Cricket diplomacy keeps tricolour aloft in Wellington


Second Secretary Durga Dass (standing fifth from left) flanked by members of the High Commission Eleven and WPSCC Thunderbirds in Wellington

Venu Menon
Wellington, January 17,2024

The onset of the cricket season draws staff at the Indian High Commission in Wellington out on the green.

The Gentleman’s Game, which originated in England in the 17th century as an upper-class pastime marked by fair play, sportsmanship and a strict code of conduct on the field, is an annual outreach event that creates an opportunity for the High Commission and the diaspora to bond on the playing field.

The High Commission Eleven, captained by Second Secretary (Press, Info & Culture) Durga Dass, faced off with the Wellington Punjabi Sports and Cultural Club, aka Thunderbirds, skippered by Daler Singh,  for a spot of 20-overs cricket at the Trentham Memorial Park in the Wellington suburb of Upper Hutt last week.

An energetic knock of 43 runs by Vinod Kumar saw the High Commission squad edge past their opponents in a cliff-hanger finish that avenged the previous year’s defeat.

“It’s an opportunity for us to connect with the Indian diaspora,” Dass notes.

Second Secretary Dass is a familiar face on the diplomatic cricketing circuit. He was part of the squad put together by the British High Commission to face the Parliamentarians last year. The diplomats lost to the lawmakers.

Dass bowled and took two wickets in that memorable match.

Cricket is a great way to reach out to different segments of the community, he says.

“The Gujarati team, for instance, is very active. Cricket is one of the best ways to reach out to the community. The families have a chance to interact. Cricket provides a comfortable zone for everyone to meet.”

Cricket keeps the High Commission staff healthy and limber, Das points out.

Second Secretary (Press, Info &Culture)Durga Dass (Photo supplied)

“It’s good for our wellbeing and helps us function better. During the cricket season [December/January], we practise over the weekends.”

But being the captain of the High Commission Eleven is no walk in the park. The role is manifold: “I’m the captain, coordinator, organiser. There’s a lot of planning involved prior to a match. I pick the team, organise the match, control them on the field and lead them to victory. That’s my role.”

Das bowled three overs in the last match, and let his team mates take the crease first, preferring to bat last himself. The team managed to chase down the rival’s total of 177 in 20 overs, and wrest a close win.

“Victory is good. But more important is the wellbeing of everyone, coming together and having fun, and connecting with the Indian diaspora,” Dass observes.

Dass has been a cricket enthusiast throughout his diplomatic career, putting together teams and organising friendly matches wherever he is posted.

The cricket matches are a fun event for the community (Photo supplied)

“Swinging the bat on the field is one thing. But organising matches is another thing altogether. The logistics are challenging. You need the equipment, first and foremost. You need to have the kit. It begins from there and is a long process,” he explains.

But the impetus and support of the head of the mission is a vital catalyst. Dass acknowledges the role of High Commissioner of India to New Zealand Neeta Bhushan in extending her wholehearted support to the community outreach via cricket.

From his first posting in London, “the motherland of cricket,” to his seventh and current in Wellington, Dass has stayed true to his mission of batting for India and fostering goodwill among nations wherever he goes.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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