The consequences of cricket

Salil Tripathi has a wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal today celebrating 75 years of Indian Test cricket, in which he writes:

What the British didn’t realize was that once introduced, cricket’s consequences couldn’t be predicted, nor controlled. Just as the introduction of railways in the 1850s not only sped up communication but also united India, and as Lord Macaulay’s “Minute on Education” not only taught simple English to clerks but also ideas of self-rule and democracy to other Indians, so cricket—with its notion of fair play—gave currency to the idea of justice and unity.

I agree about railways and English, but I wonder if we romanticize the role cricket played in India’s independence struggle. In my admittedly limited view, cricket began to play a role beyond that of an ordinary sport after independence—especially from the 1970s onwards—when we actually started doing well at it, and it served as a source of national pride when there were few others. Similarly, India’s post-liberalization assertiveness was mirrored in the Indian team that Sourav Ganguly and John Wright nurtured, with its refreshing aggression and self-belief. But I’m not sure that cricket’s notions of fair play have ever meant anything to more than a few elite Indians.

That quibble aside, it’s a lovely piece, and I’ve become a fan of Tripathi’s lucid prose—He’s both insightful and readable, qualities few Indian journalists have.

Also read: “Do We Really Love Cricket?”