It’s a cricket world


From 1892 to 1946, India’s premier cricket tournament was fought on the pitch by a pantheon of adversaries: the British, the Hindoos, the Parsees of the Zoroastrian Cricket Club, the Muslims of the Mohammedan Gymkhana, and, as of 1937, a team called “The Rest,” made up of Buddhists, Jews, and Indian Christians. (The Rest never won a match.) The Bombay Pentangular, as it was finally known, was abolished in 1946, condemned for its forthright communalism. And yet, like most things in India, the Pentangular has undergone an unlikely reincarnation. This year, India’s regional film industries — the lissome fivesome of Bollywood, Mollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood, and Sandalwood — will slug it out in the inaugural season of the Celebrity Cricket League. In this latest phase of the ongoing metastasis of a stodgy sixteenth-century British gentlemen’s game into mega-Asian sportainment, the league hopes to cater to (and cash in on) the hundreds of millions of Indians for whom cricket and cinema are two faces of the same god. The Victorians thought that the edifice of civilization could be built on the values of cricket alone. The edifice of cricket, in turn, is built on the Test match. Thirty-three hours of play, stretched out over five days, Test cricket is an exercise in humility. Excellence at cricket requires self-denying stoicism, sportsmanship, and a continual refinement of one’s relationship to the Laws of Cricket — an actual document, safeguarded by the Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord’s Ground in London. A cross between baseball and a garden party, the luxurious pace of the cricket match makes the character of the player nearly as important as his athleticism, requiring precise psychological evaluations of opponents’ strengths and weaknesses on the field. Players are obliged to halt the match for lunch or even tea with enemy cricketers and the umpire, no matter how nail-bitingly tense the game.

more from Anna Della Subin at Bidoun here.