Research Paper: Cricket and Indian National Consciousness
CRICKET AND INDIAN NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS By Ankur Pandey IM-2K8-007Intenational Institute Of Professional Studies November 1, 2011
OBJECTIVESTo determine relationship between sports and politics, and inparticular between sport and national consciousness.To depict the role of Cricket in Pre and Post colonial British-Indiaand recently in the Media; in the Indian sub-continent.To Identify Cricket as a unifying factor in India.
INTRODUCTIONIt is recognized that there is close relationship between sports and politics, and inparticular between sport and national consciousness. The Olympic Games & thefootball, Rugby and Cricket World Cups have often been used as platform for theexpression of nationalistic sentiments. The Olympic Games, revived at a time ofexpanding international trade, was a manifestation of global capitalism. However,they have also been used to express political statements- the Munich Olympics of1936 were used by Hitler to highlight his belief in German racial superiority andduring the Mexico Olympics of 1968, two African-Americans raised their fists inthe Black Power salute and were consequently banned from representing the USAagain.The political consciousness most affected by sport is nationalism, and vice versa.Sport can reflect and shape national consciousness just as national consciousnesscan reflect sporting character. Sporting nationalism peaks when a national feelsinsecure or threatened. This can be observed very well when we see countries likeIndia- Pakistan and Australia-England playing. Competitive sports can reflect ormaintain a collective psychology, the mythic structures within sport can help giverise to collective identities; sport can also be used to achieve political motivation.There is a strong link between cricket and Indian consciousness which requiresdetailed analysis. Coming to a clearer understanding of the relationship betweenthe two can demonstrate and provide insights on how these elements of Indianidentity can become more relevant.
LITERATURE REVIEWHISTORY OF CRICKET IN INDIAThe history of cricket in India shows that it has a fostered both nationalism andcommunalism; therefore it is relevant to outline a short history of the developmentof cricket in some regions of India. It is important to note that the sport developeddifferently at different times in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. The linksbetween cricket and independent „Indian‟ consciousness can first be seen in thelate 19th century.Many social historians of Indian cricket have concentrated on the Quadrangularand Pentangular tournaments in Bombay which started in the early 20th century.Parsi merchants were the first to take up cricket in the late 19 th century with Hindusand Muslims participating soon after the turn of the century. The Quadrangulartournaments in Bombay consisted of English, Hindu, Parsi, and Muslim teams.Later, they developed into the Pentagular- the fifth team being known as „All therest‟, comprising Indian Christians, Buddhists and Jews. By the 1920s and 1930sthe tournaments had become very popular- about 20,000 fans would attend amatch. Some academics suggest that this was in part because they were communal,no other tournament was as popular and the organizers recognized theircommercial potential early on.The tournaments were halted in 1945, some say because it was decided that theywere deeply divisive. However it has also been suggested that the Board of CricketControl in India (BCCI) put pressure on the government to stop them because theywere more popular than the Ranji Trophy which it organized.It should be noted that whilst cricket in Bombay was organized along communallines, elsewhere in the country it was not. In Bengal, cricket was adopted by themiddle classes and the elites in conjuction in order to beat their colonial rulers attheir own game; in the southern cities such as Chennai (Madras) cricket was alsoused as a way of „beating‟ the British. It has been argued that in Bengal, the middle
classes took up cricket in part as a way of countering charges of effeminacy in theaftermath of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. It has been argued that indigenous sportssuch as wrestling did not bring acceptance in British eyes. Therefore, participationin „European‟ sports was encouraged by the elites of Bengal as a way ofchallenging the occupiers at their own games.The founding of the Indian National Congress (INC) party in 1885 came about atthe same time as the establishment of cricket as a popular sport in Bombay- thefirst Indian team to tour England was a Parsi team in 1888. These developmentsoccurred at a time when in England writers such as John Ruskin were proposingnew ideas regarding socialism and nationalism- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhisaid that Ruskin had a huge influence on his life.These „English‟ ideas were being publicized while the English game of cricket wasbeing promoted at the same time and some argue that the growth of both is linked.Cricket was actively promoted by the British in India as a way of promulgating„English‟ values.
