Nothing binds us more than a game of cricket | Sunday Observer

Nothing binds us more than a game of cricket

The England ODI cricket squad poses with British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka James Dauris at a function held at Westminster House in Colombo. The squad comprises Eoin Morgan (captain), Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Olly Stone   (Picture by Herbert Perera)
The England ODI cricket squad poses with British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka James Dauris at a function held at Westminster House in Colombo. The squad comprises Eoin Morgan (captain), Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Olly Stone (Picture by Herbert Perera)

During the three and a half years that I have been the UK’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, I have had conversations with people in all corners of this beautiful country and from all walks of life, about what the UK means to them.

People have shared a wide variety of personal stories with me, testifying to the many and varied links between our two countries. One of the most popular of these links can be summarised in one word: cricket.

Cricket is one of those games the origins of which are lost in the mists of time. But there are records to show that it was being played in England in the sixteenth century.

There are records of cricket being played in Sri Lanka from the 1830s, and first-class cricket from 1926. Over the years, it has evolved into one of the most popular sports in the world.

Across South Asia, lots of people would agree that cricket today is more than a sport: it is a way of life, something that contributes to their sense of national identity.

No visitor travelling around Sri Lanka,wherever they are from and whether or not they have ever played the game themselves, can fail to be impressed by how much cricket is played, in cities, towns and villages, on carefully nurtured pitches, on bumpy waste ground by roads and railways.

It’s a game that brings people together, no matter their background, religion or ethnic origin. And it unites people around shared values: fairness, respect and sportsmanship.

It’s always good to see girls too playing cricket here, and we saw some great games when the English women’s team were on tour in Sri Lanka two years ago.

I think it would be good to see girls being encouraged to play more than they are.

Cricket is often the prism through which Brits and Sri Lankans alike first get to know one another, be it watching Kumar Sangakkara finishing his first class career in the whites of Surrey, or coming to Sri Lanka for the first time with England’s Barmy Army.

Many England fans have commented to me that Sri Lanka is their favourite place to support their team anywhere in the world. Cricket is an enduring element of the countless cultural and human bridges that connect Sri Lanka and the UK.

All this helps to explain why I am excited about the arrival of the England men’s team in Sri Lanka, at the start of two months of great sport.

Throughout October and November, England and Sri Lanka will face each other in three Test matches, five One Day Internationals (ODIs) and one T20 in Colombo, Dambulla, Galle and Kandy.

A few days ago, I hosted a start of tour reception for the two teams, and the excitement was tangible. I’m also looking forward to attending some of the matches myself.

The next two months will give us the perfect excuse to celebrate a shared passion and to enjoy a competitive but friendly series. And the tour will give us another opportunity to cement existing friendships and build new ones between the people of Sri Lanka and the UK.

Whatever the results on the field, this is something we will all be able to join together in welcoming. 

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