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History and Sport

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04 History and Sport: The Story of Cricket

Historical Development of Cricket as a Game in India:

  • Cricket derived its unique nature from the history of England.

Peculiarities of cricket:

  • A cricket match could go on for five days and still end in a draw.
  • Length of the pitch was specified as 22 yards but the size or shape of the ground is not.
  • The rules of Cricket were made before the Industrial Revolution when life moved at a slow pace.
  • It was played on the commons where each one had a different shape and size thus there were no designed boundaries.

The First Written Laws of Cricket (1744):

  • The Principals shall choose from among the gentlemen present, two umpires, who shall decide all disputes.
  • Stumps were to be 22 inches high and the bails, six inches.
  • Two sets of stumps were to be placed 22 yards apart.
  • Ball must weigh between 5 to 6 ounces.
  • The world’s first cricket club was formed in Hambledon in 1760s.
  • The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded in 1787.
  • In 1788, the MCC published its first revision of the laws and became the guardian of cricket’s regulations.
  • A series of changes in the game occurred in the 2nd half of the 18th century.
  • 19th century saw some more changes.

The Game and English Society:

  • The players of this game were divided into two categories.
  • Amateurs were the rich who played for pleasure.
  • Players were the professionals who played for money.
  • Rules of cricket were made to favour the gentlemen.
  • Their superiority over players made only the batsmen captains of teams.

The Spread of Cricket

  • It was its colonial oddness that made cricket difficult to be accepted by other people.
  • It was played in colonies by the white settlers or the local elites who wanted to copy their white masters.
  • In the Caribbean, cricket was a sign of social and racial status and Afro-Caribbean population was discouraged from playing cricket.
  • Whites initially dominated the game until 1960 when Frank Worell, a black player lead the West Indies team.

Cricket, Race and Religion:

  • The first Indian community to play cricket were the Parsis.
  • They founded the first Indian Cricket Club, the Oriental Cricket Club in Bombay in 1848.
  • By the 1890s a Hindu Gymkhana and an Islam Gymkhana were established.
  • The Quadrangular tournament was played by 4 teams namely, Europeans, Parsis, Hindus and Muslims.
  • Later, it became the Pentangular tournament, when a fifth team namely ‘the Rest’ was added.
  • Cricket became a symbol of unity when the Hindu team appointed Mr. Vitthal, a player from lower class as captain.

The Modern Transformation of Cricket

  • In 1932 India started playing as an international team with C.K. Nayudu with its maiden captain.
  • But with emergence of Asian powers in 1970s, the influence of England and Australia declined.
  • ICC initially called Imperial Cricket Conference was later renamed as International Cricket Conference.

Commerce, Media and Cricket Today

  • The 1970s saw a major transformation in cricket.
  • In 1977 an Australian television tycoon, Kerry Packer, saw cricket as a money-making televised sport.
  • He signed up 51 of the world’s leading cricketers and for almost two years staged unofficial tests and One-day Internationals under the name of World Series Cricket.
  • Continuous television coverage made cricketers celebrities.
  • Television coverage also expanded the audience and children became cricket fans.
  • Multinational companies created a global market for cricket.
  • India has the largest viewership for the game and hence the game’s centre of gravity shifted to South Asia.
  • This shift was symbolised by the shifting of the ICC headquarters from London to tax-free Dubai.

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