Introduction: Centres and Subjects
Cricket is no longer England's national game. It might be argued that the sport now belongs to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and to the South Asian diaspora in the Persian Gulf, Canada and elsewhere. England's status as a cricketing periphery has been accompanied by its fading reputation as a strong side and by its declining influence in regulatory bodies such as the International Cricket Council (ICC). Some observers have attributed this shift at the centre of the sport to the innate ‘Indian-ness’ of cricket (Nandy 1989). Whatever the merits of this supposition, international cricket today reflects a series of fundamental changes in the ability of old elites to claim and defend ‘their’ culture. As Appadurai (1996: 23–48) has noted, cricket in the decolonizing world provides marginal populations with the means of overcoming their marginality in global popular culture. What I intend to do in this essay is examine the tensions that are generated in the process of this reconfiguration of centre and margin and make a broad observation. The primary rivalry in cricket today is not between India and Pakistan or England and Australia. It is a moral, economic and political clash between the colony and the metropole both of which have outgrown those labels. The sport functions both as a mirror of the disjunctures between ‘how things stand’ and ‘how things should be’ and as an instrument that continuously widens the gap.