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Thread: Origins of cricket on the subcontinent

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    State Captain Shaggy Alfresco's Avatar
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    Origins of cricket on the subcontinent

    I was talking to an Irish friend of mine about the possibility of test cricket coming to Ireland and also countries like Kenya, the Netherlands and Canada. I told him that historically cricket spread with the white anglo settlers of the British Empire...except in the strange case of south Asia.

    So my question to the cricketing prehistorians on this forum: why did cricket become the premier sport of the Indian subcontinent? Obviously this is due to the influence of the British Raj, but why did cricket take root in the Raj and not in Britain's African colonies, or South America (which Britian invested so heavily in)? Football took root in these countries but it didn't in India. Also, when? I looked through the original first-class competitions played in India and saw that it wasn't until WW1 when the local population started regularly beating Europeans (and the Zoroastrian minority, curiously enough).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaggy Alfresco View Post
    I was talking to an Irish friend of mine about the possibility of test cricket coming to Ireland and also countries like Kenya, the Netherlands and Canada. I told him that historically cricket spread with the white anglo settlers of the British Empire...except in the strange case of south Asia.

    So my question to the cricketing prehistorians on this forum: why did cricket become the premier sport of the Indian subcontinent? Obviously this is due to the influence of the British Raj, but why did cricket take root in the Raj and not in Britain's African colonies, or South America (which Britian invested so heavily in)? Football took root in these countries but it didn't in India. Also, when? I looked through the original first-class competitions played in India and saw that it wasn't until WW1 when the local population started regularly beating Europeans (and the Zoroastrian minority, curiously enough).
    Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia - all former British colonies (Namibia being incorporated into the Union of South Africa after the Great War)

    Britain had 1 colony in South America - Guyana. Their colonies in the Americas were the Carribean islands, where I've heard cricket is quite popular.

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    State Captain Shaggy Alfresco's Avatar
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    OK, I forgot about the West Indies But there was a significant white anglo presence, only until the 50's(?) were they captained by a black West Indian IIRC.

    Quote Originally Posted by GingerFurball View Post
    Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia - all former British colonies (Namibia being incorporated into the Union of South Africa after the Great War)

    Britain had 1 colony in South America - Guyana. Their colonies in the Americas were the Carribean islands, where I've heard cricket is quite popular.
    Kenya due to Indian immigration. Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia all due to white settlers. Football has always been the most popular sport of the black population in those countries. Guyana's natives were motsly dead by the 16th century and black and indian immigration make up the vast majority of the country. When I mentioned South America I was talking about financial investments the British made, e.g. the Argentinian railroad network was built with British capital, Britain gained a virtual monopoly on the world's supply of nitrates by exploiting reserves in Chile etc. Football in South America was kick-started by these British workmen, but their cricket didn't catch on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaggy Alfresco View Post
    OK, I forgot about the West Indies But there was a significant white anglo presence, only until the 50's(?) were they captained by a black West Indian IIRC.



    Kenya due to Indian immigration. Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia all due to white settlers. Football has always been the most popular sport of the black population in those countries. Guyana's natives were motsly dead by the 16th century and black and indian immigration make up the vast majority of the country. When I mentioned South America I was talking about financial investments the British made, e.g. the Argentinian railroad network was built with British capital, Britain gained a virtual monopoly on the world's supply of nitrates by exploiting reserves in Chile etc. Football in South America was kick-started by these British workmen, but their cricket didn't catch on.
    Same thing happened in Europe. Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao have English origins (as can be seen by their names), pretty sure AC Milan were started as a football and cricket club.


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    State Captain Shaggy Alfresco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GingerFurball View Post
    Same thing happened in Europe. Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao have English origins (as can be seen by their names), pretty sure AC Milan were started as a football and cricket club.
    Indeed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GingerFurball View Post
    Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia - all former British colonies (Namibia being incorporated into the Union of South Africa after the Great War)

    Britain had 1 colony in South America - Guyana. Their colonies in the Americas were the Carribean islands, where I've heard cricket is quite popular.
    Belize in Central American was a British Protectorate (British Houndras)

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    Objectively speaking, statistics seem to back up a (racist, stereotypical) PoV that:

    Brown men can't jump. Or run. Or swim. Or land triple lutzes. But they can bat.
    So that's what they do.

    Perhaps other people can do other things and so have choices. Which leads to them finding more interesting (& lucrative) things? For e.g. field hockey was also popular in the subcontinent, until astroturf "ruined" that game.

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    Brainier people prefer brainier sports.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeevan View Post
    Objectively speaking, statistics seem to back up a (racist, stereotypical) PoV that:

    Brown men can't jump. Or run. Or swim. Or land triple lutzes. But they can bat.
    So that's what they do.

