The Game of Cricket
The game of cricket originated in England. The sport was as a way to display sportsmanship and gentlemanliness, as well as athletic ability. The players were to focus on playing fair rather than on winning. Cricket was slow moving and matches lasted a maximum of five days. When the British colonized India in 1858, the sport of cricket played a big role in the take-over. Like other colonizing super-powers, Britain attempted to use a national sport to impose their values on the other culture. Sports are fun and non-violent, so what better way to subtly urge the Indians to act and think more like the British? Indian elites soon saw the benefits of cricket, using the game to both bond with the powerful British and to reaffirm their own status within the Indian population. However, the skillful Indian cricket players were able to push back at the British rulers by beating them at their own game. This was when the transformation of British cricket may have begun.
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Like the original cricket game, Twenty20 cricket started in England. This new, faster-paced and shorter form made its debut to the world in 2003. Compared to regular cricket, which is slow and somewhat boring, Twenty20 can definitely be described as “kamikaze cricket,” an explanation coined by historian Mukul Kesavan. However, the ‘kamikaze’ qualities that Twenty20 possesses are what make the game so attractive and controversial in some respects.
Unlike in traditional cricket, Twenty20 participants have an aggressive playing style that speeds up the game and makes it more interesting to watch. Somini Sengupta, author of an article titled “If It’s Hip, Fast and Furious, Is It Cricket?,” called the new game “fast and furious.” Sengupta also commented on the fact that cricket and athleticism have not before been closely associated, and neither have Indians and athleticism. This had always been a problem in the minds of Indian men, but Twenty20 cricket has allowed the creation of new bonds between the game, athletic ability and the Indians. The new fast-paced, “kamikaze” game is both attractive and controversial in this respect because it is much more interesting and engaging for fans, but at the same time, the original gentlemen’s game has been twisted into something more aggressive and focused on beating the opposing team. The properness of original cricket has disappeared, which is frightening to some people, but this also makes the game more amusing.
Another controversial yet interesting aspect of Twenty20 cricket has to do with the age of team members. The population of India is rapidly increasing along with their developing success as a country. This means that there are far more young Indians today than elderly ones, and that new ideas and values are phasing out the old ones. Sengupta revealed in his article that the average age of the men on the Indian cricket team is a mere 23 years of age. A confident, hip generation of Indians have created “next generation” cricket. Spectators in India crave the excitement and modernity that are associated with Twenty20 cricket, yet it must be concerning to some that this young generation has a great deal of control over the country. Originally, cricket in England was for wealthy older men, but young Indians have highjacked their game and are using it to redefine their nation and to make money, all while the entire country attentively watches on television.
These young men are helping to generate huge amounts of revenue and status for India by creating a money-making spectacle that every Indian wants to watch from a Victorian past-time. There is a huge amount of money associated with the sport in India today. The most wealthy and highly-esteemed people in all of India are using their millions to fund Indian Twenty20 cricket teams, a first-time occurrence in the country. Corporate sponsorships are also very important financially for the sport in India, and they also keep cricket fresh in peoples’ minds even when they are not watching a match. Huge companies that we know here in the United States like Adidas, Nike and Reebok pay thousands of dollars for mere seconds of commercial time during Indian matches on television. Flashy laser shows and fireworks, as well as scantily-clad cheerleaders and Bollywood stars all help to attract fans to the sport. Cricket was first established as a way for men to show respect to each other, but today in India, it is a way to entertain the public and make more money for the country, and this is very controversial. Rajdeep Sardesai, the editor in chief of CNN-IBN, commented that Twenty20 cricket in India “Is much more now about glamour and entertainment than about what happens between the players.” We live in an age where entertainment is of utmost importance, and Britain’s original way of playing this game was too bland. India has found a way to put their own (very effective) twist on this old sport.
We cannot say that Britain’s colonial influence has completely disappeared from India; cricket and Twenty20 were, after all, developed in England. However, India has used Twenty20 cricket to unite their citizens and create revenue while ignoring traditional British values and ideas. Young, brash, confident Indian men have become real cricket athletes, and they are fully supported by most of India, including some of the most wealthy men in the country and the media. Upon developing cricket, I am sure that England did not intend the sport to be used for all of the things that India uses it for. Instead of performing gentlemanly acts on the field, Indian players have made the game aggressive, fast-paced and entertaining. India obviously has an immense amount of power; they were able to completely highjack Britain’s game and use it to create an emerging economic superpower.