LSE’s Mukulika Banerjee moderates a discussion on the rise of cricket in India and its relationship to the country’s politics and culture.
What can cricket tell us about modern India? Last week, at the Asia House Festival of Asian Literature, James Astill and Ed Hawkins attempted to answer this question. Astill is the author of “The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India”, a new book that traces how cricket became an outlet for Indian nationalism both under colonial rule and in the decades since independence, and how it contributes to Indian culture and politics. While Astill focuses on how Indian cricket articulates the country’s experiment with modernity, Hawkins, the author of “Bookie, Gambler, Fixer, Spy”, gets at the game’s underbelly—the corruption that has come to define the sport in recent years.
At Asia House, Hawkins discussed the anatomy of match-fixing in India, a timely concern. Last week, three players from an Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise, the Rajasthan Royals, were arrested by Delhi police. They allegedly performed pre-arranged actions, scripted by bookmakers, during matches in this year’s tournament. One of the accused, S. Sreesanth, was part of India’s 2011 World Cup-winning squad. Indian cricketing authorities have been criticised for their relative reticence on the matter.
Hawkins’ book focuses on the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan in Mohali in March 2011, inspired by a ‘script’ of the match he received from a bookie before the game. As part of his investigation into whether or not that seminal match was fixed, Hawkins spent time in India with a bookie, watching him bet on matches, bribe police officers and engage with members of India’s mafias. During his talk, Hawkins argued that the roots of present-day match-fixing lie in India, but was careful to point out that there has always been corruption in cricket—the first recorded instance of match-fixing occurred in the 1700s, and the laws of cricket were drawn up in the first place to settle betting disputes.
Taking a broader view, Astill argued that corruption in Indian cricket reflects the weaknesses of Indian institutions, and the fact that the game is growing at a time of soaring wealth within the country. Continue reading