Sports is a big uniting force. This is not a new fact but known to almost all. When Pakistan played Afghanistan in Sharjah, the though usually divided nation was completely united united in their support. President Hamid Karzai was known to be curious about the score. The biggest thing however which should raise eyebrows is that even Taliban called and wished luck to the Afghanistan cricket team and have openly declared that they will continue to support cricket even after they come to power.
Remember this is the same Taliban who had banned all sports including even Kite Flying! How come they of all, are supporting cricket? Well, that is the power of sports, that it can melt even the hardliners too.
Now what would be the most vulnerable place that can cause the 2012 myth to come true? No it is not Israel. I’ll give you a hint, that area contains about a fifth of world population and has 2 of the 9 countries with nuclear weapons. Yes, you got it right, it is South Asia.
Peace and South Asia are not synonymous. At one side we have 2 biggest rivals in India and Pakistan. Then we have Afghanistan where the word peace is tipped to be knocked off the dictionary. Others too, don’t fare fare too well. The USA lead forces with all their might have been trying to bring control in the countries, but without much results.
But where bullets and bombs could do nothing, a cricket ball can do a lot. Afghanistan is a cricket mad country. USA is the second biggest cricket market, due to the influential South Asian community there. Besides USA and Afghanistan, India and Pakistan are also major players for peace in the respective countries. Without their participation, nothing will move forward an inch and the good part is that both are absolutely cricket crazy nations.
US has tried the other options at peacemaking and perhaps it is time when it should move ahead and try this route. Let the rivalries come out on the cricket pitch and not in the countryside.
US should declare the intention of a peace series to kick start the stalled peace process and go ahead and invite the teams from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to visit US and host a quadrangular series, the ‘Peace Series’. It should push the respective governments to arrange for teams to take out time for this series. Obama can surely push Sharad Pawar, Manmohan Singh, Gilani and Karzai to force the 4 boards to send their best teams.
Imagine the likes of India and Pakistan playing each other. The thought of the 2 in the peace series will create vibe all over the world. Involving Afghanistan and USA would bring a much more holistic perception. Afghans surely will be happy to be involved with the 2 best cricket nations and the nation can feel proud for their team. US Cricketers will relish the chance to play these 3 teams which they may never get otherwise. A lot of goodwill can be created in all the 3 South Asian countries for USA. Perhaps the cricket emotional South Asians would be happy to support Obama for next elections for raising the profile of their favorite sports in their country.
US, which has got a lot of negative publicity in Pakistan and Afghanistan would get many positive vibes as sports makes people forget everything else. With such a positive start then it can be followed by more diplomatic initiatives. Cricket is the ice breaker that US currently needs.
Lastly the ICC should also encourage such a move as
1. Cricket will make all the right moves in it’s strategic market of USA
2. It can generate lot of revenues for ICC if it decides to organize it
3. ICC will get good publicity for the promotion of the game
At present there is no such talk, but if US was to open its eyes, it is one of the significant ways to get all the moves right with just one sports tournament. I hope that some diplomat in US will look outside for ideas and make peace return to a fifth of world population.
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