Phalanx Spacer Phalanx Logo Phalanx Slogan Phalanx Spacer
Contact | Subscribe | Site Map
  Phalanx Logo Phalanx Logo Phalanx Spacer
HOME | CONTENTS | CONTRIBUTE | ARCHIVE
 
         
Phalanx Spacer
Phalanx SpacerLetter to the Editor
Phalanx Spacer
Phalanx SpacerOpen Page
Phalanx Spacer
Phalanx SpacerReview
Phalanx Spacer
Phalanx SpacerArticles list of Issue
 
Home > Editorial
Phalanx Spacer
Editorial
The Rise and Fall of Cricket Nationalism
Phalanx Spacer
The first issue of Phalanx has come out a little later than scheduled. As envisaged in its manifesto, the first issue does not have a focus though multiculturalism in the arts may appear to get more than its share of attention. Since Phalanx has decided to be eclectic, it is not appropriate for each editorial to 'unify' its contents or paraphrase them. What a Phalanx editorial will do instead is to take up a central issue and speculate broadly on its significance. The issue to which the first editorial is devoted is Indian cricket and not only because it is in the news right now.
Phalanx Spacer
Cricket is arguably the most important issue in India today -- or at least was until the World Cup. To those who are outraged by this proposition – and there will be many – cricket made front page news in India's newspapers more often than any other issue. Since newspaper readers constitute the most influential segment of the public and the segment did not respond unfavorably to cricket getting front-page coverage, the game was virtually installed as India's principal preoccupation in the new millennium. And unlike many other issues which tend to be local, cricket is also pan-Indian. If cricket were a mere game it could hardly have assumed such importance. The 'meaning' of cricket therefore needs closer examination.
Phalanx Spacer
Cricket was never selected to be India's National Sport and hockey continues officially to be so. A 'National Sport' is perhaps always to be played by a team because it would be more difficult for an individual to embody the nation. Hockey and cricket are both team sports but although hockey became the National Sport, cricket was the more glamorous of the two and received more attention from the press. This is probably because cricket is a middle-class game and the newspaper reading segment is also predominantly middle-class. While India's hockey players usually came from the railways, from public sector industries and from the services, cricketers were traditionally employed by the nationalized banks.
Phalanx Spacer
Hockey and cricket are both team sports but they are not alike. Hockey (like football) depends on individual performances being coordinated and the decline of Indian hockey can be traced to individual skill (dribbling and stick-work) being supplanted by orchestrated effort (short passes and coordination) at the international level and the consequent rise of Germany, Netherlands and Australia as hockey playing countries. In cricket, on the other hand, performances are sequential rather than orchestrated and in this respect, it is like the Indian kabaddi. It can be argued that orchestration, even in other disciplines, is not an Indian specialty. Indian - unlike Western - music and dance have not depended on it. Their strong points have been melody and individual performance rather than harmony and choreography. The jugalbandhi is perhaps to cricket what the orchestra is to hockey and football. Cricket may therefore be a more 'Indian' (or, rather, South-Asian) team sport than any other played internationally and one of India's tragedies on the playing field is that it has taken so much to an international sport of, by and large, limited popularity.
Phalanx Spacer
The rise of Indian cricket to the status of the exclusive sporting preoccupation of the nation may have begun in the early nineties with the State also beginning its withdrawal from the public space. Hockey depended on government patronage and an officially patronized sport appeared anachronistic - especially when the national hockey team was not performing well. If cricket was the eventual beneficiary, patronized not by the State but by private enterprise, there are still two questions that remain. The first question pertains to the corporate sector's involvement in cricket, how and when it came about and why. Cricket being a middle-class preoccupation and the corporate sector having long been sensitive to the middle-class as a market, it was perhaps inevitable that cricketers should eventually endorse products when such endorsements became common. The second question pertains to the moment when cricket became associated with nationalism. It is, of course, patriotic to come out in support for one's country at a game but the real issue here is when cricket became the repository of the Indian's patriotic sentiments vis--vis Pakistan.
Phalanx Spacer
Looking at cricket as manifested in cinema - a useful register - one sees different attitudes towards in the game in Hum Aapke Hain Koun..? (1994) and Lagaan (2001). Only in Lagaan does the cricket team become the emblem of national aspirations and also constituted accordingly with due representation to all social segments. Of course, in Lagaan, the adversary is not Pakistan but the film came out at around the time that anti-Pakistan films like Gadar and Mission Kashmir were successful and it draws upon analogous sentiments. Anti-Pakistani sentiment was particularly high after the nuclear tests of 1998 and the Kargil war of 1999 and fervent cricket nationalism could have been an attendant consequence.
