Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cricket in US!

The last Sunday while flipping through the New York Times, I happened to see something that resembled a cricket image in the newspaper. I looked up to see the headlines of the article “Bowling for Democracy” and couldn’t believe my eyes. Cricket in NY times?

The article is written by Orlando Patterson and Jason Kaufman, both associate professors at Harvard. The article tries to analyze why Cricket did not sustain in US & Canada compared to the rest of cricket playing commonwealth countries. Yes, I believe cricket was played in US & Canada in the 19th!

The article says:

The puzzle only deepens when one considers that cricket was once popular in both Canada and the United States. It rivaled baseball for most of the 19th century, with as many stories in the sports pages of The New York Times until 1880. Indeed, the world's first international test match was played between Canada and the United States in 1844. So the puzzle is not so much why it was never adopted in North America, but why in the early 20th century it was subsequently rejected.

It then goes on to explain the main reasons for the shift towards baseball in US. The article also showcases the difference between what happened in US & in the rest of the commonwealth countries. In the US, the elite wanted to differentiate from the masses. While in other countries (India, Australia, Caribbean), people wanted to emulate the British and beat them at their own game. (I think this could possibly explain the significance attached to Ashes!)

But to me the revelation in the whole article was the following paragraph:

The game itself partly facilitated this process. Cricket requires no contact between players, and its strict and complex rules, dress code and officiating largely eliminate any risk of embarrassment in play with those of different ranks or castes. So did the careful allocation of positions; less glamorous roles like bowling and fielding were assigned to social inferiors while those of specialist batsmen and team captain were reserved for elites.

How true, how very true! I remember having read sometime back (have no idea where), that for the very same reasons explained above, that Brahmins in India took to cricket. To an extent, I think even now this mindset is still prevalent . In our unconscious mind we still attach more importance, charm & weightage to a batsmen than a bowler. A bowler is remembered as a workhorse (remember Kapil Dev) and a batsman is remembered as a classic (remember Sunil Gavaskar or Sachin Tendulkar). Do you get it? The Batsmen have always been perceived to be superior to bowlers. How else can we explain the fact that there have been so few 'bowling Captains' (captain who were only bowlers like Walsh, Waqar) in world cricket? Has there ever been any great bowling captain(s)? (One bowler who could have been a great captain is Shane Warne. But due to so many controversies surrounding him, it never happened (except for a few games which he led in Steve Waugh’s absence)).

But my bigger question is this “Are bowlers (esp fast bolwers) not smart enough (perceived) to be captains?” Do we always think them of being inferior when compared to a batsman?

Just when the article is about to end & when you are wondering what the title has to do with the article (nostalgia revisited: remember Indian movies – there is some title with no significance to the film & just in the climax the hero/heroine will say something related to the title ;-)?, the authors have a section on Democracy & Cricket.

The article ends with:

WHAT broader lessons might the history of cricket have for the globalization of Western cultural practices? It shows that such practices can be promoted or discouraged from the top down; it is not necessarily a bottom-up process, as is commonly believed. Nor does such downward dissemination require the point of a gun. The passion for cricket in places like Pakistan and India also shows that a complex Western cultural practice can be adopted in its entirety by very different cultures, even when highly identified with its country of origin. Might the same be true of other Western cultural practices, like democracy?

Are you kidding me? I could use the same cricket story and say that THIS is the main reason why US is hated the world over. While everywhere else people adjust, conform to the existing standards, it is the US mentality of being unique & shunning other cultures & practices that is causing today’s problems. Except for the last paragraph, the authors have done an amazing job, in hindsight you could probably excuse them for the last paragraph too, how else can this article make it to New York Sunday Times? ;-)

With help from Bugmenot, I found the article in the NYT website. Read the entire article here. If asked for login/password provide eranko/timoeranko (courtesy bugmenot)


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