I’m generally not a fan of cultural determinism, which is why I don’t think much of Greg Chappell’s latest evaluation of the Indian team. Remember the days when economists dismissed the economic potential of Asia because of Confucian and Buddhist asceticism? Remember the ‘Hindu’ rate of growth? Or the many claims that Arabs, because of their tribal and ‘primitive’ ways, could not yearn for democracy?
The culture argument is also politically charged. A white Australian accusing the Indian team of lacking leadership because of the country’s culture — well, it’s designed for an incident at the United Nations. The problem is that Chappell can’t explain variances or anomalies — he says Indians can’t handle leadership because the country shoots down anyone willing to take responsibility; he then turns around and says he has nothing but respect for M. S. Dhoni. Ergo, Dhoni isn’t Indian? He also can’t explain the relatively good run that India had until the England tour. Why did this deficient ‘culture’ kick in then, and not before?
Still, it’s important not to completely dimiss culture as a source for inquiry and analysis. Poverty researchers in America now kick themselves for ignoring the ‘culture of poverty‘ thesis after the 1960s, as they then ceded ground to conservative critiques of minority culture that lacked nuance and rigor. But I’m not even sure how to begin to analyze a team like India’s, with its motley collection of religion, regions, and languages. I suppose there’s also a larger question of organizational culture — a particular set of rules and customs inherent to a team structure independent of any external cultural origins.
But I wonder what it was like to be coached by Chappell. Did he secretly nurse every Orientalist stereotype of Indians — these effeminate, lazy, cheating, cunning boys who need strong discipline and education to become adults?