Passion for Sports is increasing in the Indian sub-continent

Dr Srimal Fernando South Asia Correspondent

4 April 2012

Sport is a passion in South Asia. The fantastic sporting events in the region attract thousands of passionate spectators. The professionally talented players are often treated like national "heroes." in the Indian sub-continent. Among the well liked games in the region, Cricket is by far the most popular participatory sport that is enjoyed by over one billion population in the sub-continent. Apart from cricket, the other most accepted sport in the region is football. Of the South Asian countries India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are the countries having most commanding cricket teams in the region. The ever growing popularity of the game in the sub-continent has vivid and interesting histories in the world of sports.

Cricket was brought to the South Asian region in 18th-century by British colonial rulers. When the sport enjoyed a considerable popularity in the sub-continent the first cricket club came in to existence in the Indian city of Calcutta in 1792. Its world renowned Eden Garden cricket stadium was built in1864 and was one of the early cricket stadiums to be built in the world. This stadium can provide accommodation to more than one hundred thousand spectators. In June 1932, India made its international debut in cricket at Lords as the sixth test playing nation in the world.

Cricket is not simply a sporting event in India; it is a sign of national unity and pride. Tens of thousands of fans some times take to the streets in celebration and people mob their heroes when the Indian cricket team plays an international match. In 1983 Prudential World cricket cup victory changed the way the world looked at India and Indian cricket. Last years trump against Sri Lanka at Cricket World Cup finals has brought the Indian cricketers fame and glory in the national and international arena. India is the third team in the world to have won the World cup twice. Legendary cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and M.S Dhoni has succeeded in bringing India to the fore front of the International cricket. In India controlling body for cricket is the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Pakistan was given test match status in 1952. Its first test match was played in October 1952 in Delhi, India. It was led by Skipper Abdul Kardar of Pakistan. After decades of playing the sensational last-ball victory by the brilliant Pakistanis at the 1986 Australasia Cup played in Sharjah against arch-rivals India was shock to the entire cricketing world. Skipper Imran Khan joined the elite captains after Pakistanis’ first ever World Cup victory in Cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG) in 1992. Captain Imran Khan and his men will remember for rest of their lives holding the most valuable trophy in the world cricket after the 1992 victory against England in Australia. Some of the Pakistani greats veterans like Javed Mianded , Wasim Akram , Waqar Younis ,Saeed Anwar  and Inzamam-ul – Haq dominated the  game for many years.

Sri Lanka cricket team played their first One Day International (ODI) in 1975. The country had its first ever cricket World Cup victory against India in 1979. The International Cricket Council (ICC) awarded the country test cricket status in 1981.  The Islanders shocked the world after clinching the “1996 Wills Cricket World Cup” at the Gadaffi Stadium in Pakistan.  Sri Lankan’ showed the world   that “one day” cricket is not all about batting, bowling and fielding.  Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and his men    redefined the shorter version of the game with pinch hitting openers like Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana setting a 100 runs score in the first 15 overs. Aravinda de Silva   Muthaia Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene inspired Sri Lanka cricket revival in the past two decades. Sri Lanka is the fourth nation to reach two consecutive World Cup Finals in 2007 and in 2011.Today the islanders hold several world records, including world records for highest team totals in all three forms of the game.

In November 2000, Bangladesh played their inaugural test match, against India in Dhaka. The world cricket has seen explosive batting from Habibul Bashar and Mohammed Ashraful of the Bangladeshi Team. In march 2011, Bangladesh co-hosted the Cricket World cup with India and Sri Lanka. Given the South Asian mania for cricket Bangladesh cricket team has yet to win a world cricket cup.

Sports in Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives are mainly associated with Football. The game enjoys considerable popularity in these countries.There are numerous world-renowned sporting stadiums located in the Sub-continent. South Asia’s most popular sports channels broadcast live through commentaries in English and in local languages during the matches. Most of the sporting bodies in the area are getting more investments and sponsorship to develop the infrastructure and facilities to lift   their sporting professions than in the past. How ever further support is required for sports like cricket and football in south Asia to overcome the challenges and develop in to one of the world's most popular sporting regions.