Australia and India build ties through cricket in The Sydney Morning Herald
Shaun Star, Co-founder and Chair of the Australia India Youth Dialogue, published an opinion piece “Australia and India build ties through cricket” in The Sydney Morning Herald on 25 March 2015. A version of this article was also published in the Hindustan Times.
Competitive, colourful and sometimes even controversial: there is something about an Australia versus India contest in cricket.
As we approach what will undoubtedly be a thrilling world cup semi-final, two nations are preparing themselves for what we all hope will be a match of the ages. Team Australia have a burning desire to raise the cup on home soil, while Team India still have two hands tightly grasping the piece of silverware that they so gallantly fought for and won four years ago at home.
As if scripted, exactly two months before the semi-final, on January 26, 2015, India commemorated Republic Day and Australians celebrated Australia Day. Thousands gathered at the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch Australia battle India on the cricket field on this significant day. On this occasion, the match was abandoned due to bad weather. Now, two months later, the same teams meet with much more at stake – a place in the World Cup final on the line.
It is important to appreciate that cricket has for many years been the lifeblood of the Australia-India relationship. Historically, it has often been said that the Australia-India relationship is based on three things: cricket, Commonwealth and curry. While the recent successive visits by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Australia highlight that our national interests have converged in other areas, cricket still remains an enviable bond that Australia and India share.
It is therefore no surprise that the two greatest cricketers of all time hail from Australia and India. Donald Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar, both shared a mutual respect for each other and an appreciation of the importance of cricket, on and off the field. Indeed, as a symbol of how Tendulkar has served the Australia-India relationship by promoting goodwill, friendship and sportsmanship through the sport of cricket, he was recently conferred Australia’s highest honour, the Order of Australia by the Prime Minister of Australia.
Delivering the Bradman oration in December 2011, Indian cricket great, Rahul Dravid, said: “The people of both our countries are often told that cricket is the one thing that brings Indians and Australia together.”
As an Australian living in India, I can appreciate this sentiment. Often, out of curiosity, I will be asked by a stranger on the street or an auto-rickshaw driver “Which country?”, to which I respond “Australia”. Following this short exchange, the stranger will almost instinctively rattle off a few familiar names: “Ricky Ponting”, “Michael Clarke” and “Adam Gilchrist”. Despite my limited Hindi and their limited English, we inevitably manage to hold an engaging conversation on cricket. Cricket is a universal language.
Given the importance of India’s growing diaspora in Australia (which now comprises half a million people), our governments regularly extol the virtues of people-to-people links as a means of improving the Australia India relationship. Sports, culture and the arts are important facets of this relationship. The widespread popularity of shows such as Master Chef Australia in India, the appreciation of Indian cuisine in Australia and, of course, our shared love for sport, especially cricket, are all catalysts for stronger people-to-people ties in the relationship.
In the interest of promoting cricket as a mechanism for promoting the Australia-India relationship, Cricket Australia hosted 30 young leaders from Australia and India, immediately prior to the 26 January ODI between Australia and India in Sydney, to kick off the Australia India Youth Dialogue 2015. As part of proceedings, the delegates heard from a panel of experts about the role of sport in diplomacy. The panel was comprised of cricketing great Doug Walters, Greg “Mo” Matthews, AIYD delegate and former vice-captain of the Australian Women’s Cricket team Lisa Sthalekar and Gurinder Sandhu, the first male cricketer of Indian ancestry to represent Australia in an international tournament. It was clear hearing from these cricketing greats that cricket is a language that can and does bridge cultural barriers and the Australia-India relationship is all the healthier because of it.
While the Australia-India relationship is so much more than just cricket, on the eve of this historic semi-final we should reflect on the importance that cricket continues to play on building ties between our two great nations. While there is only one place in the World Cup final for either Australia or India, I hope that the relationship between Australia and India will continue to be rewarded by the closely contested, competitive and colourful brand of cricket that our nations play.
During his Bradman oration, Dravid said that “whenever India and Australia meet, there is expectation and anticipation – … players on both sides will want to deliver their best”. The World Cup semi-final will be no exception. May the best team win.
Shaun Star (Twitter: @shaunjstar) is the chairman and co-founder of the Australia India Youth Dialogue. He is an Australian qualified lawyer and works as a consultant at Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co. in New Delhi. Star is the editor of a forthcoming book which compares the Indian and Australian legal systems.
This article was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 25 March 2015.For the original article, please visit http://www.smh.com.au/comment/australia-and-india-build-ties-through-cricket-20150325-1m72iw.html.