In modern competitive world of international sports, known for its on-field and often off-field fierce rivalries, seldom would one hear the captain of a visiting sporting nation saying that he would not mind sharing their world number one tag to their host team - and that too when their hosts are not hovering on their back to dislodge them from their number one position.
However, visiting Indian cricket team's skipper Virat Kohli has done exactly that by saying that if India were to share the number one spot with anyone, then it would definitely be the Kiwis.
And this was not said in a closed room or a media briefing, where often the speakers have the liberty to disown anything they have said on the pretext of being "misquoted or misunderstood."
It happened in the full public glare, at a community reception hosted by the Indian High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi in the honour of visiting Team India in Wellington.
Indeed, it was impromptu and straight from the heart.
While there will be a rightful temptation, of believing that this outpouring of heart by the Indian skipper might be a natural response to the Blackcaps global image of being the most dignified, poised, and friendly gentlemen, in what is termed as the Gentleman's Game - there is certainly more to it.
It is the "cricketing ties" that ties people of our two countries and forms one of the basic foundations of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
It is not for nothing that within the diplomatic world, almost every foreign policy mandarin, despite their best intentions to describe the bilateral relations between the two countries much more than mere "cricket," has to often concede at the end the star-attraction of the game in developing positive vibes between our two nations.
In diplomacy, the existence of mutual goodwill (or at worst the absence of any mutual ill-will) is often regarded as "gold" that can be further cashed whenever there is mutual convergence of interests and accompanied political bonhomie at the top level.
Cricket has been that source of ever-present goodwill, in the case of NZ-India bilateral ties, that precedes the more recent phase of mutual appreciation and growing political will to enhance economic cooperation and wider bilateral ties, and therefore remains a significant enhancer of relations between the two countries.
In recent years, the public imagery depicting the bonhomie between the political leadership of the two countries (read Jacinda & Modi) has generated huge anticipation of a much-needed breakthrough in the now-stalled talks on Free Trade Agreement.
While the talks on free trade might not have progressed as widely anticipated, the goodwill around cricket, along with diaspora connections, continues to flourish the bilateral ties between the two countries.
The current state of bonhomie at people to people and political levels between the two countries were aptly summarised by the Indian High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi and the Minister of Sports and Recreation Grant Robertson at the event.
It was in response to this overflowing mutual admiration by the political leadership and a playful banter about the current rankings of Team India and the Blackcaps that the Indian skipper outwitted everyone with a generous offering of sharing their top ranking with New Zealand's.
Cricket, once again, possibly not much to the musings of foreign policy mandarins of both countries, who work incessantly in the nitty-gritty of the bilateral relations, appeared to have attracted the limelight.
Anyway, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and the Minister for Trade David Parker are scheduled to visit New Delhi next week, thus leaving a lot on the capable hands of our foreign policy bureaucrats to work for further advancing bilateral relations between the two countries.
For now, cricket can have its due share of being revered as a great enhancer of bilateral ties between New Zealand and India.
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