Chris Heaton-Harris: Reflections on the value of sporting diplomacy and relationship building
As the inaugral Inter-Parliamentary Cricket World Cup gets underway with a sprinkling of stardust, Chris Heaton-Harris writes on why these contests are so valuable
Two years ago, in the winter of 2017/18, a UK Parliament side travelled to Australia to compete against the Australian Parliamentary XI for the Parliamentary Ashes. I am delighted to say we came out on top in that contest but much more importantly, we had the chance to build relationships with ministers and other parliamentarians from one of our most crucial and historic allies.
At the time the Australians made it clear that they would be keen to visit the UK in 2019 to renew acquaintances during the Cricket World Cup. But the chance to organise something even more ambitious in terms of sporting diplomacy was too great for me.
I therefore decided to try to arrange a parliamentary version of the Cricket World Cup to take place alongside the main competition and set about trying to secure the involvement of parliamentary teams from all around the world.
This was no easy task but we got there in the end and the Inter-Parliamentary Cricket World Cup is almost upon us! We are all set to welcome teams from the parliaments of Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan for the tournament due to take place this week. I was particularly keen that a team from the Afghanistan parliament take part, given their involvement in the Cricket World Cup and their meteoric rise in the cricketing world. As such, the Lords and Commons Cricket Club has raised enough money to sponsor the Afghan side’s participation in the tournament, covering their flights and most of their accommodation costs.
'This tournament is a valuable opportunity to engage and create the sorts of relationships that international diplomacy is based on'
As well as the team from Afghanistan, we are looking forward to some stardust being provided by some of the players expected to play or attend. These include former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin, current Bangladeshi player Mashrafe Mortaza and former World Cup winner and current Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan.
I am confident that the UK parliament team, captained by James Morris MP, will more than meet their match! Over the course of the week we will have cross-party representation and players from both Houses of Parliament. Those who have expressed an interest in playing include Matt Hancock, Graham Stuart, Mark Lancaster, Guy Opperman, Imran Hussain, Jonathan Edwards, Lords Razzall and O’Shaughnessy and even the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn.
The tournament itself will take place from Tuesday 9 until Friday 12 July, with the top four teams due to compete in semi-finals and a final at Beckenham Cricket Club on the Friday.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, the foreign secretary and the prime minister have all shown support for the tournament and will be hosting receptions for the players during the week they are here. They have recognised that this tournament is a valuable opportunity to engage and create personal relationships – the sorts of relationships that international diplomacy is based on.
Our final will take place just two days before the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup at Lord’s on Sunday 14 July. Here’s hoping for a double victory for the home team and, more importantly, for the continuation of good relations with our friends in the Commonwealth and allies around the world.
To find out more please look at my website and follow the tournament on Twitter using #IPCWC.
Chris Heaton-Harris is Conservative MP for Daventry