Saturday, January 12, 2008

'Death to nationalism!' (except when we're playing the Aussies or Poms?)

A backhanded apologist for Aussie cricketing imperialism named Marcus (just kidding, Marcus) has written a lengthy rebuttal of my last post. Unlike me, Marcus actually tries to bring some political analysis to bear on the crisis that has engulfed the cricketing world over the last week.

Marcus' complaint about the economic and administrative power which India is beginning to wield over the rest of the cricketing world, by dint of the huge TV revenues it commands, has been made by a number of pundits in the mainstream media. While I understand the corrosive effect that unscrupulous Indian capitalists can have on the game - the apparent defection of New Zealand's Shane Bond to an Indian cricket competition may well be a case in point - I can't help finding some of the complaints about Indian power a bit rich.

For decades, India and other Third World cricketing nations have bled their best players to England, and to a lesser extent Australia. (Rugby fans in the Pacific Islands will recognise what I'm talking about, here.) After the English domestic competition allowed the virtually indiscriminate 'importing' of foreign players in the late '60s, country sides filled up with famous players from India, Pakistan, and the West Indies. Warwickshire, for instance, became known as Westindieshire, after it signed up half a dozen top Windies players who couldn't make a living in their own cash-starved domestic competition. In some cases, county sides would make it difficult for foreign players to turn out for their national teams. Even New Zealand lost one of its best batsmen for a time in the 1970s, when Glenn Turner felt unable to reconcile his contract with Worcestershire with his desire to play for a pittance for the Kiwi test team.

For decades, England, Australia, and to a lesser extent New Zealand used their financial advantages over the Third World nations to bully the latter into accepting inconvenient tour itineraries. A culture of Anglophilia and a sort of casual, half-conscious racism came to pervade the way the wealthier countries did their cricketing business. This culture was so pervasive that it was in many cases assimilated by the poorer countries. The West Indies became a test-playing nation in the 1920s, but they did not get a black captain until Frank Worrell took the job in the '50s, because even some black administrators believed only expat Britons or their descendants were up to the job.

I'm not too upset, then, if the pendulum of world cricket starts to swing in the direction of India, which has hitherto been, in economic and administrative terms, a poor relation of the English and Australians. Perhaps the changes in world cricket will come to be seen as symbolic of a wider shift, as formerly despised and impoverished countries like India and China begin to compete seriously with the imperialist heartlands of America and Europe in the twenty-first century global economy. That's not exactly the scenario I'd like to see, of course - I'm more or less on board with Marcus' slogan of 'death to nationalism' - but I can't get too upset when fat cats in the First World bleat about other cats getting fatter in the developing world.

Here's Marcus' two cents' worth:

Maps, this really does smell of Kiwi nationalism.

Nonetheless the reaction of the Australians at the end of the Test was odious. And like a fish, the Australians rot from the head down. The defining moment of the Test for me was on day one (I was at the SCG) when Ponting was given out LBW. He glowered at the umpire, stormed off and threw his bat in the dressing room.

Yes, he'd an inside edge on to his pads, but he was quite happy to stand there like a chump when he nicked it to Dhoni - I heard it in bay 28.

But Yuvraj was just as bad, if not worse, on day two when he stood like a statue for seconds (seemed a week) when he nicked it off Brett Lee. How on Earth was he cleared of dissent? Shocked?! Really?! Maybe he does believe he is infallible. (He was rubbish through out the series and will be dropped, thank goodness. Bring back Karthik!)

The match referee should have taken Ponting aside and either charged him with dissent for bringing the game into disrepute or threatened to unless his team sorted it out.

Likewise, he should have hauled Yuvraj over coals and blasted Kumble.

But the malaise is much deeper. I say a pox on both their houses. (Although I was hoping for an India win, or draw at least by the end of the Test.)

The man-gods of Indian cricket or the craven boofheads of Australian cricket are creatures of a system. The reality is that money talks in sport and India controls 70 per cent of revenues. Look at how the ICC has reacted - dumping Bucknor. Sure, he had a shocker, but he's a great umpire and a great ambassador for cricket. But India bullied him out. And allowing Harbajhan to appeal...and that appeal to appear before a Kiwi judge...that'll be interesting.

Of course the appeal won't take place 'til after the test series, so it's effectively overturning Proctor's decision. He will play in Perth.

Cricket Australia is now in a situation where it has to dance to the BCCI's tune and it doesn't like it. Traditionally an Australian Test series wraps up in Sydney - but this didn't suit the Indians, so it was Test two.

This simmering tension between the BCCI and CA alongside the god-like status awarded to the cricketers (particularly in India) means things spiralled. The failure of India to stamp out racist chants against Symonds in India didn't help.

Indians can't be racists Maps? Hmmmm didn't you see this?

I like the way Harbajhan takes it up to the Australians. But you'd have to be an idiot not to know calling somone a 'monkey' is out of order.

Likewise, the Australians fucked it up. They should have sorted it out on the field or with a morning cuppa. The Australia side lost a lot of support in Australia through this. The biggest sledging slide in the world has a whinge cause someone doesn't play fair? Boo-fucking-hoo.

Fifty-five per cent of people supported Peter Roebuck's call for Ponting to be sacked as captain. A large majority thought Australia was odious. It really wasn't cricket.

We want good cricket, not idiotic nationalism (including from you Maps). But with so much money riding on the game, it's hard to blame people who are so narrowly focused on a sport for acting the way they do. Under capitalism, sports men and women (mainly men) are increasingly a caste away from society, not an integrated expression of human achievement.

In reality these days, I'm not too fussed who wins, though I'll be hoping India does in Perth. But I'm torn. I hope the Australia side picks Shaun Tait and he takes ten-for.

Bring on the cricket. Death to nationalism.

End of cricket rant. (And seriously Maps, get over the under-arm incident - what else can you call it? calamity if you want. But it's long gone.)

Footnote: just for Marcus, here's a clip where the Chappell brothers look back on that fateful day in 1981. Greg Chappell plays his decision to instruct his brother to bowl underarm on an incipient nervous breakdown brought on by overplay, and Piggy Muldoon even pops up at the end:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is reverse racism with a vengeance!

3:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I´m with you on this one on this one Maps.

I have to say that in my personal experience when it comes to international sporting contests Aussie socialists seem to think that for some reason revolutionary defeatism does not apply.

I guess when your team is no.1 in the world though it's probably a bit harder to let national pride go than it is for us Kiwis...

7:06 pm  
Blogger Dave Brown said...

You can play games with the aussies and poms, some of us have grown up.
As a child I loved watching and playing cricket. Just like I read Biggles and the Famous Five and played cops and robbers.
I even coached my own children in their school days while they had an innocent enthusiasm.
But cricket a manifestation of anti-imperialism? Pull the other one.
The only former British colony to become independent by means of a revolutionary war does not play cricket. Mind you they didnt wait around long enough to have their elite sons educated at Eton et al.
The other ex-colonies are all satellites of British imperialism.
What about an essay on CLR James fusing revolution with cricket and creating a dud?

7:59 pm  
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