Inter-Parliamentarians World Cup: Politicians locked in a different turf war

Sriram Veera
Matthew Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care in the UK, playing street cricket at a promotional event. (Twitter)

For four months now, in late evenings under floodlights, a team of Pakistan parliamentarians has been training at the Shalimar cricket ground in Islamabad. They have their eyes on the Inter-Parliamentarians World Cup, where politicians from Pakistan, England, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Australia, and other nations will clash in London from July 8 to 12. And then, they would comfortably settle down together to watch the real World Cup final at Lord s.

Chris Heaton-Harris, the Conservative MP for Daventry, has organised the tournament in conjunction with the England and Wales Cricket Board. For a while, there was a buzz that Pakistan Prime Minister, and a real World Cup winning captain, Imran Khan could leap into action to bowl at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn or newly- elected MP, and another World Cup winner, Gautam Gambhir, but it seems unlikely now.

Ayaz Ahmed Yousafzai, Pakistan team’s coach, says his prime minister won t be featuring and it s highly unlikely that India would be sending a team though Heaton-Harris has personally written to the likes of BJP parliamentarian Manoj Tiwari. It is learnt that Indian parliamentarians were keen to take part but the ongoing budget session ended their World Cup dream.

Other politicians, meanwhile, have been finding time from their hectic public life to take fresh guard. Somewhere in London, Matthew Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care in the UK, has been diligently practising for the event. Matt has asked me to let you know that he is an all-rounder, has high levels of enthusiasm, a middle-order batsman and an off-spinner, his office told The Indian Express.

The ball would reach the other side from the bowlers but everybody used to get real tired quickly, laughs Pakistan coach Yousafzai. He is also the one who had spotted, nursed, and promoted Shaheen Afridi, Pakistan s new-ball bowler, and is now pushing the tired bodies of politicians.

Because of the budget sessions, we have been unable to practise in day time but the interest level has been great and we have been training almost every night. Hum toh jeetenge hi! says Yousafzai.

At the Shere-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh s legislative team has been hitting out at the nets. They have been confident enough to even post a training video on YouTube. There are also reports that in case Bangladesh fails to reach the semifinals, captain Mashrafe Mortaza, an MP, might seamlessly move to the less-competitive Cup.

New Zealand too have been preparing for it and co-captain Chris Bishop has said that this game fits diplomacy as with its long stretches of not much happening, we can just talk to the other MPs we are playing against.

The New Zealand team has already released a statement that it s self-funded and no taxpayer funding provided. Team members self-fund their trip, with additional support from uniform sponsors, accommodation partners, and air-travel supported by Air New Zealand .

The issue of funding has raised up a ruckus in Pakistan with the team members saying they don t want to pay and if they have to, they should be allowed to stay at friends houses or budget hotels, the newspaper The News reported.

The speaker of the national assembly Asad Qaisar has told team members that they would have to bear the expenses. The News reported that in a letter to nominated players, the secretary of the speaker, who is also the team manager, informed that expenses have to be met by the players due to the ongoing austerity drive of the government and in order to allay the burden on the public exchequer.