Category Archives: Assimilation

The Curious Case Of Bangladesh

I’ve always been a fan of the Bangladeshi cricket team — not once have I questioned the ICC’s decision to accord them with Test-nation status, and I always root for them (even when they’re playing against India). It’s important to realize that, for all the perennial defeats, they are still in their first decade of cricket. And, yes, they’ve only beaten a second-string West Indian team, but they came close to defeating Australia a few years ago.

It’s equally interesting to know just how difficult cricket is to gain a foothold. Is it just me, or is cricket an incredibly difficult sport to manage? It requires more equipment than other sports, and yes, the rules are complex — anyone who has ever played a pick-up game in India will fondly recall the endless pre-game disputes that inevitably break out (where should the boundary line begin? Does one-bounce out apply? What about the last wicket? Is LBW applicable? How many overs does each bowler get?).

The crucial point here is that Bangladesh has the talent. As more youngsters pick up the game, attend exclusive academies around the world, and play more cricket, the results will inevitably come. When it happens, I won’t be surprised.

South Africa’s England Moment

During the 2nd ODI, there was an ever so brief moment where England’s two South African natives — Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott — combined at the pitch for a partnership. Sure, Pietersen got out for 4, but it was quite a sight to behold in front of the South African crowd.

Taken in with Mahmood and Rashid and Morgan, England’s colonial transformation is near-complete. Eat it, Norman Tebbit.

Cricket Loyalties and The Human Brain

Continuing with the trend of shamelessly ripping off others’ work, I give you New York Times columnist David Brooks’ take on neuroscience.

The article’s more about the latest trends in “social cognitive neuroscience,” that is, the study of the effects of culture and social interactions on the human brain. The relevant paragraph here:

Mina Cikara of Princeton and others scanned the brains of Yankee and Red Sox fans as they watched baseball highlights. Neither reacted much to an Orioles-Blue Jays game, but when they saw their own team doing well, brain regions called the ventral striatum and nucleus accumbens were activated. This is a look at how tribal dominance struggles get processed inside.

This is in reference to Dileep Premachandran’s column on cricket loyalties, as well as my post on why cricket should stay international: our brains are already wired to root for countries, not made-up IPL franchises.

India Turns To Pakistan For Semis Chance

Ah, the irony of winners’ hierarchies. This week, I watched the India-Pakistan match on some illegal streaming website, which also featured a chat room for fans to opine. As could be expected on the Internet, the flowing text featured vitriol I haven’t heard (or seen) since I was in fifth grade; Pakistan-supporters alluded to cow-lovers, while some witty Indian fans came up with “Porkistan” (you’d think from the text the entire Partition could have been avoided if a few animals hadn’t happened upon the subcontinent’s grazing plains).

But now, the tables have turned: Pakistan fans will root for a victory against Australia, but in doing so, they will inadvertently root to increase India’s chances. Meanwhile, Indians will tune in for, of all things, a Pakistan victory. It’s a real cumbaya moment, but I’d hate just to mock it. This is the fun of sport, when love for the game supersedes even 60 years of mutual hatred — if only for a match against the White Man.

Why Draws Matter So Much In Cricket

Occasional cricket blogger Alex Massie takes a stab at explaining cricket to American friends, who asked him (and always ask me), full of wonder, how a game that takes five days to play can still end with no result.  Echoing Norman Geras, Massie replies that time makes the game what it is, drawing out epic narratives often found in war:

That is, the captains are the rival generals (and no sport places as great a burden upon captacincy as cricket), their players their respective subordinates entrusted with vital missions and, actually, weapons themselves. And, like a long military campaign fought over several battles, the tide may ebb and flow. Some weapons may be better suited to certain conditions; one side’s advantage in one area is offset by its deficiencies elsewhere. Strategy comes before tactics, but tactics matter too.

Good stuff. I don’t completely agree with the war imagery, since the war template requires a winner and a loser (as the forlorn Rambo asked, “Do we get to win this time?”).

But Massie’s onto something: the draw suggests the result isn’t the most paramount thing in cricket, which alone among sports (other than chess, perhaps), allows for something other than victory or less, yielding messier narratives and more complex personalities. (So, for instance, Monty Panesar, all thumbs at batting, outshines Paul Collingwood’s marathon effort because he faces a few balls at the end of play.)