Phalanx Spacer
Neither Pakistan nor India was at the top of the cricket-playing world in the early years of the new millennium but India-Pakistan cricket matches - whenever they were played -generated huge excitement. Their cricket teams were perhaps regarded in the countries as their respective nuclear capabilities were - as only for specific use against each other. In any case, the anti-Pakistani sentiment in India appears to have subsided after Pakistan officially joined the US sponsored 'war against terror'. From the Pakistani side it is also likely that since a military dictator like Musharaf does not appeal to an electorate, he does not need to whip up sentiments as elected Presidents were obliged to in the past. A Pakistani visitor once remarked that he hated cricket but if he had support a team in an India-Pakistan cricket match, he would come out for India because of the hysteria drummed up for Pakistani cricket. This suggests that cricket was a handy tool on both sides of the border to breed nationalist hysteria.
Phalanx Spacer
Games like football also generate hysterical loyalties but that is not necessarily at the level of the nation. Since there is virtually no spectatorship for any cricket in India except at the international level, and we may surmise that the interest in the game is entirely in it as a nationalist endeavor and this has been methodically fuelled by the media and the corporate sector. Individual stars in all sports have become models and brand ambassadors but in cricket 'team India' has come to mean something by itself. While the advertisements featuring individual cricket stars are usually more frivolous (the Pepsi ads, for instance) the graver advertisements involve the entire team, sometimes entering an arena as if a battle-field. The cricket ball is commonly seen aflame and the analogy to an explosive is unmistakable. It is as though cricket matches were the continuation of war by other means.
Phalanx Spacer
Once the corporate sector perceived an advantage in cricket there has been no looking back for our cricketing stars. Cricket is perhaps the only international sport where the richest stars are not the best. In the past few years it is apparent that more and more people and agencies are being implicated in cricket's deliberate myth-making. There are, for instance, 'classic' matches being played and replayed on television channels and one detects special attention given to declining stars - as if to remind their disappointed fans of their capabilities. It is difficult for a cricket fan not to be confused and manipulated when what is on television are not only today's matches but yesterday's and those of tomorrow - as imagined by advertising. Cricket statistics are unreliable and when a player's future is being debated, it is the less relevant information that is typically furnished. There are also few happenings as inexplicable as 'world records' being created by habitually losing sides. As far as cricket commentators, writers and specialists go, the sport is perhaps the only discipline in which the lay spectator knows better than expert opinion. The recent history of Indian cricket abounds in deception and there are so many economic interests involved that one cannot be certain that every one of these participants is not incriminated. The cricketers themselves are so cash rich that some of them may be maintaining their own fan associations to engineer civic disturbances when their careers are in balance.
Phalanx Spacer
It has been said that creating a huge military capacity and not putting it to appropriate use can be a dangerous proposition. Using this as an analogy, a huge cricketing capacity has been created in India which, like military capacity, also provides no guarantee of victory. Unlike military capacity, however, cricketing capacity is not linked to the creation of physical assets but that of intangibles - reputations, spectatorship, passions and influence. Since this capacity was apparently created for use against a specific adversary, it is apparently hopeless for any other purpose. And just as it is difficult to contain an over-prepared military, it will be very tricky to contain the turmoil created by Indian cricket's failure. From the other side, Pakistani cricketing capacity was also created in the same circumstances - for specific use against a single adversary. Pakistan is therefore in the same predicament today, at least as far as cricket is concerned.
Top
Phalanx Spacer
Manifesto
Phalanx Spacer
People
Phalanx Spacer
Join Our Mailing List
Phalanx Spacer
Write to Editor
If you want to send a message or convey your views to editor, please send an e-mail to join@phalanx.in mentioning your name, location and phone number.
Phalanx Spacer
Letter to Editor
Phalanx Spacer
www.phalanx.in
Phalanx Spacer
Phalanx Spacer
Home | Editor's Desk | Open Page | Content | Contribute | Archive | Manifesto | People | Contact | Subscribe | Site Map | Privacy policy | Legal
Phalanx Spacer
© 2016 PHALANX. All rights reserved | it's an El Remo Creation
Phalanx Spacer
Phalanx Spacer