By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – If ‘playing with a straight bat’ and ‘stumping your opponent’ are handy skills for the English-speaking politician, then where better to practise them than where they originated: on the cricket pitch?
Legislators from some of the main cricket-playing nations will descend on London next week for the inaugural Inter-Parliamentarians Cricket World Cup, to trade fast balls and attacking strokes instead of policy papers and put-downs.
A cross-party group of politicians representing England will be joined by teams from Pakistan, India, New Zealand, Australia, Bangladesh and Afghanistan as well as an “All-Stars” side for the three-day tournament.
British Member of Parliament Chris Heaton-Harris said he had come up with the idea while playing for the English parliamentary team against their Australian counterparts last winter.
“I was thinking, wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a parliamentary world cup for cricket which showcased Britain post-Brexit,” he told Reuters.
The tournament coincides with the Cricket World Cup proper, hosted in Wales and England, which has not yet left the European Union but has reached the tournament semi-finals along with India, Australia and New Zealand.
The politicians’ version will include some professionals, including Bangladesh’s current and former captains.
Imran Khan, a fearsome fast-bowling allrounder who led Pakistan to their maiden World Cup win in 1992, has made his country’s squad, but is expected to be kept at home by his duties as prime minister.
“As much as we would genuinely welcome him and enjoy his company, I would much rather he stayed in Pakistan for the next week than play cricket,” joked Heaton-Harris, who described himself as an “enthusiastic fielder”.
He said cricket, known for its often sedate rate of play, could bring people together from across the political divide.
British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn might make a brief appearance, said Heaton-Harris, a member of the ruling Conservative Party, while Prime Minister Theresa May is hosting an event next Sunday for the lawmakers taking part to watch the official World Cup final at her Downing Street residence.
The parliamentary tournament could also pitch Pakistan and India – whose geopolitical rivalry is, if anything, fiercer than their cricketing rivalry – against each other in the semi-finals or final.
“Cricket has this remarkable way of relaxing people, because you’re sat there for hours sometimes,” Heaton-Harris said.
“These are opportunities where people can come together with a mutual love of one thing and come to understand other things and build relationships. Surely that’s a much better way of doing things than rhetoric and constantly having a go.”
(Writing by Michael Holden; Editing by Kevin Liffey)