Updated: 4 days ago
“The sun is rising on a nation incredibly vibrant and culturally rich. As the sights of the sporting world turn to one of its greatest stages, India welcomes us to join in with an exhilarating mix of heritage, diversity, expression, passion and energy.”
Image Credits- gettyimages
These words by arguably one of the best cricket commentators in the world resonate deeply with the massive Indian fandom. In a country where cricket is the people’s unofficial religion and where cricketers are sacredly revered and worshipped, the return of the iconic men’s cricket world cup to the home soil after twelve long years creates a magical euphoria. From the sea of blue that fills every stadium in an India match to the virtual festive celebrations upon each victory, the world cup is a paramount uniting force in India. However, the impact of the tournament is not merely confined to the social boundary but moves much beyond to create a cultural, economic and political extravaganza.
The World Cup : A Cultural Phenomenon
Throughout the world cup season , as the clock strikes two in the afternoon, friends and families gather and glue themselves to the television screens. From villages and small towns to the urban market places and high rise buildings, the world cup forges social bonding among fans who share a collective passion. It transcends the divides created by race and religion, caste and class and brings a wide spectrum of people together. This very togetherness enhances a sense of national pride amongst the masses who leave behind all divisions and act inclusively as one entity.
Sports and fashion are closely intertwined and the World Cup proves this the best. Fans from across the globe come out in large numbers- styling the jerseys of their favourite teams. Even in India, from the standard blue jersey with gold letterings to the orange sleeved one with navy blue, these have been turned into popular trends.
Furthermore, the influence of the magnum opus event is greatly evident in Indian music and films. A carnatic world cup anthem - “ Cricket Endraal Bharatham “ , composed by renowned music stalwarts from Chennai is an exquisite example of fusing together the love for cricket and the sagas of folk music. Not surprisingly, the official announcement of the championship witnessed bollywood superstar Ranveer Singh dancing to the tune of “Dil Jashn Bole” - drawing both praise and condemnation from the ever passionate cricketing cult of India. While some critiqued it for failing to evoke enthusiasm amongst the fans and compared it to previous editions, others appreciated the anthem as a piece of creativity. The widespread craze associated with Indian films like ‘83 and the admiration they garner from an audience that adores the amalgamation of cricket and bollywood reflect the larger cultural impressions of the world cup. Many times, people adopt the popular language of players playing the world cup in their everyday parlance. The phrase- “Howzzat” that cricketers often use to appeal to the umpire can now be easily heard by fans who imitate it in their daily lives. The World Cup is indeed a cultural phenomenon resulting from the coalescence of quirky fashion, enchanting music, popular language and fascinating cinema.
A Boost To The Economy
The cricket-crazy nation in its role as the host of the tournament attracts sports enthusiasts from around the world - contributing significantly to the tourism and hospitality industries. The demand for flights between the host cities, hotel accommodations, restaurants and transportation has skyrocketed in the world cup season. Glitzy watch-parties organised in bars, eateries and other venues for entertainment lead to a greater customer footfall. Economists have thus predicted a boost of approximately $2.6 billion to the Indian economy.
Additionally, the infrastructural enhancements in the ten designated stadiums across India as well as the upgradation in transportation networks and tourist spots highlight the financial realm of the world cup. An embellishment to the scenario is that it concurs with the grand festive season in India - calling for the greatest celebrations yet witnessed in an international tournament. The extensive global media coverage establishes a popular image of the country in foreign lands and amplifies its position as the perfect destination for monumental sports events.
A variety of brands view the world cup as a catalyst to their growth as crafty advertisements and indelible jingles influence consumer sentiments greatly. The innovative cricket campaign by Pepsi astutely integrated its brand ethos with the spirit of cricket in 2011 - well encapsulated in the popular tagline - “Change the Game”. The current edition is projected to take the game to new heights as industry stalwarts like PhonePe, Coca Cola, Emirates et al have collaborated with Disney Star in sponsorships worth billions of dollars. The escalated sales of tickets and hotels will add to the government revenue in the form of taxes. Nonetheless, economists speculate that a tremendous price hike may nudge inflation in the Indian economy by moderate rates. The essence however remains that the economic prospects present a promising picture for India as it grabs the outstanding opportunity to reap advantage from the economic impact of the World Cup.