CRICKET AND THE MEDIAAnother crucial factor that has increased the link between cricket and nationalconsciousness is the deregulation of the television industry that took place in 1933.The success in the World Cup ten years earlier combined with the spread of newtelevision stations brought cricket to whole new audiences throughout India.Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch‟s Star Sports and ESPN channels havebecome the mainstay for bringing cricket to an ever-widening audience. “Radioand more particularly television, has made cricket the most popular game in India;Men, Women and Children who had no interest in the game earlier have nowbecome ardent fans- all because of its broadcast by radio and television”.Cricket on television is a boon for advertisers because commercials can be shownevery few minutes or so, after each over, this combined with the need for the newchannels to fill their schedules meant more and more matches being shown.Multinational Corporations (MNCs) entered India as the Indian economy openedup and they needed brand ambassadors with whom the population identified.Cricket players provided the perfect vehicle for this which in turn boosted thepopularity of the star players. MNCs have exploited the subcontinent‟s love ofcricket, and also for Bollywood. Using movie stars and cricketers to advertise theirproducts, MNCs gained an extraordinary reach in the subcontinent- in Indiabillboards with cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar or M.S. Dhoni or other moviestars like Shah Rukh Khan holding Pepsi or Coca Cola are ubiquitous. This alsoallows the poor to interact with global capitalism and forget their own situation fora while.It should be noted that as the Indian economy was liberalized and „big money‟poured in a proportion of the population had more money to spend. Thedevelopments also brought about a growing middle class who, Nandy argues“expanded the scope and range of national consciousness”. He points out that themiddle classes in India are the standard bearers of nationalism and encouraged thelinks between cricket and national consciousness.
The media has deepened this link between cricket and nationalism, and nowherehas this been more obvious than in the recent 2007 cricket Wrld Cup. TheHindustan Times advertised the World Cup as „War in WIndies‟; PepsiCo used theslogan „Blue Billion‟ to link Indian‟s passion for cricket with nationalconsciousness and their brand. Varun Sahni argues that such links are positive, “Ifyour national identity is expressed… predominantly through sport, … that‟sactually a rather good thing. A lot of us were very relieved to see Germannationalism [for example] re-emerge during the football World Cup, in such ahealthy non-xenophobic manner, [it was] felt that media makes the most of it”.This hyper nationalism comes to the fore particularly when Indian plays Pakistanin cricket or Hockey. In the run-up to the India/Pakistan match in the quarter finalsof the 2003 World Cup, the media went into overdrive portraying this as „mimicwarfare‟: a Bengali newspaper represented the match as war, with the cricket pitchas the battleground; a Gujrati newspaper used computer generated imagery to turnthe Inaian and Pakistani cricket teams into soldiers, complete with military uniformand guns.
