mature enough to understand that when the situation is quiet between the two countries (even with ongoing political differences), sports and politics are kept separate. The history between these two countries makes the rivalry on the cricket pitch even more interesting.

In the past, the cricket teams of the two countries have visited each other’s matches which increases the interaction between the crowds of the two countries. But organizing these visits becomes difficult when there are tensions in the region.

JI: In your opinion, why cricket? Why is it this sport that has taken on this dimension and not another?

HK: British settlers brought cricket to India in the 19th century where the military helped popularize it. Before and after the partition, cricket was an important element in the opposition between Muslims and Hindus, a veritable weapon of war which was used more than once to settle scores on the playing fields. Hockey remains the national sport in the two countries, but cricket remains the number one passion for both peoples.

AC: To be honest, this is a difficult question for me. Even though the national sport of India is hockey and there are many other traditional sports, it is hard to say why this game has become much more popular than others. I guess the answer is similar to why football has become so popular in Europe and South America.

JI: Is the population really transcended by cricket? What is your feeling about the dimension it has taken in your country of origin?

HK: A majority of Pakistanis and Indians want peace between the two nations. The Pakistan – India game is the most important game for the two rivals. For citizens of both countries, players have no right to lose against the opposing team. Wherever they are in the world, Pakistanis and Indians stop everything to watch this match and do not hesitate to room the losers.

AC  : Being a cricket enthusiast myself, I’m glad cricket is so popular, but I also wish other sports would get more attention.

HK  : I grew up with cricket, we start playing very young. In Pakistan, 95% of young people watch and play cricket. This sport is part of our life.

Sudhir Chaudhary, one of the most famous Indian supporters | Photo Credits — Jean-Charles Bares

JI: How are the matches going in the stands?

HK: The fans behave well in the stadiums, they dance and sing. Never extended talk about the problems in cricket stadiums.

AC : Yes, a lot of people gather for cricket matches. The atmosphere in the stands is very enthusiastic, but peaceful. 

JI: And around the stadium? Is it peaceful between the different supporters, or are there regular outbursts?

HK : The supporters tease each other but most of the time, there are no outbursts, everything remains good-natured.

JI: Do you think that this mobilization is limited to sporting fervor, or is it something deeper, more political?

AC  : I cannot comment on the effect of cricket on other countries, but in India it can be said that the rise in fervor for cricket coincides with the overall economic growth since the 1990s and the rise in the landscape international. In this sense, the fervor can perhaps to some extent reflect the economic aspirations of the country.

JI: In your opinion, what effects does cricket have on the population? Is it a kind of psychological balm, an outlet?

HK : In Pakistan and India, cricket is the only way to bring together different cultures, religions, languages. This is the subject of all discussions.

AC  : I don’t think it’s an outlet, and I don’t think it’s psychological balm either. It is one of the two favorite pastimes of Indians, which are cricket and cinema. Indians are passionate about cricket, especially when the national team is playing against another country. It is also a way to unite a country that has different languages, customs, traditions and religions. In fact, I would say it’s anything but an outlet. Many of the differences that Indians have between them seem to vanish on a cricket pitch especially when India is playing against another nation.

JI: Is an economy developing around cricket, like derivative products (jerseys, caps, etc.)?

HK: Yes, but it’s more the bats and the balls that sell well: the small shops in the neighborhoods sell balls, because they are easily lost.

AC : There is a business around cricket, as there is with any other popular sport. Cricket executives make the most money from ticket sales and television rights. Revenues generated by products such as shirts, caps, etc. are relatively low.

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