Politics Beyond The Pitch
Mahesh Langa, a renowned journalist for the Hindu newspaper wittingly remarked - “Cricket is a cocktail of money, power and influence” and very rightly so. The association of politics with cricket has always been an implicit reality which is quite evident in arguably the most historic World Cup being played on India’s home soil. The quadrennial tournament commenced with a match at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, very recently named after the Prime Minister - which has been politically popularised as India’s emerging cricket capital.
The highlight of the tournament’s political dimension is that it is being organised a few months before the country witnesses its next general elections. The Prime Minister’s speculated presence in the final of the tournament has been perceived by many as a calculated political move as he plans to seat himself in the spotlight. A stellar victory for India in the noteworthy tournament may be demonstrated as a feather in the ruling party’s cap. Additionally, the choice of host stadiums has also been altered from the previous editions as some major metro cities have been missed out - leaving the state organising committees disappointed. A notable argument in this regard is that most of the selected venues are native places of office bearers.
An incident, much political in nature, took place during the clash of the arch rivals - India & Pakistan when a Pakistani player - Muhammad Rizwan was taunted by an Indian crowd with chants of “Jai Shri Ram”. Politicians from opponent parties were quick enough to engage in a war of words on social media and targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party for “reducing the audience to heckle Pakistani players ”. A nation where people breathe cricket, it is certain for power wielders to politicise the game. The pomp and splendour surrounding the world cup makes the world cup much more than a mere sporting spectacle.
A Sacred Ground For Diplomacy
It was in late March of the year 2011 when India and Pakistan took to each other in the world cup field. The atmosphere was intense but the then Prime Minister of India capitalised on the occasion and invited his Pakistani counterpart to witness the match in Mohali. This was a deeply diplomatic step to ease the strained relations between the two rivals post the 2008 Mumbai attacks. This particular instance epitomised the concept of cricket diplomacy wherein the sport is used as a political device to either strengthen or aggravate relations between cricketing countries. It would be fallacious to confine this strand of diplomacy to India and Pakistan alone as different parts of history have witnessed multiple countries getting involved in it in some way or the other. However, the very salience of the relationship between the two rival countries draws our focus to them.
Twelve years down the line, diplomacy remains intact. The 2023 world cup is the first time in seven years when Pakistan has set its foot on our Indian soil. The players were warmly welcomed in a grand reception and the Pakistan skipper was evidently overwhelmed by the love. There were chants of “Babar, Babar” on the streets of Hyderabad - leaving many people on both sides of the border in disbelief. However, the team’s arrival in India after a long hiatus is perceived as a success in bilateral relations.
Pakistan’s participation in the tournament became a dubious issue after serious gunfights in South Kashmir emerged in mid September. The Indian visas were issued to the Pakistan team only hours before their scheduled travel but many journalists and fans did not receive the visas at all. It was a one of its kind India-Pakistan world cup clash when the stadium had almost negligible sign of green. Furthermore, the filing of formal complaints by the Pakistan Cricket Board in regard to delayed visas and inappropriate behaviour by the crowd is a definite setback. Although state-to-state diplomacy seems to be losing its charm by the day, there has been an evident rise in the “people-to-people” relations. The heartwarming gesture by the Pakistani captain of presenting a signed jersey to the head of the Hyderabad ground staff and calling his team to get clicked with them bears testimony to the fact.
Image Credits- Asia Society
The impact of the cricket World Cup in a cricket-worshipping nation is multi-dimensional. It does not only invigorate a spirit of national pride but also fosters economic growth and integrates politics within its layers. It is a strong unifying force that seeks to nurture the economy whilst engaging with the political and also laying a space for diplomacy. India’s position as the sole host for the grand tournament brings it under a global spotlight as it consolidates its image as a rising power. The World Cup 2023 is bound to leave a lasting legacy in India and will add to the popular memory of the people.
By: Tanvi Srivastava
Tanvi is a first year student enrolled in the department of Political Science at Hindu College. \