[FOUNTAIN]China’s cricket campaignRecently, a picture of U.S. President George W. Bush posing with a cricket bat in hand during visits to India and Pakistan was shown throughout the world. The pose is likely to have been staged to show intimacy with the people there as cricket is the national sport in those countries.
To President Bush, cricket might not have been such a familiar sport. It is a regional sport popular only in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan, which had close relationships with Britain in the past.
Cricket could be referred to as a cousin of baseball as both have eleven players. However unlike baseball, it sometimes takes several days for a game to finish since the teams change offense and defense when 10 batsmen are out. In international games, there is a “one-day game” that limits the play to a day.
Since these are the rules of the game, it is not easy to broadcast the game or watch it. For this reason, it has difficulties in spreading in the international world. The Cricket World Cup has been held since 1975, but only 18 countries have ever participated.
In India and Pakistan, however, cricket’s popularity is huge. Former Pakistan team captain Imran Khan, who led his team to win the Cricket World Cup in 1992, became one of the most influential political figures in the country. When he re-opened a charitable cancer hospital in Lahore in 1994, donations arrived from all parts of Pakistan. Even Princess Diana of the United Kingdom flew in from afar to mark the opening of the hospital.
In India, cricket players are honored as national stars. When there is a match against its rival Pakistan, the whole country is wild with enthusiasm. It would be easy to compare to the scene when Korea has a baseball or soccer match against Japan.
It has been reported that China has a long-term plan to make cricket its national sport. Although it is an unfamiliar sport in China, the country plans to foster the game for use in sports diplomacy. China has concluded that to have an intimate relationship with India, a major competitor in world economics, cricket is essential.
Two years ago, China joined the International Cricket Council. It has set the goal of having more than 720 cricket teams by 2009. Moreover, it has high ambitions to advance to the final rounds of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Although the country has its diplomatic needs and abundant human resources, its drive is just enormous. It seems like Korea’s trademark, “Can Do Spirit,” is being expanded and reproduced in China. Korea is a neighbor of a country with massive ambitions.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.