SPORT. Cricket, an Indian passion

In September 2007, the International Cricket Federation held the first Twenty20 Cricket World Cup in South Africa. [ou T20, variante la plus courte du jeu, où les matchs n’excèdent pas trois heures]. Like Sachin Tendulkar, the best Indian players refused to participate, seeing it as a secondary competition without much interest. It was therefore an inexperienced team that was dispatched to the scene, with drummer and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain, who had hardly had the opportunity to distinguish themselves.

When this team clinched the world title against Pakistan, the Indian patriots, not to mention the ultranationalists, were on cloud nine. Supporters of Hindu nationalist movements took to the streets to celebrate the victory. Upon their return to India, the players were greeted as heroes by thousands of supporters massed at Bombay airport. The crowd escorted them to Wankhede Stadium, where 35,000 people watched a speech by Sharad Pawar, then president of the Indian Cricket Federation and leader of the local branch of the Congress party.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni succeeded him at the podium. The victorious captain highlighted his humble origins. He hails from a working-class family in Ranchi, a town [du nord-est du pays] which was not previously considered to be a mecca for Indian cricket. Nine other members of the team also came from cities that were less politically and economically powerful, less intellectually prestigious and less historically rich than Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta or Madras.

In these common origins lay the key to success, according to Dhoni: “Small town guys are stronger mentally and physically than big city players. Since small towns don’t have any infrastructure or sports facilities, the players who come from there have to work harder.” Sociologically speaking, the argument made sense. Indian cricket has gradually become more democratic and decentralized. From 1958 to 1974, Bombay never suffered defeat in the Ranji Trophy [compétition nationale qui voit s’affronter 27 équipes représentant chacune un Etat]. Teams based in other major cities, such as Delhi or Bangalore, then went on to win the championship.

From the 1990s, deep India began to assert itself. Once considered cheesy, the teams of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have signed their first victories. Orissa, Kerala, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, which were also considered to be cricketing nerds, provided players for the national team of test-cricket [la forme longue du cricket, où les matchs durent jusqu’à cinq jours]. Television has played a crucial role in this spatial and social influence, nourishing the hopes and ambition of players in small towns and even villages.

Previously, having grown up in a big city – where you have access to clubs, coaches and professional leagues – was a valuable asset to one day integrate the national team. Now anyone with the necessary talent and willpower can learn the techniques of beating and launch on television. Other major transformations have helped change the way cricket is played, watched and perceived. The liberalization of the Indian economy over the past twenty years has resulted in a leap in economic growth and the rise of the middle class. Today, millions of Indians have more rupees to spend on recreation. Some of this money has fallen, directly or indirectly, into the hands of cricket and its players. In 2008, a year after the victory won in T20the Indian Premier League (Indian Premier League, IPL) was born. But the most populous states – such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar [deux Etats pauvres] – had no team in the Premier League, while the state of Maharashtra, whose capital is Bombay, the economic center of India, had two. It is obvious that the franchises had been distributed to the advantage of the richest regions: the teams of the First League were established in the cities and in the States which had benefited the most from the economic boom. If it repelled old graybeards like me, the Premier League, on the other hand, attracted a good part of the emerging middle class.

The young executives of the new globalized economy, who did not count their working hours, had neither the time nor the inclination to take five days off to attend a test match. A Premier League match, on the other hand, lasts less than four hours. It starts at 7 p.m. and ends well before midnight. You can follow her quietly on television from your home after a hard day.

Laisser un commentaire