Cricket Spectacles for UNICEF

All the positive associations of cricket, the way it builds character, develops fitness and physique, the way it demonstrates how discipline and teamwork are vital for success, so many of these lessons have been carried forward by cricketers and fans into their lives off the field.

And it is an exciting game. Filled with passion, drama and dynamism. Asia has many of the world’s greatest players. Asian countries have won the World Cup three times, in thrilling fashion. Asia is the game’s powerhouse, the driving force behind many of the game’s advances. The biggest matches attract a television audience in South Asia alone of 500,000,000 viewers.

Yet our cricket is played in our region in an environment in which millions of children, the majority girls, are deprived of any chance to participate in any kind of organised sport, in any kind of schooling.

One quarter of the world’s children live in South Asia, 43 million primary school age children are not able to go to school. 60% of these are girls, and the ones who do attend are typically the last to be placed in school and the first to be taken out. More than a quarter of all the children who enroll are not able to even complete their primary education.

Ours is a region of many winners. Some say with fervent passion that cricket is life, others are more equivocal. But it is also a region of many people who are losing the chance to even play, let alone compete in the game of life. Something must be done to prevent our region being divided internally between ‘the haves and the have nots’, the ones with opportunity and the ones without.

It is beyond the means of Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF, ) to rewrite the past. It is within our means to reconfigure the future.

UNICEF’s ‘Fair Play for Girls’ campaign highlights the single strongest factor in grassroots socio-economic development: girls’ education. For example, each additional year of schooling for girls translates into a decline in child mortality and female fertility by 5 to 10 percent. Children whose mothers completed primary school are half as likely to suffer from malnutrition as mothers with no formal education.

Cricket is in the public eye like never before. It is our region’s most passionately followed game. The ACC recognises the social benefits of sport and its ability to bring people together in a productive way. We have observed for ourselves the major changes in societies and nations when sustainable, well-managed development programs are implemented. Nothing is more deserving than the basic right of a child to be free to play, learn and grow.

Cricket has had many greats who have left a legacy of achievements within the sporting arena; let this now be the time when cricket leaves a legacy of achievements beyond the boundary.

The ACC/UNICEF partnership was launched on the eve of the spectacularly successful Asia Cup of 2004. The ACC is delighted to be associated with UNICEF’s Fair Play for Girls campaign and we will be working together on a number of showcase cricket events to promote this worthy cause.