Border crossings in Cricket
Let me acquaint my intrigued readers that this article is not a tribute to the great Allan Border. I offer my sincerest apologies to all the A.B. fans who have directed themselves to my work in the anticipation of a eulogy on the legendary batsman. Despite accusations of being a deceiver I audaciously persist in imploring my readers to lend their precious time to this product of my dedicated toil. You are provided assurance of your right of being avenged with this humble scribbler. Exercise it if you find yourself unconvinced with the creative attempt. To pacify my less patient readers I elucidate my intention of establishing a connection between the theme of border crossing and the game of cricket. Quenched with your attention I now make the much awaited leap into the topic.
The term border implies ‘a part that forms the outer edge of something’; while cricket, the second most popular sport in the world symbolizes a common passion bent on erasing all such borders. This article delves into how the game transcends the multifarious borders that have chained the world.
RELIGIOUS, REGIONAL AND CLASS BORDERS:
The game of cricket, after its origin in England, crossed the English borders to reach the British colonies. It then became ingrained in the social and cultural fabric of these colonized nations. On retrieving the history of cricket in India one can discern that the game, which was merely serving to amuse the English Professionals, Westernized Parsis and Indian princes in the early 20th century, has now become a unifying faith. From the Hindu, Parsis and European teams, we now boast of a domestic structure where religion becomes inconsequential.
A glance at the men who have led the national squad over the years also highlights the shift from the class based selection process. Succeeding the ‘Nawab’ Pataudi, and the ‘Prince’ of Kolkata is ‘Dhoni bhai’, the son of an ordinary government employee!
Thus, it would not be wrong to assert that cricket in India transcends the borders of religion, space and class.
Stepping onto to the field after crossing the boundaries of the world outside cricket, instils in the players a whole new level of commitment, devotion, discipline and professionalism. The flamboyant cricketers might party the whole night with beautiful maidens but once on the field their extravagance is exhibited only for the team’s cause. It is the passion for the sport that becomes paramount. The team becomes the player’s identity and defines him as he himself becomes a part of it. Former Indian captain Rahul Dravid substantiates this with his on-field realization shared during the Bradman Oration. “I have sometimes found myself in the middle of a big game, standing at slip or even at the non-striker’s end and suddenly realized that everything else has vanished. At that moment, all that exists is the contest and the very real sense of joy that comes from playing the game. It is almost a meditative experience, where you and reconnect with the game just like you did years ago (crossing the frontiers of time)…” The experience lucidly brings out the psychological impact of crossing the physical boundaries in sport.
Sledging too can serve as an illustration of border crossing where the ‘gentlemen’ cross the fine line between friendly banter and disproportionate aggression. The cricketing world continues to recount this witty incident where Viv Richards hammered Merv Hughes for 4 consecutive boundaries in one over and in retort Merv stopped half way down the pitch, farted loudly, and mocked at Viv: “Let’s see you hit that to the boundary”, leaving the West Indian dumbfounded.
League based contests have bolstered border crossing as the players step out of their country and their national identities to don a new role of representing the club they are hired by. Once on the field, the player sweats for the colour he is wearing. The concept accredits the franchises to rope in cricketers from across the globe to play for their respective teams. This can be traced back to 1977 when many cricketers were magnetized towards an Australian business tycoon, Kerry Packer’s camp lured by the whopping sums offered. More than 50 players from all around the world participated in the media magnate’s Rebel Cricket Series. IPL, the precursor of Big Bash, BPL and SLPL, itself was launched to scuttle the insurgent ICL.
They provide an ameliorating experience to the players, enabling them to eschew the hype surrounding the nationalistic parameters. Harbhajan and Symonds, protagonists of the notorious Monkey gate, are ‘good friends’ now, thanks to the IPL! Such sporting arrangements equip the cricketers to form fuller and better identities of their selves. And, also encouraging the fans to watch the game, for the game itself!
However, new borders are being constructed amongst the players and the fans as the various franchises lock horns. The ban precluding the Pakistani players from participating in the IPL has aggravated the animosity between the two countries.
On casting a glance at the corporate and commercial facet of these leagues we find glaring citations of border crossing. Indian investors shelling out money in the cash spinning Big Bash, SLPL and BPL prompt the flow of big bucks across the countries in this globalized world. It is not just the locomotion of legal money which concerns us here as the allegations of massive movement of black money have never ceased to haunt the IPL.
Nonetheless, IPL and its brethren are also indicative of a neo-liberal consumption frame within which cricket is placed.
Cricket also furnishes bountiful examples of players who have crossed the geographical borders of their native countries to represent some other nation in the sport. The racial quota system in South Africa became the trigger behind Kevin Pietersen ‘Crossing the Boundary’ while Eoin Morgan opted for England over his motherland Ireland to realize his dream of playing test cricket.
The trend of employing foreign coaches, physiotherapists and trainers is not alien to cricket. Australia is coached by South African Mickey Arthur, Bangladesh by English Richard Pybus, India by Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher and the list goes on.
Women taking up cricket cross the borders of gender norms to barge into a male bastion. By plunging into the ‘gentleman’s’ game, they abjure the prescribed codes of femininity. Conservative nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh pronounce that sport is no career for women. Girls in these countries have repudiated the injunctions laid upon them by the patriarchal society to contend at the International level. While in India, Sunita Sharma scripts sporting history by becoming the first woman cricket coach, with many of her pupils breaking into national and international teams. Cricket empowers women to emancipate themselves from the imprisonment of domesticity and encroach on what society perceives as male preserve.
FANS CROSSING BORDERS:
The concept of border crossing is not just confined to the players as the fans too become oblivious to the borders in their fervour for the sport. No wonder, Indian cricketers are ranked higher in popularity index in Nepal than the Nepali cricketers themselves. While in India, the overhaul of Australian Bradman’s record by an Englishman is lamented inconsolably.
HISTORICAL, SOCIAL AND POLITICAL BORDERS:
The game of cricket has stepped over historical, social and political borders to cater to greater purposes. It was a cricket match which was organized to commemorate the 150 years of border crossing and settlement of Indians in South Africa.
Cricket is actively aiding the cause of the Maasai Cricket Warriors in bringing an end to the retrogressive and pernicious cultural practices such as female mutilation and early childhood marriages in the Maasailand. These community role models intend to use cricket as a medium to advocate a healthier life style and to also enlighten young people about HIV AIDS.
Cricket became the harbinger of peace between India and Pakistan when the two warring nations encountered each other on the cricket field for the Friendship Series (2004). This common passion ruling the two neighbours effected what no political dialogue could accomplish. It diminished the rampant distrust and antagonism and enhanced the peace process.
Cricket also fosters tourism, contributing notably to the GDP growth of the underdeveloped economies like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The game of cricket has trampled borders, both visible and invisible, to weave the world into one. The sport has refused to restrict itself to its elemental functions of recreation and entertainment. It has used its unique appeal to break itself free of the shackles of compartmentalization, to herald for the world a new order!
As promised before, the brickbats are ungrudgingly invited in the comments section!