Cricket - The Educator
06 Jan 2007
By: Kev Goughy
For my first article for Cricketweb.net, I want to talk about something different to the usual activities that take place on and off the field. Cricket is so much more than just a sport and, in this particular case, I want to talk about its role as an educator.
It has been written many times, in thousands of books and articles, that cricket is an academic's and statistician's dream. There are numbers, facts and figures for every conceivable situation and occasion. It is a facet that gives cricket depth, history and folklore.
However, I want to praise cricket in a less scholarly and bookish fashion and in a much more personal and intimate way. I'm a firm believer that following cricket brings exposure to so many countries and cultures that would otherwise be off the radar of the average citizen. This exposure to countries, and the cultures and history that are inextricably linked to them, gives so many opportunities to learn without even trying.
Watching and listening to cricket played a huge role in expanding and developing my general knowledge. I doubt any other sport more than cricket widens the horizons of the follower and improves their world knowledge just by being a fan.
Consider the facts. Cricket is played in the Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania. It is played by many diverse cultural groups in each region and, as well as other smaller religions, it is played by Christians, Muslims and Hindus. This opens up a massive and varied international community that otherwise many of us would have had few opportunities to interact with and learn about.
Just by watching and reading about the game of cricket, we pick up information and knowledge that non-cricket followers probably wouldn't encounter in their day to day lives.
As an Englishman (from Yorkshire) my association with Cricket gave experience of world culture and history I would never have otherwise accessed as easily or been as receptive to. Cricket has given me, and many others, a lot in terms of world and general knowledge.
Consider a few of the obvious areas that just following cricket has benefited my knowledge.
- Most people can talk for a short time about Apartheid, but few can talk with as much knowledge as cricket fans. The sport and the D'Olivera Affair educated us all, as did the rebel tours and reading about South African players. Cricket (and especially the 1992 World Cup) played a significant role in Apartheid ending and as such cricket fans were ahead of the curve in following South African domestic politics.
- In the UK, despite large immigrant populations, there is little general knowledge amongst many of the White population about the political history and long-standing animosity between India and Pakistan. However, following cricket means that we are far more aware and familiar of this history and these issues than the average person.
- There is a growing focus on Zimbabwe within the international community. Being a cricket supporter gives us greater access and interest in the situation. We know about the cricket politics in that country and how the players are treated, and that indirectly teaches us about the general political and social environment of Zimbabwe without even making a concerted effort.
- I only know of the simmering hostility between Protestants and Catholics in recession time Australia because of what I have read about the dislike between Don Bradman and Catholic players such as Tiger O'Reilly. This feeds into a wider social context that cricket exposes the reader to.
- I learnt a lot about the social history of my own country, not by actively seeking it, but by reading about the relationships between amateurs and professionals in cricket and their changing dynamic. Cricket is a case study in the evolution of English society.
Being a follower of International cricket gives us knowledge of more than just information on political affairs. It also gives a simple but broad education in geography.
- Cricket followers have an envious knowledge of world capitals. Ask the average person to name the countries corresponding to Georgetown, Colombo, Bridgetown, Freeport, Harare and compare that to how a cricket fan would do.
- I first learnt about Ramadan from being around cricket and understanding what commitments Muslim players make. It is an area that I would have had little exposure to without cricket.
- It is a sad fact that, generally, if you ask anyone from outside Asia to point to Sri Lanka on a map they would struggle. But ask a cricket fan and they know exactly where it is. Not particularly an overly impressive claim on its own but it is another tiny brick in the educational wall cricket builds.
- I found out that Jamaica and Barbados are not the close neighbours most people think they are but are separated by vast areas of ocean.
- It isn't very important but I know Bloemfontein is in the Orange Free State in South Africa, only because that is where Allan Donald comes from.
- My early knowledge of Sikhs comes from reading and listening about Bishen Bedi.
- Who apart from Australians and meteorologists have heard of, or care about the Fremantle Doctor? Cricket fans, that's who.
- I learnt to pronounce Sri Lankan surnames that most Anglo-Saxons would fail miserably and pathetically at. Something I'm actually proud of and without cricket this would never have happened.
This is just a tiny proportion of the wealth of knowledge following cricket has granted me. Some of it is important and some is trivial but all is welcome. Cricket opens up so many opportunities to learn due to the sport combining its vast diversity in one big family.
Without cricket I shudder to think how much more lacking my global and historical awareness would be.
Cricket has taught me many things, vastly improving my general knowledge and is constantly making me more informed and tolerant about the world in which we live.
Embrace cricket and rejoice in the fact that, as well as providing a lifetimes entertainment, it also makes you a more rounded and developed person.
Cricket the educator. I thank you.