Tillakaratne Dilshan: Cricket as a platform to spread awareness about social causes

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Cricket is the second most viewed sport worldwide. It not only brings people from different nationalities together, but also has the power of uniting them towards a cause. Road Safety is a crucial issue worldwide. Around 1.35 million people die in road accidents each year. According to reports, India ranks first in the number of road accident deaths hence it is more crucial for India to take the lead in creating more awareness about road safety. 

Around 93% of sports viewers in India are cricket enthusiasts. Hence, spreading awareness about road safety using the platform of cricket grants a large audience for the cause. 

The Road Safety World Series was organised by the Road Safety Cell of Maharashtra, India to raise awareness about accidents, road safety, bike safety and basic road safety rules. Retired international cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Sanath Jayasuriya played in the series and campaigned to spread more awareness about road safety. 

Cricket being the most widely viewed sport all around India lends to more visibility of the Road Safety movement. Cricketers from 6 different countries united to play for the cause and spread awareness about Road Safety. The countries participating in the series included West Indies, India, Bangladesh, England, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

According to Yash Sardesai, CEO of Sri Lanka Legends, a team participating in the series, “Road Safety is a global issue and we need a global platform to spread awareness about it. Cricket is an efficient platform to spread awareness about road safety because it reaches a high population worldwide. Moreover, connecting a social cause to cricket ensures that players with a high following are spreading awareness about the cause. This makes social campaigns more efficient.”

Conversation with Captain of Sri Lanka Legends, Tillakaratne Dilshan

Why do you want to play for the cause of road safety?

I know that when I am talking about road safety, it is likely to reach a large number of people, not just in one country but worldwide. As cricketers, we have an audience and we should make the best of it. The Road Safety World Series has given us a platform to campaign for a cause. I believe that life is important and it should be taken seriously. People should not drink and drive or use phones when they are driving. Many countries have strong driving rules but many Asian countries don’t have strong rules for Road Safety. It is also the social responsibility of cricketers to ensure that they are spreading more awareness by using the platforms they have. 

Has COVID changed the impact of the road safety campaigns. 

Last year, the Road Safety World Series was held in Mumbai. However, due to COVID the series was paused and has continued in Raipur this year. Due to strict covid protocols to be followed, the players are not allowed to step out of their hotels except for the game or practice sessions. This actually turned beneficial to have team bonding sessions and form a team stronger than ever. Moreover, we have more time to create content about road safety and channel more awareness via our social media handles. 

The team has been able to bond more because everyone is together in a bubble in Raipur. This has given us more time to brainstorm campaigns for road safety. I think that COVID has increased our impact because more people are watching our campaigns digitally and are engaging with content about road safety. 

Conversation with Yash Sardesai, CEO of Sri Lanka Legends

Tell us more about your journey as CEO of Sri Lanka Legends

My journey with the league started last year in February. Due to COVID, the league had to stop and it resumed in 2021. Watching so many retired legends play – Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya, Brian Lara and others has been fascinating. They are all using their huge fan following to spread more awareness about road safety. There has been an increase in media conversations on road safety because of the collective campaigns and activation posted by all cricketers playing in the series. 

What role do you think does cricket play in making people aware about issues like road safety

I think cricket is an important platform to raise more awareness about road safety. It is the most watched sport across India. When the cricket players spread awareness about road safety rules like wearing a helmet, putting on the seat belt, not using phones while driving, not drinking and driving and other similar rules, a large audience listens to them. Hence, people start following rules more seriously because many players who are their role models are advising them to follow rules. This is the aim of the series. We need such series in India because India ranks highest in road safety accidents worldwide. 

What is the reason behind you choosing to head the team for a cause?

 I am passionate about the game and the series has given me the opportunity to learn a lot. The series brings in retired cricket players like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Sanath Jayasuriya and others. Sachin Tendulkar has 28.1 million followers on his social media handle. He is also the brand ambassador for the series. With the huge fan following of the cricketers, more awareness will be created about road safety. Hence, I was even more keen to head the team. 

Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna is a freelance journalist from Mumbai who covers international relations, defence, diplomacy and social issues. Her current focus is on India-China relations.

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