Having always been an ardent cricket fan, like the multitudeof my fellow countrymen some of whom consider the game as almost a religion, I too found something missing in life during the past few months after our favourite game was also ‘shut down’. It was a good thing that the drought came to an end [...]


The absence of cricket and its socio-economic impact


Having always been an ardent cricket fan, like the multitudeof my fellow countrymen some of whom consider the game as almost a religion, I too found something missing in life during the past few months after our favourite game was also ‘shut down’.

It was a good thing that the drought came to an end when England, West Indies and Pakistan boldly decided to resume the game, albeit on a low key without the usual colour and entertainment. It is also good that IPL is scheduled to be worked out this September in the Mid-East. Back home, hats off to SLC for having resumed the Premier Club Tournament and scheduling the LPL for later part of the year.

While enthusiasts, spectators and viewers were deprived of their favourite source of enjoyment, there is also a segment of the population which depends on the game for a living, for cricket has its own important role to play in the economy of a country like Sri Lanka.

The cricket economy of Sri Lanka was hit badly. The economic impact of cricket is the measure of the game’s effect as a contribution to the country’s economic growth. Cricket contributes to the national economy through value additions and employment generation and to the GDP. The socio-economic impact of a sport is difficult to measure. It is the assessment of its socio-economic cost vs benefits. Those directly involved in the game – players, umpires, commentators, coaches, scorers, physiotherapists, ground curators and staff, would be the direct beneficiaries, while the cost bearers, the organisers etc., the Cricket Board (the top beneficiary earning valuable foreign exchange to the country) sponsoring partners and the suppliers – for cricket goods and other services are the indirect beneficiaries.

As cricket has become a commercial sport, it has contributed to the growth of many economic activities – such as tourism, travel and transport etc. All these activities have taken a hit by the absence of cricket. Cricket tourism has come to a virtual standstill with the global travel restrictions. Many have depended upon the enhanced income generated through these events. Thus, the cricket ‘shut- down’ has impacted hard on suppliers, media outlets, entertainment and logistics providers, not to mention tourist hotels, restaurants and pubs, as well as daily income earners like taxi drivers (tuk-tuks). Employment generation, mostly casual in nature, and government revenue collected by way of taxes – direct and indirect, are affected, apart from the valuable foreign exchange from broadcast rights, and guaranteed payments from world cricket’s governing body.

Apart from the economic aspect, cricket has made a significant impact on the social life of the community.

Cricket, with its inherent character-building features, can control anti-social or rebellious behaviour and develop personalities among the youth. It develops soft skills such as leadership, team work and communication and promotes camaraderie and lifelong friendships. Cricket coaching at school level instil discipline and develop self-control, concentration, planning and resilience. As cricket more than any other physical sport, is a thinking game it teaches patience, persistence and preparedness whether played with formal leather ball or informal softball. The latter played at community level also prevents youth falling prey to negative influences of society. Cricket has no ethnic and/or religious boundaries and in a multi-racial/religious country like ours, provides the ideal unifying interest between communities.

Cricket is a great leveller, which also helps to break social barriers. Gone are the days when the gentleman’s game was confined to a few urban elite – ‘big’ schools and elite clubs; over the years, thanks in a large part to the radio and the advent of TV, the game’s popularity grew across the country, leading to the blossoming and gradual unearthing of provincial talent. In this context, Sri Lanka cricket owes a deep debt of gratitude to our iconic Sinhala commentators Palitha Perera and Premasara Epasinghe (followed by others commentating in the vernacular) who took the game to all parts of the country with their vivid, engrossing and entertaining description of play.

In the urban areas it is now difficult to find playing space due to buildings and roads springing up everywhere. Besides, schools having their own grounds are now strictly guarding them preventing children from using them even for softball cricket after school hours or during school intervals. All this may be the reason why only a few players from the city now reaches the national level. Perhaps this is a healthy development socially, for cricket is no longer a means of establishing social identity. Thankfully, the socio-economic status of a player is no longer a barrier depriving them their due places in the team. This has resulted in the socio-economic status of a great number of cricketers being actually uplifted over the years. Unfortunately, the set of aspiring young cricketers who would have reached a step closer this year to improving their lot, will now have to wait until normal playing conditions are restored. It is therefore important that cricket’s place in the sporting calendar is restored quickly, as talent delayed could well result in talent being lost.

Let’s hope, however, that the gentleman’s game will soon be back in the country, at least in a moderate scale initially, until match conditions return to normal.

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