History of Involvement of Politics in Indian Cricket

Cricket was an elite and colonial sport. However, cricket‘s importance is due to its socio-political complexities. In various areas, including Africa, West Africa, and India, it has been utilized as a political weapon against racism, casteism, and other forms of injustice.

CLR James, a cricket philosopher, and novelist gives a great illustration of it in his book Beyond the Boundary, which is about West Indies and Indian cricket. He claims that “cricket within and beyond the boundaries is linked to the complexity of a sociopolitical cultural weaving.” The history of the West Indies has also been the history of Caribbean cricket for the past two centuries. The game became a political weapon in the fight against racism, just like any produced item or political rally. This isn’t meant to belittle the latter but rather to underline the significance of the game.

Returning to British India, cricket was first discovered by the Parsees in the 1840s at the Bombay Gymkhana, where Englishmen were playing. The Parsees were a wealthy community that utilized the game to connect with elite British colonial contacts. The first squad to visit overseas in 1886, according to cricket historian Prashant Kidambi’s book “Cricket County, The Untold History of the First All Indian Cricket Team,” was made up entirely of Parsee players.

Cricket: A Tool of Protest

  • Cricket has also been utilized in numerous countries to protest policies. For example, Moeen Ali, an English cricketer, wore a bracelet with the words “Save Gaza” printed on it during the third Test against India in 2014 to protest Israel’s policy in Palestine.
  • When Zimbabwe co-hosted the World Cup in 2003, protesters claimed that the host country suffered because of tyrant Robert Mugabe’s activities. Andy Flower and Henry Olongo, Zimbabwean cricketers, wore a bracelet with the words “death of democracy in Zimbabwe” printed on it as a gesture of protest. As a result, they were pressurized to leave the country and retire for the remainder of their lives.

Association in Current Times

  • To boost army morale, leading Indian cricket players such as Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni have been given significant roles in the army in post-colonial India. Dhoni (the 2011 World Cup-winning captain and hence a national icon) visits Kashmir regularly to boost Indian Army morale. However, due to preconceived notions about the army and Kashmir, this has also become significant with the secondary purpose of instilling nationalistic enthusiasm in the general population. During the break of a one-day cricket between India and West Indies, in 1983, youngsters from Kashmir dug a pitch to give the outside world a ‘false sense of normalcy.’

The Downside of the Involvement

Many cricketers’ careers have been cut short due to the politics surrounding their team or administration. That isn’t to say that team or board politics blame the premature end of so many promising careers. It isn’t always the fault of the offending player. That said, if a cricketer is gifted, the team management and the concerned board must find a way to get the most out of them for the team’s more significant gain.

Summary

To summarize, cricket has always been and will continue to be a political tool. In his book Beyond the Boundary, CLR James asks, “What do they know about cricket, who only know cricket?” Hence, it’s important to understand the intimate relation that cricket serves with politics. 

Reference Links:

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/651075
  2. https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2020/10/cross-era-comparison-cricket-politics/
  3. https://www.outlookindia.com/blog/story/sports-news-cricket-should-not-be-separated-from-politics-as-very-genesis-of-the/4247
  4. https://thewire.in/sport/when-political-yogis-take-the-knee-they-reveal-the-perverse-politics-of-indian-cricket
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