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What Do They Know Of Cricket Who Only Cricket Know?

By Ali Abbas

11 April, 2016

CLR James' Beyond a Boundary is considered the best book on any sport ever written. The book is not a literary masterpiece, one reads the book and begins to wonder what might be the reason for such acclaim. The reason lies in a profound question that James asked- " What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" . Born into colonial West Indies, James took inspiration for writing the book from racism, bigotry, colonial hegemony prevalent in cricket in that era and churned out a remarkable biographical account through the lens of cricket. Being an anti-Stalinst and a behemoth sub-altern and post colonial thinker gave James an opportunity that not many people have had, the opportunity to see how profoundly the political discourse of the times affects a sport. James describes in poignant detail how The Queen's park oval was meant for only whites and how other cricket clubs like Shanon etc were for the working class. And how a mix of colonialism, racism, plantation life ethos affected cricket.

Three incidents that happened lately remind us of the importance of the question that James asked. Gayle dancing with Afghanistan team after they beat his team, Sachin playing cricket with William and Kate , Harsha Bhogle being sacked as a commentator from IPL.

Gayle's dance was the dance of liberty. Only a soul that has grasped the true meaning of sport ,in the sense James did, and freed himself from the shackles of enforced identities that politics thrusts on us can attempt such a feat. For what is sport if it doesn't bring with it liberty and empathy. Gayle danced because he felt empathetic. Gayle danced because he felt what the win meant for Afghanistan. Gayle danced because he felt like an Afghan himself. Gayle danced because he was large enough to discover how sport helps transcend identities.In many senses the Gayle dance was the single most important incident that happened in cricket recently.

William and Kate are celebrities in their own right and given the British fixation with Royalty means that they are given more than their due of importance. What better means to start a tour to a cricket crazy country than a photo-op playing cricket? And a couple of legends of the game in the frame. Again what do they know of cricket who only cricket know?

Come this year's IPL and Harsha Bhogle is a no show. What, one might ask, transpired that prompted BCCI to terminate his contract without prior intimation. Harsha has been as good a commentator as there can be , never going overboard with either praise or blame. In the present scenario where cricket has been made a vehicle of jingoistic Nationalism its hard for him to fit into the scheme of things.

The writer is based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir and is B.Tech , M.A (Philosophy) with keen interest in Philosophy , Art , Literature and Culture . email : untamed70@yahoo.co.in



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