- In an attempt to address a pressing problem in India, the Road Safety World Series was launched last year, bringing some of the game’s legends back to the field, hoping to use cricket’s popularity in the country as a vehicle to create awareness on road safety
- there will be notable absentees, with Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winners, Muralitharan, Vaas, Kaluwitharana and Chandana not taking part
From the multiple Tsunami Appeal Matches in 2005, to the Big Appeal for the Bush fires in Australia last year and the annual Breast Cancer Awareness internationals in Australia and South Africa, cricket has rarely shied away from rallying some of the sport’s biggest names, of the past and present, for charitable causes.
In an attempt to address a pressing problem in India, the Road Safety World Series was launched last year, bringing some of the game’s legends back to the field, hoping to use cricket’s popularity in the country as a vehicle to create awareness on road safety and here is everything you need to know about the Road Safety World Series:
What is the Road Safety World Series?
Founded by Ravi Gaikwad, the Chief of the Regional Transport Office of Thane in the State of Maharashtra and a senior member of the Road Safety Cell of the State, the Road Safety World Series feature retired cricketers competing in a multi-nation T20 tournament while creating road safety awareness in India.
The tournament is organised by the Road Safety Cell of Maharashtra in association with the Professional Management Group, a sports management company co-founded by former Indian cricketing great Sunil Gavaskar, who is also the Commissioner of the series while Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest cricketer India has produced, is a brand ambassador for the initiative.
The series kicked off last March with cricketing legends representing five countries – India, Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa and West Indies – taking part. But after just four of the 11 matches, the tournament was halted in the interest of public safety and security, following the outbreak of COVID-19 in India.
The tournament will resume on March 2 and conclude on March 21, with all the matches scheduled to take place behind closed doors at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium in Raipur.
Gaikwad, a cricketer in his youth, is somewhat of a pioneer at using sports to create road safety awareness, having two entries in the Guinness Book of World Records – one for organising the largest road safety bike rally in January 2016 and the other for putting together the largest handball lesson in Solapur in 2016, for the cause of road safety in Maharashtra in February 2016.
Who plays in the Road Safety World Series?
It may lack the Fab Four or any of the game’s current star power for that matter, but for cricket fans of the previous generations, the opportunity to see some of the greats who made them fall in love with the sport is enticing enough.
Among the players who represented the Sri Lanka Legends last year were Tillakaratne Dilshan, Marvan Atapattu, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Rangana Herath, Upul Chandana, Ajantha Mendis and Romesh Kaluwitharana.
Other legends who took part in the first edition of the tournament were Indians Virendar Sehwag, Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh, South Africans Jonty Rhodes, Herschelle Gibbs and Lance Klusener, West Indians Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Carl Hooper, and Australian Brett Lee.
The tournament will be continued from where it left off, but there will be notable absentees, with Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winners, Muralitharan, Vaas, Kaluwitharana and Chandana not taking part.
Former Sri Lankan opener Atapattu has also supposedly opted out. Replacing them, it was reported, will be cricketer turned commentator Russell Arnold, Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Kulasekera.
COVID-19 restrictions mean that the Australian legends have also opted out of returning, but there will be two new teams entering the tournament, with a team of legends from Bangladesh and England slated to join, though the composition of the six teams is yet to be finalized.
Why road safety?
The concern with road safety is not a problem endemic to India, but in one of the populous countries in the world, the figures are more telling.
Between 150,000 and 200,000 lives are lost in India every year because of road accidents, Gaikwad said, emphasizing the need for this awareness programme.
The World Bank, in a 2020 report, estimated that there were up to 38,000 road accidents in Sri Lanka annually, with around 3,000 of those cases resulting in death.
It is not uncommon to see videos of violent accidents in Sri Lanka on social media and, more often than not, they are accidents that could have been avoided if more caution had been exercised by those involved.
In the lead up to last year’s inaugural edition, Gaveskar shared an anecdote from his own life that highlighted that road safety not only related to how motorists drove on the road, but also how licenses are issued to would-be drivers.
“Many years ago, in my own case after returning from the West Indies, I got a car and was struggling to reverse properly. But the driving instructor said — it does not matter, you drive straight and I will give you the license,” he said.
It is a situation that we may have some familiarity with.