The Danger Of Indian Cricket Nationalism

Everyone’s raving about Wright Thompson, the American cricket-stranger who wandered around India during the World Cup. Regular readers know I’m skeptical about non-cricket fans writing about the game, but tackling it from a foreigner’s perspective does bring out different tones among sources. It’s one thing to talk to another Indian about the game; it’s another completely to explain it to a (white?) American.

Read, for e.g., what Rahul Bhattacharya had to say:

“The aggression, the brashness,” says Bhattacharya, the cricket writer turned novelist. “It’s now something which Indians see that this is what we have to do to assert our place in the world. We’ve been f—ed over for thousands of years. Everyone has conquered us. Now we’re finding our voice. We’re the fastest-growing economy in the world. We are going to buy your companies. Our cricket team is like going to f—ing abuse you back, and we’re going to win and we’re going to shout in your face after we win. People love that.”

That’s just awful. It’s ironic that in our bid to express our long-suppressed voice, we end up sounding so much like our conquerors. Why is there such a fascination with the Australian way of playing, with all its talk of mental disintegration and toughness? Why must we lose our sense of play and of fun for the sake of winning? Why must we lose our own distinctive style?

Martha Nussbaum, another (white) foreigner has diagnosed this trend very well:

[As] I’ve noted, the traditions contain a wound, a locus of vulnerability, in the area of humiliated masculinity. For centuries, some Hindu males think, they were subordinated by a sequence of conquerors, and Hindus have come to identify the sexual playfulness and sensuousness of their traditions, scorned by the masters of the Raj, with their own weakness and subjection. So a repudiation of the sensuous and the cultivation of the masculine came to seem the best way out of subjection. One reason why the RSS attracts such a following is the widespread sense of masculine failure.

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5 thoughts on “The Danger Of Indian Cricket Nationalism

  1. Rahl says:

    Yes I had a very vague understanding of that complex and I noted that alot in the relatively more outspoken indian folks. They have a mixed sense of intimidation and resilience that drives them in the international arena. My paki people are still undergoing the intimidation stage and I think there’s til we’ll have actions that speak louder than words.
    But, inspite of being on the other side of the LOC, im pretty proud that finally our south asian ppl have something to strengthen their balls. i have finally come to believe that numbers translate to power. and the two largest populations in the world manifest that.

  2. pam says:

    well if you become aggressive you are taunted as western and if you don’t you are taunted as indian… no win anyway.

    maybe journalist are still thinking india as a colonist country

  3. […] writer Rahul Bhattacharya (whom I generally admire, but gently criticized here) is on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, promoting his new book The Sly Company of People Who Care. […]

  4. […] hurling a ball down the pitch is apparently a girly thing to do. The insecurity is compounded by Hindu-Muslim relations; I’ve often heard it said the best cricket team would combine Pakistan’s bowlers with […]

  5. […] question is what that match meant for Indian cricket. Apart from signaling the rise of a very dangerous type of cricket nationalism, it also epitomized how much India relied on Tendulkar to get through the 1990s. It also left me […]

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