ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cricket: Victory as Crisis

Paradoxical as it may sound the World Cup win is more dark cloud than silver lining.

The oldest recorded meaning of the English word “crisis” refers to a decisive turning point in the course of a disease that may lead to either recovery or death. It is in this sense that India’s cricket World Cup victory is less a simple triumph than a critical yet ambiguous turning point, a crisis. Its basic feature is that it clarifies and brings to a head the question of the relationship between the three distinct worlds that constitute “cricket” in India.

The first such world is surely that of cricket as mass-passion, a phenomenon that emerged via the joint impact of, first, India’s fairy tale win in the 1983 World Cup and, second, a quantum leap in the quality and spread of television coverage from the 1980s onwards. The second world is that of a professionalised game, with its repertoire of evolving skills and expanding achievements contrasting with dysfunctional structures of institutional control. The third and newest world is that of cricket as commoditised spectacle, an immensely profitable industry born in the 1990s out of the marriage of telecommerce with the limited overs format. Although last week’s victory appears to meld these worlds into one heady universe, its more lasting effects will foreground the fissures that divide them.

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