Friday, August 14, 2009

Setting Sons

A recent favourite cricket question of mine is this - Of the 16 teams at the last World Cup, why were Holland unique?

Leaving aside some red herrings like matting wickets, the answer is that Holland are the only ones who were never part of the British Empire.

It's not much of a stretch from there to say that an integral part of the history of cricket is the history of empire.

I was originally going to say 'early history of cricket' - but then thought of what's going on in Zimbabwe, which still has its roots in decisions taken when 'the sun never set...'. - so is the reason you could fill Wembley Stadium for five days on the trot for an India/Pakistan test match.

When you're growing up, these things tend to pass you by. I suppose I must have wondered by Pakistan only start playing test matches in the 50's, but it never concerned me enough to ask. Same goes with why did India only played their first test in 1932, and why did Pakistan and India play each other so infrequently.

Then there was the lack of South Africa from the international arena - another story entirely.

Then pushing the envelope a bit further, why did the MCC play tests abroad rather than England (for some time I thought the MCC were some sort of touring organisers - a bit like the Barmy Army)

It was only when I read Beyond a Boundary that the coin started to drop, and I started to realise that there was a whole rich history of the game out there - one that seemed to run in a parallel universe to the one I was used to.

It's an ongoing catching-up process, which is why one of my poolside books this summer was 'Corner of a foreign field - the Indian history of an English game' was high on my reading list.

It's not as good as 'Beyond a Boundary - then again, very few sports books are. It's not as overtly political as it - probably because the author, Ramchandra Gula, has grown up in post-imperial India, rather than having to rail against existing iniquities as CLR James was doing.

It has a fascinating hero in Panwankar Baloo, and as many stories of British ruling class idiocy as anyone could need.

And it does ask some pertinent questions about India and Pakistan today, that really do need answering.


Yellowman said...

Pakistan didn't exist until 1947, so wouldn't have played tests before then would they?

So whats your point?

Mark said...

Erm, well that is exactly the point Yellowman.

Well spotted...