Corporate Cultural Diplomacy, World Cup Cricket and why the Irish should ‘get on it’.

By Grant Hall, Cultural Diplomacy consultant and facilitator

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Adelaide Oval, mid-2000’s.

There’s so many reasons why I love the game of cricket.  This isn’t the first time I’ve written about it.  It’s fun to play and somewhat unique in the sporting world for the degree of hilarity that it can offer, such as when bowlers with terrible batting techniques go on the attack and actually make some runs (que Gillespie and McGrath Vs. New Zealand!).  It’s a sport through which I’ve met many fascinating people and gained some pretty funny life stories that I often retell, such as when South African cricket champ AB de Villiers and the Carrickfergus Cricket Club saved me from the wrath of a British tax tribunal – a tale for another day!

It’s big news that Ireland beat the West Indies in a Cricket World Cup match recently.  It’s not the first time Ireland has beaten ‘The Windies’ and I saw them do it once on a stormy afternoon in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2004.  This was one of those days that I came home from a day out with a ton of cricketing stories.  When myself and some other cricket starved Australian expats heard that the Windies were coming to play the Irish national team in two one-day matches we were super excited.  The West Indian cricket god Brian Lara was to play and we thought it would be fun to see him smack the shit out of what we expected to be a very second rate cricket team.There’s so many reasons why I love the game of cricket.  This isn’t the first time I’ve written about it.  It’s fun to play and somewhat unique in the sporting world for the degree of hilarity that it can offer, such as when bowlers with terrible batting techniques go on the attack and actually make some runs (que Gillespie and McGrath Vs. New Zealand!).  It’s a sport through which I’ve met many fascinating people and gained some pretty funny life stories that I often retell, such as when South African cricket champ AB de Villiers and the Carrickfergus Cricket Club saved me from the wrath of a British tax tribunal – a tale for another day!

Both matches were held on weekdays and since we were all working we only went to the second match.  The Aussie thing to do would have been to ‘chuck a sickie’ and go to both, but we were ‘soft’.  In the first match, Lara, as we anticipated, smashed the Irish bowling attack all over the park before being caught behind on 106.  If I remember the story correctly, during his innings he hit a six so big that the ball hit an unfortunate girl playing in an adjacent meadow; the girl turned out to be the daughter of one of the Irish cricketers, who had to leave the field to tend to his injured daughter.

We arrived early for the second match carting around heavy eskies that were to serve as both  seat and bar for the day.  We couldn’t wait for Lara to come into bat and do what he had done on the previous day, but our day didn’t go as expected.  Firstly, although the match was held at the height of the Irish summer it was absolutely freezing, secondly, Lara only faced 4 balls and scored 1 run before being caught out and lastly, Ireland won the match!  We were ecstatic for the Irish and ran on to the field to congratulate their batters who hit the winning runs, but our Irish friends didn’t care at all, they were at the Botanic Hotel watching England play Switzerland in the football and couldn’t have cared less about their own country beating one of the worlds finest teams in an international sport.  After numerous rain delays only a few dozen people remained at the ground to savor the victory in the near dark.  With exceptions, the Irish, largely due to a range of historical reasons such as the Gaelic Athletic Association’s ban on Garrison sports, have for the most part not had much to do with cricket.Both matches were held on weekdays and since we were all working we only went to the second match.  The Aussie thing to do would have been to ‘chuck a sickie’ and go to both, but we were ‘soft’.  In the first match, Lara, as we anticipated, smashed the Irish bowling attack all over the park before being caught behind on 106.  If I remember the story correctly, during his innings he hit a six so big that the ball hit an unfortunate girl playing in an adjacent meadow; the girl turned out to be the daughter of one of the Irish cricketers, who had to leave the field to tend to his injured daughter.

But according to an article I just read, this might be changing.  In his Traditional GAA heartlands bowled over by cricket article for the Independent, Mark O’Regan details how ‘Ireland’s cricket playing population has boomed by over 300pc over the past decade as the international team enjoys unprecedented success on the world stage’.  He cites how ‘the official number for those playing has continued to show a dramatic increase – from 13,000 in 2006… to over 40,000 in 2012’ and says that ‘Ireland’s latest World Cup victory over the West Indies will push the popularity of the sport here to new levels’.

Ireland has nothing to lose and much to gain from its national team achieving success in cricket tournaments like the World Cup that is currently taking place in Australia and New Zealand.  The Irish economy has been in the doldrums in recent years and needs to examine all options to build and sustain growth.  Cricket can help an economy.But according to an article I just read, this might be changing.  In his Traditional GAA heartlands bowled over by cricket article for the Independent, Mark O’Regan details how ‘Ireland’s cricket playing population has boomed by over 300pc over the past decade as the international team enjoys unprecedented success on the world stage’.  He cites how ‘the official number for those playing has continued to show a dramatic increase – from 13,000 in 2006… to over 40,000 in 2012’ and says that ‘Ireland’s latest World Cup victory over the West Indies will push the popularity of the sport here to new levels’.

Last week, in my home town, the splendid Adelaide Oval (my favorite place on earth) hosted a World Cup match between India and Pakistan, whose rivalries in both cricket and international relations is well known.  The match was widely reported as the most watched cricket match of all time and here’s how Inquisitr reported it:

‘India and Pakistan just met in a cricket match that was likely the most watched sporting event in 2015, drawing as much as 10 times the viewers as the Super Bowl earlier this month

While it may not even cross the minds of many Americans, cricket is close to being the world’s favorite sport, neck and neck with soccer in terms of global viewers. A big reason for that is India, a country of about 1.2 billion people obsessed with cricket’

Wisely, South Australian businesses, with some help from the State Government, are increasingly looking to India for growth opportunities.  The South Australian Government also seeks to increase Foreign Direct Investment into South Australia.  Australia has always had a good relationship with India and cricket has contributed immensely to this friendship. This World Cup group stage cricket match, that didn’t even involve the Australian team, brought South Australia into the international spotlight and local businesses and the State Government took inspired advantage of it,  The South Australian Government, investing in long-term relationships, delivered a Cultural Diplomacy activity that brought talented young Indian cricketers from disadvantaged backgrounds to Adelaide to train, play and attend the important match.  Australian businesses booked corporate hospitality suites, invited VIP’s from India and Pakistan and worked hard alongside Members of Parliament to build relationships and talk trade and cricket over hors d’oeuvres and local chardonnays.  The state Premier hosted a function for Indian businesses in the days leading up to the match and another event was held at the game for businesses from all three countries.  Injecting millions of dollars into the state economy, thousands of tourists came from overseas to Adelaide to attend the game and were treated to a stunning sunset spectacle that gained press all over the world and, according to one article, sent ‘a billion fans mental’.  In terms of corporate cultural diplomacy, it was South Australia’s biggest ever day out!

For business, the match was the tip of the iceberg.  The relationships that have been formed will keep South Australian businesses in the limelight in India for some time to come and will reap substantial rewards that economists will surely quantify down the track.

All of this from the game of cricket.  In business terms cricket can deliver strong returns on investment.    Ireland could have this too if the Irish people get on it and support their national team, who are actually pretty bloody good!

Go Ireland!

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