March 2011 has been a busy month in India. We have had Warren Buffett and Sarah Palin make their maiden visit to this emerging economy. And now the Prime Minister of neighbor and rival Pakistan is suddenly traveling to Mohali to watch a cricket match. Pakistan is implicated in the terrorist attacks on Mumbai over Thanksgiving 2008 and the two longterm military rivals have bristled at each other since.
But this is no ordinary sports event. In many ways cricket is India’s religion and today India more than the UK is global capital of this colonial creation. For my American readers Indians are more fanatical about cricket than Canadians about hockey and Los Angelenos about basketball; Cricket is more powerful in India than baseball, football, basketbal, golf, tennis and NASCAR put together. India is co-hosting World Cup Cricket and teams from 14 countries partipated. As of today, the only “white” county remaining among the final four is New Zealand. Australa, England, Ireland, Netherlands, Canada and South Africa have fallen by the way side.
Pakistan faces India in the semi finals match on Wednesday, March 30th. Little work will get done in either country while the match is on. TV audiences far exceed the Super Bowl. The International Cricket Council has sold the rights for broadcasting of the 2011 Cricket World Cup for $2 Billion. In India radio stations and cellular phone companies will make billions in advertising and texting revenue on that one day.
Passions run high and the gentlemanly traditions of cricket have led to India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh inviting his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to attend. Gilani’s immediate acceptance has many on both sides hoping that some kind of progress in peace talks between the two countries may also result.
A domestic battle is expected in Indian tennis star Sania’s Mirza’s family this week. She supports India while her Pakistani husband, former cricket captain Shoab Malik is supporting “his team. The couple are in Florida where Mirza tweeted news about the friendly tiff. And Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday commuted the remaining jail term of an Indian Gopal Das, languishing in a jail for the past 27 years.
Takeaway: You must understand the role of cricket in India whether in business or politics, if you wish to engage seriously.