In the colonial India, cricket was organized on the principle of race and religion. The first recorded instance of cricket being played in India is from 1721 when it was played by English sailors in Cambay.
Calcutta Cricket Club was the first Indian club which was established in 1792. Through the eighteenth century, cricket in India was exclusively played by British officials in all-white clubs and gymkhanas.
The Parsis were the first Indian community to ape the western lifestyle and they were the first to establish an Indian cricket club. They founded the Oriental Cricket Club in Bombay in 1848. Parsi businessmen like the Tatas and the Wadias used to sponsor the Parsi clubs. The Parsis made their own gymkhana and finally defeated the Bombay Gymkhana in a match in 1889.
Following in the footsteps of the Parsi Gymkhana, the Hindus and the Muslims also made their own gymkhanas in the 1890s. The British also considered India as a group of different nations; like the Hindu nation and the Islamic nation. In order to maintain this difference on communal lines, they easily gave permission for land for these gymkhanas.
After the formation of cricket clubs on communal lines; the Quadrangular tournament was being organized. It was played by four teams, viz. the Europeans, the Parsis, the Hindus and the Muslims and hence was given then name Quadrangular. Later, addition of a fifth team changed its name to Pentagular. The fifth team was composed of people from other communities; like the Christians. Vijay Hazare; who was a Christian played for the Rest.
By the late 1930s and early 1940s, journalists, cricketers and political leaders began to criticize the racial and communal foundations of the Pentagular tournament. Even Mahatma Gandhi was critical of such a division on communal lines. To counter this division, a rival tournament called National Cricket Championship was started. This Championship had teams made along regional divisions. This Championship is now known as the Ranji Trophy.
During the colonial period, cricketing contests were being organized between different colonies of the British Empire. India played the first Test match in 1932.
The ICC was called the Imperial Cricket Council even many years after the end of the colonial period. It was renamed as the International Cricket Conference in 1965. It was still dominated by England and Australia and they retained the veto power over its proceedings. This situation was maintained till 1989 when other cricket playing teams asked for equal membership. The name was changed to International Cricket Council in 1989. During the 1950s and 1960s, the white commonwealth countries; like England, Australia and New Zealand continued to play Test cricket with South Africa; in spite of apartheid policy being followed in that country. Other Test playing nations at that time, India, Pakistan and West Indies boycotted South Africa during this period. The non-white cricket playing nations could finally force the English cricket authorities to cancel a South African tour in 1970.
Cricket was radically transformed in the 1970s. The first one-day international was played between England and Australia in Melbourne in 1971. The shorter version of the game became immensely popular and the first World Cup was organized in 1975.
Centenary of Test matches was celebrated in 1977. This was also the year in which Kerry Packer (an Australian businessman), signed up fifty one of the world’s leading cricketers against the wishes of the national cricket boards. He saw a huge opportunity in televised cricket. He staged the World Series Cricket for about two years. Test matches and one-day internationals were played in this series. Many critics scoffed at it as ‘Packer’s Circus’.
But the innovations brought by him made cricket more attractive to the television audience and changed the game forever. Coloured dress, protective helmets, field restrictions, day & night matches, etc. became part of cricket.
Cricket became a marketable game which could generate huge revenues. Cricket boards became richer by selling television rights to television companies. The TV channels made money by selling advertising slots. For companies, cricket provided opportunity to advertise their products and services to a large and captive audience.
Cricketers became celebrities because of continuous television coverage. Apart from getting better pay from their cricket boards, the cricketers also began to earn huge sums of money by appearing in commercials.
Television coverage resulted in expansion of audience base for the game. People from small towns and villages could see and experience the joy of cricket. Many children from the small towns could dream of becoming cricketers, by emulating their idols.
India, by virtue of its huge population, turned into the largest market for cricket. India became the major contributor to the finances of the ICC. This resulted in India’s growing influence in the world cricket body. This shift in power equations can also be gauged from the symbolic fact that the HQ of the ICC was shifted from London to Dubai in August 2005.
The shifting of power centre in cricket is also manifested in some of the new rules which were made to suit the playing conditions in the Indian subcontinent. For example; the ‘doosra’ and ‘reverse swing’ were made legal. These are finer nuances of bowling, discovered and suitable for the sub-continental pitches. It was accepted by all that the cricket laws could no longer be framed only for British or Australian conditions.
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