Dubai, Nov.20 : Cricket players across the world today united for ICC Diversity Day and celebrated the unique social qualities of the sport.
This is the second annual ICC Diversity Day which highlights cricket as a game with a diverse history and a genuine social significance that goes way beyond its laws and regulations.
Cricket is a global phenomenon that brings people together in a spirit of passionate competition and mutual respect. The ICC is keen to celebrate cricket's rich diversity, something which facilitates the coming together of people from many countries, cultures and social backgrounds and can foster greater harmony and understanding within the community.
PA announcements and big-screen messages will be played at international matches across the globe today to promote ICC Diversity Day.
"Through cricket I have been able to meet people from all over the world and am now lucky enough to be able to say that I have friends across the globe," said India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
"Although we have to be competitive on the field of play, I think one of the most important things about respecting the Spirit of Cricket is that it's extremely important to make friends off the field as well," he said.
New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori believes that through participating in competitions such as the Indian Premier League (IPL), he has been lucky to make good friends from diverse backgrounds.
"Through playing in the IPL I was able to get to know people from all over the world and understand better their different cultures," said Vettori.
"It is great to meet up with these friends when I am playing for my country and hopefully I will be able to maintain these friendships long after my playing career is over," he said.
As well as bringing people together and promoting greater understanding, ICC Diversity Day also highlights the power of cricket to deliver important social messages.
To this end, the ICC has an ongoing partnership with UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Global Media AIDS Initiative on HIV/AIDS and cricket is used as a vehicle for education and awareness in an effort to stem the spread of the virus and to reduce the stigma attached to it.
As well as that, as part of the global ICC Diversity Day celebrations Cricket Australia has been running a wide variety of activities as part of a new 'Cricket Cares' initiative designed to encourage Australian cricketers of all levels to give something back to the community.
At national level, Cricket Australia's 'Cricket Cares' programme is partnering with the Movember Foundation and with the McGrath Foundation to encourage greater awareness of and support for male and female health issues which affect so many in the community.
The Movember Foundation encourages men to grow a moustache during the month of November in order to raise awareness and funds for men's health - specifically the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Beyondblue, the national depression initiative.
Tasmania and Australia fast bowler Brett Geeves is one of the players participating in the Movember initiative. He said: "I grew up watching cricket when it seemed all the great players had moustaches so it's been a lot of fun to be involved in Cricket Australia's 'Cricket Cares' partnership with Movember.
"I've had a go at growing a mo' myself and I've also looked through the archives and put together a list of the 30 greatest moustaches in Australian cricket for the Cricket Australia website at www.cricket.com.au/cricketcares. It's all quite light-hearted but it helps to highlight the serious issue of men's health," said Geeves.
ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said: "Across the ICC's membership base, there are many social causes that use cricket to reach a diverse spectrum of people. From Papua New Guinea's work on HIV/AIDS, to the England and Wales Cricket Board's social inclusion work with the Prince's Trust, to Cricket Australia's tremendous health work with the Movember Foundation and the McGrath Foundation, cricket has shown it can have a positive impact on the world around us.
"Whether you are playing, spectating or administering the sport, cricket creates wonderful opportunities to meet people from many different and diverse parts of the world and to make friendships that last forever."
Next week, the ICC will announce details about activities taking place for World AIDS Day which takes place on 1 December.