The Great Tamasha

Rahul Bhattacharya in The New York Times:

BhattaFor two months in spring, the Indian Premier League is watched more than anything else on Indian television. Test cricket is played between nations over five days, without guarantee of a winner. I.P.L. matches last three hours and are played between Indian teams owned by businessmen and movie stars. Results are guaranteed. There have been unforgettable moments. Five years ago, one player slapped another as they left the field. The slapped player was arrested in May and accused of fixing I.P.L. matches. Also arrested was the son-in-law of the cricket board president, who owns a team, on suspicion of gambling on matches. His accomplice was thought to be a C-list actor, who once won the Indian version of “Big Brother.” Tamasha, the Hindi word for “spectacle,” begins to describe it.

…“The Great Tamasha” is a series of excursions into a cricket-fixated society. For four years Astill, a descendant of a cricketer who played for England in the 1920s, was stationed in New Delhi as the South Asia bureau chief of The Economist. He devotes much of the book to recounting how Indian cricket went from colonial recreation to national addiction, and while treading this familiar ground, the narrative lacks the propulsion of discovery. The sport’s interactions with race, nationalism, religion and caste, for example, have been treated with greater depth and nuance in Ramachandra Guha’s extraordinary social history “A Corner of a Foreign Field.”

More here.