Saturday, December 17, 2005

Politics of Selection

The Speaker of the Lower House in India is initiating a Parliamentary debate. Not unusual, you might think, except for the fact that it concerns the selection of the Indian cricket team. He's unhappy about the dropping of Sourav Ganguly from the Indian side, believing it is for political rather than cricketing purposes (questionable, but that is a different issue entirely).

I know it is a recurring theme on this blog, but if anyone doubts that sport and politics are intrinsically related, then I hope to set them right! Indian cricket is beset by regional tensions; Test matches are spread around the country, including some matches at remote and poor locations (meaning that matches at the world-famous Eden Gardens in Calcutta, for example, are infrequent), in order to secure regional block votes for more contentious decisions. The dropping of Ganguly has become so controversial because people believe it is the growing power of certain regions that have pushed him out in favour of players from elsewhere.

Of course, the issue would not nearly be so contentious if sport was not such a crucial factor in personal and regional identity. The anger directed against the selection committee is not simply because their judgement is being questioned, but because they feel that their region is being slighted - which can only happen when the hopes of a region are invested in an individual (their sporting hero).

CLR James wrote "Beyond a Boundary" to explain the links between politics, cricket and culture in the colonial Caribbean. My guess, given the size of the country, its developing economy and its love of cricket, is that the 21st century version of the book will come out of India. And also, that if you want to understand Indian politics, reading the cricket section of the newspaper will be more useful than the news itself.