Category Archives: Assimilation

Cricket and The Crisis of Indian Masculinity (Or, Sydney Redux)

Rather convoluted title, no? Forgive me. I recently posted an item about the increasingly aggressive and militaristic themes used to advertise IPL teams, when I recalled another draft I never completed about the Sydney Test. 

Over a year having passed now, it’s clear that the Sydney Test between India and Australia was a seminal moment in the cricket world. You have the umpiring errors, which led to the referral system now widely in place; you had a near-split between the Indian and Australian boards, and you had the sledging moment between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh. While Singh went  on to bigger and better things, Symonds lost his way, bitter at his team and Cricket Australia. The Australian team itself also fell a notch; they lost the next Test at Perth, drew the last one in the series in Adelaide, and then enjoyed one of their worst years in a decade. 

I want to talk a bit more, though, about the Indian side. Continue reading

Cricket Books

The Cricket Watcher Journal lists the cricket books on his shelf right now. It’s a good selection, featuring the classic Beyond A Boundary, which partially inspired my own modest effort here. There’s also a Sunil Gavaskar autobiography and something about Sachin Tendulkar. 

I’m not much of a cricket reader (other than what’s on the blogs and Cricinfo, of course), but I do have two books on my crick-lit wish-list: first, Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, a post-9/11 novel and a history of cricket (and immigration) in New York City. It received extraordinarily good reviews when it came out in the States and I’ve wanted a copy ever since. 

Then, there’s Wodehouse at the Wicket, a collection of P.G. Wodehouse stories about cricket. It’s ridiculously over-priced, which is why I haven’t bought it yet, but I secretly bet it’s worth it. You can find at least one Wodehouse cricket story, “Now, Talking About Cricket,” online for free.

Andre Nel and Affirmative Action (2)

BeerandSport had an interesting comment on my previous post about Andre Nel’s recent retirement:

Nel was dropped while in the form of his life for Charl Langevelt. The stated reason was transformation. Charl wasn’t happy so they ended up taking another player of colour, his name eludes me for the moment.

I had a huge problem when Langeveldt refused to be considered because of the circumstances of his selection. For one thing, based purely on statistics, Langeveldt was as deserving a spot in the national team as Nel. His bowling average in ODIs was an impressive 28.46, just above Nel’s 27.68. Their economy and strike rates were also roughly similar. Langeveldt should have pointed out the obvious: Nel, like many insecure members of the majority, was using the affirmative-action bugaboo as an excuse to hide his own inadequacy.

But, more importantly, I didn’t like Langeveldt’s decision because it only reaffirmed the rigidly silly contours of the current debate over affirmative action, in which merit is always weighed against color (as if the two are mutually exclusive). Even if Langeveldt’s stats were that much worse than Nel’s, he could have argued that the way we measure merit wrongly excludes existing structural circumstances that make it harder for minority players to gain access to coaching resources and other sporting infrastructure, not to mention the national team itself. I’m not saying this means we should pick blatantly unqualified players — and Langeveldt, as I just said, wasn’t — but we should recognize at least that the playing field isn’t always level.

Andre Nel Retires; Don’t Blame Affirmative Action

I’m not sure why Andre Nel decided to quit international cricket, but last year, he voiced opposition to South Africa’stransformation policy, which attempted to increase the number of minorities in the national team.

Regular readers will know I generally support measures designed to increase team diversity. Opponents argue that merit takes a back seat when other considerations, like race, come into play, but I’m not sure Andre Nel can make that argument.

Looking at South Africa’s current bowling line-up, it’s clear that Nel, while certainly accomplished, isn’t all that great: Dale Steyn’s bowling average (23) is lower than his (31), as is Ntini’s. The Morkel brothers are still too new, but they’re not minorities. If Nel wasn’t picked because of his race, it’s also plausible he wasn’t picked because he’s not good enough.

Defending Steve Bucknor

The Cricket Watcher’s Journal has a nasty post on Steve Bucknor, who has made some comments about his expulsion from the India-Australia Test series. I’ve defended Bucknor before, so I’ll do it again (if only because no one else will).

I’m not sure why TCWJ is so enraged, as Bucknor makes some more than reasonable claims: first, he thinks the BCCI may be disproportionately powerful because of its financial clout. Check. Then, he says his bad decisions — and he agrees that they were bad, which, as an umpire, he isn’t compelled to admit publicly — formed only a small minority of the decisions he had to make in the game. Check again. What’s the big deal?

TCWJ writes:

But when he goes on to say “So I was expecting these things to happen because on Earth … there are some people who are more equal than others. Because they are more equal, they seem to have more say. And what they say, especially influenced by money, they seem to have their way. So I’m not too surprised” – you wonder perhaps it hasn’t registered to him that he has consistently given poor decisions against India.

Again, I find this all puzzling. Continue reading

Will Cricket Stem Terrrorism in Pakistan?

I see that Nestaquin and I disagree about the Younis Khan’s thoughts on cricket as a tool to eradicate Pakistani terrorism. Nestaquin writes:

However, what irks me is the absence of awareness and the gross naivety in regards to the seriousness of the situation. Asking the ICC to save cricket from the nefarious elements within Pakistani society is akin to expecting a butterfly to rescue an antelope from the jaws of a crocodile.

Well, phrased like that, it does sound ridiculous. But I think Nestaquin has a few things wrong: Continue reading

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and Indian Cricket

I haven’t been to India recently, so I’ve had to rely almost exclusively on Western accounts of anger in some Indian sectors about the now-Oscar-winning movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Apparently, some were angry about the word ‘dog,’ which they found particularly offensive. Note, again, how culturally specific insults can be: ‘monkey’ is not at all registered in India, whereas ‘dog’ — I know this from personal experience — goes too far (‘bastard’, as well, as Anil Kumble pointed out to Brad Hogg, also goes beyond the pale). 

Others, however, were angry that the film’s central characters and plot came out of Dharavi, the massive slum in Bombay. I’m not sure I understand their logic, because, as ‘slum’ films go, this one was far better a portrayal than City of Joy, a Patrick Swayze movie from the 1990s that relied on the savior-Westerner prototype as its main protagonist, and focused much less on Indian wealth. That film, of course, also attracted protests, but Slumdog is simply different, since it is not meant to be a “realist” portrayal; it is a fantastic romp through a series of bigger-than-life characters (see Anil Kapoor’s role especially). Continue reading

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A White West Indian Cricketer?

Peter English had a wonderful article about Brendan Nash, a West Indian cricketer of mixed heritage and often “accused” of being white. (Over at the Guardian, Paul Weaver also provides some interesting quotes from the man in question.) He’s something of a sensation in the West Indies: racially mixed, conceived in Jamaica but born in Australia, where he grew up, then a migrant back to Jamaica, which he now calls home, and, because of his fair(er) skin, called “white.”

A couple of things pop out for me: Continue reading

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South Africa, Re-Admitted

Cricinfo has a feature on the first matches that South Africa played after readmission to Test cricket (in the West Indies, of all places). I recently went to South Africa a few months ago, and I saw this anti-apartheid poster, which informs my thoughts on the current situation in Zimbabwe: 

Andrew Symonds, Human Character

I don’t really like Andrew Symonds, or rather, I didn’t: I found him too aggressive, and too willing to unfairly get into another side’s face. (I also don’t like really good lower-order batsmen; they have a tendency to play spoiler, either preventing batting collapses from fully culminating, or putting the screws in already tired bowling attacks.)

But I think I’m changing my mind on this guy. Continue reading