South Asian Global Cultures
15 December 2015
Cricket, the Rise of the South Asian Nations
The game of cricket is a fundamental and beautiful sport. Played by over 120 million people worldwide, cricket is the second most popular sport after soccer. Yet, even with only 11 people on each team, cricket represents something greater for millions of people. The game of cricket has suppressed people all across the world, and also has liberated them. The game of cricket has made allies and has made foes. Needless to say, the game of cricket has a rich and storied past that must be analyzed to understand the impact has on the present and the future. Specifically, through the British Raj’s subjugation of millions of people in colonial India, cricket has evolved into a form of pride for countries in South Asia. Through the portrayal of the sport in colonial era India as mirrored in the film Lagaan, along with the post-colonial and modern usage of the sport, cricket is redefined as a positive device of diplomacy for the countries of India and Pakistan.
British racial superiority clearly defined the late 19th and early 20th century during the British occupation of India. The British associated themselves with higher levels of rationality and logic than those they ruled in India. They built cities to demonstrate their superiority, enacted laws that gave them higher representation, and ultimately commanded their subjects to their will. The British had a comfortable grip on the running of India, with British values placed above those of the natives. In Lagaan, the British are shown to abuse their power by collecting the “lagaan”, the unfair tax that British Captain Andrew Russell knows the villagers cannot pay due to prolonged drought, despite the villagers’ complaints. Additionally, the British were given the task of enlightening the native people with the English ways of life, including culture, education, sport, and language. As present in his famous speech “Macaulay’s Minute”, Sir Thomas Babington claims that “it seems to be admitted on all sides, that the intellectual improvement of those classes of the people who have the means of pursuing higher studies can at present be affected only by means of some language not vernacular amongst them”, essentially scorning the Indian people and their inferior language, triumphing the English language and the British ways of living (Macaulay). Moreover, according to Professor Jack Williams, “race has always been very much an ideology of power” citing that “cricket was taken to encapsulate the essence of England and had a key role in how the English… imagined their national identity, but this was very much a white identity”, arguing that “cricket discourse emphasized that playing cricket encouraged moral qualities of selflessness that were seen as resonating with Christian ethics” (15). Thus, this racial identity that the British empowered over its subjects was key, resonating with British...