When it comes to sports, Pakistan has made a significant impact on the global sports community, especially when it comes to cricket. In Pakistani culture, sports play a major role, with cricket standing out as the most widely played sport. The major factor behind such popularity and cricket’s wider influence on our culture is mainly because of the 1992 Cricket World Cup. The events that took place during that time made sports like cricket deeply ingrained in our nation’s identity. Even with our national sport being hockey, the public’s love for cricket highlights its impact on our nation’s sports landscape. Even with cricket’s dominant influence on our nation’s culture, other sports like hockey, polo, and squash continue to hold significance in the country.
Since 1967, Pakistan has won 23 World Squash Team Open titles, whereas in hockey, our nation’s field hockey team managed to achieve four Hockey World Cup wins, including 1971, 1978, 1982, and 1994. Even with Pakistan’s achievements in other sports, cricket still manages to hold significance with its single iconic victory in 1992. The reason why cricket is much loved by the public is because of various factors. Firstly, it is a sport that is considered by many to be the first go-to topic for conversation, especially between individuals who are meeting each other for the first time. Also, in my personal view, cricket is the only sport in the country where almost everyone sees it as a form of “social outing,” bringing together families and people from various political, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Another factor in cricket’s popularity is the intense rivalry that exists between Pakistan and its arch-rival India. Such kind of rivalry and competitive environment only exists in cricket. Even if we go back and look at our history, cricket has an extensive history as sporting diplomacy between the Pakistani and Indian governments. Such kind of diplomacy is widely known as “Cricket Diplomacy,” which has existed since 1987 when General Zia-ul-Haq attended a test match between Pakistan and India in Jaipur, where he met Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. A similar kind of diplomacy was replicated in 2005 when General Musharraf came to India and in 2011 when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh used the occasion to ease the tensions generated between Pakistan and India back during the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
It is important to understand that, unlike other sports, Cricket is a sport that can be played by almost everyone, irrespective of their social class, religion, ethnicity, etc. Sports like squash, polo, and hockey require certain infrastructure and elements in order to have a friendly match. Cricket can be played anywhere, including suburban neighborhood streets. Cricket is accessible to many and can be played by anyone just as a social outing, whereas sports like hockey, polo, and squash require extensive training and specific requirements (compatible ground, equipment for each player, etc.). Other sports require resources, which an average person will see as a hassle, whereas for cricket, no matter how many players, you just need an open space, a bat, a tennis ball, and an object to be used as a wicket.