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Cricket , Race and Religion – In India

The British brought the game into India and dominated it through the 18th century.

  • During the colonial period the game was organised on the basis of race and religion.
  • Cricket was played in India from1721. It was played mainly by the British military men and the civil-servant, who were all whites.
  • The first Indian cricket club, comprising only of whites was established in 1792. It was called the ‘Calcutta Cricket Club’. The British played the game as they wanted to escape from the discomfort and dangers of staying in a foreign country. It was a mode of diversion and recreation for them .So, they did not want the Indians to play the game, as they thought they were the superior ruling race.
  • As years rolled by and the ‘swadeshi’ movement started, the Native Indians also entered the game.
  • The first all-Indians cricket club called the ‘Orient Cricket Club’ was formed in the year 1848.
  • It was started by the Zoroastrians or the Parsis community in Bombay.
  • The Parsis were traders. They were in close contact with the British and were influenced by them. The Parsis were pioneers in the game.

Let us look at the cricketing scenario during that period.


A match that was held between the above mentioned clubs in 1889. In this match , the Orient Cricket Club beat the racist Bombay Gymkhana. This victory was historical, as it was a big boost to the Indians who had started their struggle for independence.

The Bombay Gymkhana Club

Soon many Cricket clubs or Gymkhanas were established. Unfortunately they were based on caste and religion.

  • The Hindu Gymkhana was formed for the Hindus.
  • The Islam Gymkhana was formed for the Muslims.

The British, in keeping with their policy of ‘divide and rule’ encouraged these religion- based clubs.

Quadrangular and Pentangular Tournaments were held.

1. Quadrangular Tournaments were played by four teams:

  • The British
  • The Parsis
  • The Hindus
  • The Muslims

2. Pentangular Tournaments were played by five teams:

  • The British
  • The Parsis
  • The Hindus
  • The Muslims
  • The Rest – (it included the rest of the communities, and the Christians)

Great national leaders like, Mahatma Gandhi condemned the Pentangular Tournaments as it was communally and religiously divisive in nature. These Tournaments had a natural death when the British rule ended in India.

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