    Perhaps other people can do other things and so have choices. Which leads to them finding more interesting (& lucrative) things? For e.g. field hockey was also popular in the subcontinent, until astroturf "ruined" that game.
    Haha, cricket fans complaining about flattening of pitches should just be thankful they're not field hockey fans. Whose idea was the astroturf anyway? Can just about imagine a hockey administrator drawing up a plan to take much of the skill out of the game.
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    The Wheel is Forever silentstriker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeevan View Post
    Objectively speaking, statistics seem to back up a (racist, stereotypical) PoV that:

    Brown men can't jump. Or run. Or swim. Or land triple lutzes. But they can bat.
    So that's what they do.
    Well, there are so many factors that come into play here that you can't really make that type of conclusive statement.
    Quote Originally Posted by jeevan View Post
    Brainier people prefer brainier sports.
    By any objective measurement, IQs are a lot lower in (for example) India than in either the far east (like Japan) or the West. However, there are so many factors that come into play here that you can't really make that type of conclusive statement.

    Both cases are exactly the same. If you make a direct comparison, you have to ignore hundreds of variables, many of which are quite relevant, and have proven to be so. And if you do that, you're not left with any conclusion at all really, just random stereotypes.
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    Obviously it began with us introducing the sport originally, but there must be something in the subcontinental mindset & physique the sport chimed with. I suppose the weather mitigated against our other great team sports (association football and rugby) to an extent, which is probably also true of the Anglophone caribbean.

    What SS says about Indian IQs generally being lower may be true (for all I know), but I find it hard to believe about the middle and upper middle classes that seem to form the bulk of the cricket playing population of India still. I would imagine in the UK people of south Asian origin do proportionately better in education than blacks or whites. I think there's probably more than a grain of truth in the idea that the perceived cerebal nature of cricket appealing to such Indians.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaggy Alfresco View Post
    OK, I forgot about the West Indies But there was a significant white anglo presence, only until the 50's(?) were they captained by a black West Indian IIRC.
    White West Indians were pretty much never in a large majority and I'd imagine only rarely from the 1930s onwards were they in any majority at all. The captaincy issue is really fairly irrelevant as there could have been Black West Indian captains if they'd been considered for the post - although there wasn't a massive amount of skin-colour prejudice in selection until Worrell (who first took charge in '60/61 IIRR) there was in the captaincy.

    Cricket was always popular among Black West Indians, and right from the very start of the 20th-century they were accepted into the game.
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    Quote Originally Posted by silentstriker View Post
    Well, there are so many factors that come into play here that you can't really make that type of conclusive statement.


    By any objective measurement, IQs are a lot lower in (for example) India than in either the far east (like Japan) or the West. However, there are so many factors that come into play here that you can't really make that type of conclusive statement.

    Both cases are exactly the same. If you make a direct comparison, you have to ignore hundreds of variables, many of which are quite relevant, and have proven to be so. And if you do that, you're not left with any conclusion at all really, just random stereotypes.
    It was only tongue in cheek. The fact is that we are good as a team only in cricket and kabbadi. The latter does not win universal accolades. Also the demi god Tendulkar came along who captured somehow the imagination of the entire nation. One can trace the exponential growth in cricket in India with the opening up of the economy and Tendulkar's career progress. India wanted heroes, Indian youth wanted role models for global success and Tendulkar offered both. The TV/cable revolution of the early and mid 90s helped to take it to all sections of the society.

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    Quote Originally Posted by silentstriker View Post
    Well, there are so many factors that come into play here that you can't really make that type of conclusive statement.
    Well, the subcontinental diaspora is about 30-40 million or so(i.e. 2 Australias) on top of the 1.5 billion back in the mothership. Practically every society, diet & climate is covered by a million+ of this starting from SE Asia through to North America (with Arabia, Africa and Europe in between). So the sample is diverse and yet, not one lander of the triple lutz (or swimmer of the fastest lap nor runner of the fastest mile). Not even close. Whether or not it's something in our minds, bodies or the victuals we were taught to prefer, this fact remains.

    (And if/when it changes, perhaps so too might the standing of cricket in our minds and hearts.)

    We've done a bit of practically everything else worth doing. Nobel Prizes. Successful entrepreneurship. Selling soda pop. Running large financial institutions into the ground. Even the odd rock star or two. So this does stand out a bit.

    SS- If you're mileage varies, that's good too. Shows we are second to none in pointless chat group discussions.
    Last edited by jeevan; 14-01-2010 at 11:08 PM.

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