In other words, there’s life in this game. Regular readers know my longtime praise for Ashis Nandy’s The Tao Of Cricket, which argues that cricket relies more on fate, chance and luck, not just human agency and skill. (This is also why I prefer fallible umpires to technology.) As I wrote earlier:

Players battle not only against each other, but against elements beyond their control or abilities — weather, cloud conditions, pitch reports, unexpected injuries…

Nandy argued there was a reason South Asian teams preferred draws and attrition to the Western aggressive style, but even if you putside his post-colonial trappings, he makes a lot of sense. The draw is a tribute to the limits imposed by the game, as well as life. It tells superior teams they must wait, they must keep trying, it was not meant to be; it tells inferior teams fortune sometimes swings their way; life will go on.

Without the draw, cricket loses its essense — it becomes just another sport, interested only in the scorecard and the end result.

The Andrew Symonds Dismissal

I haven’t read everything about what happened in the run-up to Andrew Symonds’ dismissal, but it seems a bit strange. The man had a few drinks, even though he apparently promised not to. On the other hand, where were his teammates? Did they all go to this rugby tournament, sit at a bench and order drinks, and then watch uneasily as Symonds reached for one after the other as well? Or did Symonds violate the team’s no-alcohol policy and just order one out loud? 

Poor man. When the first Harbhajan-Symonds broke out, I tried to sketch a more complicated point of view. I argued a) that Singh did in fact call Symonds a monkey, which I thought reprehensible and deserved as much punishment as Symonds should have received for provoking the dispute, but also that b) Singh did not deserve the “racist” tag as a result. Continue reading

South Africa’s Transformation Policy Yields Results

South African freelance writer Telford Vice has a strong, pro-affirmative action piece in Cricinfo, which makes sense given the national team’s recent victories:

“The first inkling of this happy day finally breaking came when South Africa won their Test series in England last year. The squad included seven players of colour, a fact that had been held up as a reason for South Africans not to be too cheerful about the impending rubber. “A mixed team went to England and came back with a series win; that hadn’t happened for 30 years,” said commentator Aslam Kota. Ashwell Prince scored two vital centuries and Hashim Amla another. A bloke with fire in his belly didn’t get a game. His name? JP Duminy.

Seven black players were also in the squad for last season’s tilt at South Africa’s Holy Grail: a series win in Australia. Duminy replaced the injured Prince, and the runs boomed off his bat much like his confidence leapt at opponents. His 166 in Melbourne, where South Africa clinched the series, is destined to be celebrated among the finest innings played in this country’s cause. Amla, meanwhile, was his regular rock-like self with three half-centuries in the series.”

Australia Attacks On Indian Students Spill Into Cricket World

There’s been a spate of highly publicized attacks on Indian stuents in Australia recently. Pretty gruesome stuff — I think one student had a “petrol bomb” thrown at him — and another one was attacked with a screwdriver. The whole affair has received a lot of attention in the Indian media, especially after film star Amitabh Bachchan refused an honorary degree from a Brisbane university because of the fracas.

Things are getting even weirder now: apparently, a cousin of Harbhajan Singh alleges a Melbourne taxi driver killed his son and left his body on railroad tracks. I really don’t know how much credence to give this story, because the Deccan Chronicle — which published the charges — is fairly respectable, but its article does not quote any Australian sources (or any Indian police sources either).

But here’s my problem: Continue reading

BBC Cricket Documentary: “Empire Of Cricket”

Those outside England won’t be able to see it (unless an enterprising person does some illegal YouTube work), but BBC2 will air a documentary tonight on the social and cultural history of cricket. Here’s the description:

The English invented cricket, created its rules and a whole moral code for the game. They then exported this elegant game of bat and ball to the wider British Empire. But England began to struggle when the natives began to play the game so much better.

The English game was also divided by class and held back by its own traditions. Until the 1960s, cricket was literally divided between upper class gentlemen, the amateurs and lower class players, the professionals. Even the way players addressed the ball had class connotations, with exuberant off-side shots being presented in training manuals as somehow having greater value than more workmanlike leg-side scoring.

In telling the story of cricket in England, Empire of Cricket explores the careers of great cricketers from Grace to Hobbs, Hutton to Illingworth, Botham to Pietersen. It also shows how cricket in England has been influenced by historical and cultural factors that have shaped the game we know today.

UPDATE: I’ve been “watching” the documentary on Twitter, and it really does sound intriguing. For instance:

redpied: BBC 2 Empire of Cricket Brian Close with no Helmet on brave or reckless …………..or nuts

simonpjbest: Empire of Cricket just showed the precursors of the nPower girls.

Barack Obama Reads Cricket

From The New York Times Magazine:

At the end of our conversation, when I asked him if he was reading anything good, he said he had become sick enough of briefing books to begin reading a novel in the evenings — “Netherland,” by Joseph O’Neill.

I mentioned O’Neill’s cricket book — a wonderful examination of immigrant identity in post 9/11 New York City — in an earlier post.