Cricket and BollywoodIn a country like India, apart from religions there lies only two things- Cricket andBollywood. Both are somehow directly or indirectly but closely connected witheach other. These two have huge fan following. It cannot be seen in any other partof the globe. A sport and an entertaining industry- an awesome connection. Boththe industries are booming at an enormous rate. And to be quite clear, it is notgoing to stop. Cricketers too need glamour in their life and Bollywood providesthem one of the best options. It all started around the late 70s and early 80s.Cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar featured in the movie like “Awwal No.” with AamirKhan. Former Indian player Ajay Jadeja was seen in the movie “Khel” alongsideSuniel Shetty and Sunny Deol. Sachin Tendulkar‟s best friend and another formercricketer Vinod Kambli was seen in “Anarth” with Sanjay Dutt. In addition to it, inMujhse Shaadi Karogi Indian Legend Kapil Dev appeared with Navjot SinghSiddhu with present Indian players Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathanand many others too. Movies based upon cricket are also being made like “Iqbal”“Victory” “Hat-trick” and the famous one which was nominated for Oscar“Lagaan” .Apart from these; cricketers are also seen in promotional campaigns,advertisements, doing national causes, etc. Now a days, they are seen doing rampwalks too. India‟s famous fashion designer, Manish Malhotra, chose Yuvraj Singhand Mahendra Singh Dhoni as his show stopper. Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkaris seen in every one or the other advertisement. He will soon be appearing in amovie called GANESHA. The basic objective of the marketers is choosing thecricketers‟ is their intensity on and off the field. Being a sport person, they havegot a hunk image. Their way of reacting on the field can be shown in thecampaigns of the brands. Like for TVS STAR, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was useddue to his image and the people being a great fan of him tends to buy the sameproduct. In addition to this, for his great leadership skills The Vijay Mallya‟sCompany, United Breweries, endorsed him for their product THE ROYALPLATINUM, which had a tag line- Cheer‟s for Leadership. These marketers knowthe basic demand of the cricketers is that they want to be in the limelight, beglamorous and make money and other various things too. Coming back to theissue, the Bollywood, relationships of cricketers and the actresses are mostly seen.They are being linked up with each other. Some of the affairs turn into arelationship too. The best example of this is Late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi,
popularly known as “Nawab Pataudi” with the gorgeous Sharmilla Tagore. Thelegend with the beauty! Other examples to be seen are that of Ravi Shastri andAmrita Singh, Mohammed Azharuddin with Sangita Bijlani. Cross-border romanceis also being spotted such as Pakistani opener Mohsin Khan and Reena Roy. WestIndies legend, Sir Vivian Richards was a huge fan of Indian cinema married NeenaGupta. In today‟s scenario, a stage has come for Bollywood as well as thecricketers to be closer. It‟s the Indian Premium League. The entertainment meetsthe sport. After the match, the late night parties or the celebrations, cricketers areseen with the models and the Bollywood divas. Salman Khan, the Bollywoodsuperstar, organised cricket matches for his “Being Human Foundation” a charityin which various cricketers participated including pakistanis as well.
CONCLUSIONIt has been argued in this paper that several elements have contributed to the closelinks between cricket and Indian national consciousness. From a historicalperspective, it was a major factor- both as a way of „fitting in‟ with the British asthe Parsis and the local rulers desired, and as a form of non-violent dissent againstthe colonizers. These two paradoxical reasons for taking up the game in pre-Independent India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries illustrate the complexrole that cricket has played in the country. In India, cricket represents differentthings for different people.The connections between cricket and South Asian national identities are nothowever the only links that have firmly established cricket on the subcontinent.Once the colonizers left, the game continued to flourish which suggests that theroots are deeper than mere anti-colonial or pro-colonial expression. As argued inthis paper, cricket suits the mind of those on the Indian subcontinent- its non-linearformat fits with the regional consciousness in South Asia as do the pre-industrialelements of the game.Once the game was established, the media and politicians used cricket as a way ofboosting their ratings and popularity. As cricket rose in the national consciousnessof India, MNCs latched onto it as a way of enhancing their sales figures.Bollywood also capitalized on the links between anti-colonial feeling and nationalconsciousness, with the movie Lagaan providing the most successful example ofthis.Finally, Cricket has been used by different polities to consolidate a shared Indianidentity and also as a way of expressing alternative identities. This dichotomyreflects the contradictory reasons operating when the game was initiallyestablished in India.In conclusion it can be argued that cricket both unites the people of India, andwhich of these happens depends on a variety of factors including the team‟ssuccess, the relationship minorities have with the centre and with whom the team isplaying. These inconsistencies are not seen only in India- they are present in SriLanka and England as well. Such contradictions are not surprising, however,because the Indian national consciousness is not a homogeneous identity; it means
different things to different people in a country where everyone has a regional andreligious identity, as well as a national identity. Support for the team encompassesall these identities and even more.
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