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Shashi Buluswar … Building peace with “cricket diplomacy”

By Megan Blank '07

Though the tension between their countries continues 7,000 miles away, a team of Indian and Pakistani cricket players have embraced a common passion. The Chicago Giants are an example in overcoming stereotypes and hostility through teamwork.

Giants’ wicketkeeper Shashi Buluswar ’91 thought the story of his groundbreaking team should be told. His film documentary “Leg Before Wicket” follows the Giants throughout the summer of 2005, as well as his travels to India and Pakistan, examining the 60-year history of conflict, and the countries shared love of cricket.

“Cricket,” said Buluswar, who is Indian, “is very understated. It is the perfect blend of patience and strategy and, most importantly, it is one of my remaining ties to home.”

In India and Pakistan, cricket is the equivalent of baseball in the United States. When playing each other,“[winning] was a matter of national pride,” said Buluswar. Other than politics and this shared love of cricket the people know very little about each other. “ I grew up believing Pakistan was a country of terrorists. I never thought of the pain of the people and their suffering,” said Buluswar.

Buluswar was the only Indian on the team when he joined four years ago. He was astonished to find the sportsmanship exhibited by his Pakistani teammates and their honorable, religious lifestyle. Gradually, he said, “Labels disappear when you get to know each other. How one conducts oneself tells a lot about a person.” Now there are four Indians in the group.

Finding it remarkable that this “cricket diplomacy” had transformed mindsets among the teammates about each other’s countries, Buluswar was inspired to make a documentary to share their story with others. Because he has little experience with film, he enlisted the help of friends.

Buluswar, in addition to filming the Giants, decided he and the director should travel to India and Pakistan to discuss cricket and conflict. “I didn’t just want this to be a film about a quirky sport with a quirky bunch of guys; it would be missing the point otherwise,” he said. Buluswar, who had never visited Pakistan before, said he often didn’t reveal his nationality, however, “I talked to people who told me they hated India, knowing I was Indian, but who liked me as an individual. Their issue was with the policies of the Indian government,” he said.

Before discovering cricket, Buluswar was on the Indian National Rowing Team from 1992 to 2000. After graduating from Goshen College with a degree in computer systems and business in 1991, he went on to earn a master’s degree from the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University and a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts in computer technology. He was a visiting professor of computer science at Northwestern from 1997 to 2000, and is currently an associate partner at McKinsey and Company, a management-consulting firm.

Currently in the editing stage, “Leg Before Wicket” is on schedule to be shown at Goshen’s Alumni Weekend in October. Buluswar has also talked to several film festivals about the possibility of showing his film.

For more information, see the film’s Web site, at www.legbeforewicket.org