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Cricket, Race and Religion

Cricket in India was based on race and religion. The first cricket match played was in Cambay in 1721 by English sailors. The first Indian club, the Calcutta Cricket Club was established in 1792. The sport was played by the Englishmen in all white clubs and gymkhanas. Indians were considered to have no talent for the game.

The origin of Indian cricket that is played by Indians is found in Bombay and the first Indian community to play the game was the small community of Zoroastrians, the Parsis. The Parsis founded the first Indian cricket club, the ‘Oriental Cricket Club’ in Bombay in 1848. Parsi clubs were funded and sponsored by Parsi businessmen like the Tatas and the Wadias. The Parsi team beat the Bombay Gymkhana at cricket in 1885, just four years after the foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, an organisation that had an important leader Dadabhai Naoroji. By 1890s, Hindus and Muslims were busy gathering funds and support for a Hindu Gymkhana and an Islam Gymkhana.

The gymkhana cricket led to first class cricket being organised on communal and racial lines. The teams that played colonial India’s greatest and most famous first class cricket tournament did not represent regions, as teams in today’s Ranji Trophy, but religious communities. The tournament was initially called the Quadrangular, because it was played by four teams––the Europeans, the Parsis, the Hindus and the Muslims. It later became the Pentangular when a fifth team was added, namely, the Rest, which comprised all the communities left over, such as the Indian Christians. For example, Vijay Hazare, a Christian played for the Rest.

The editor of the newspaper The Bombay Chronicle, S. A. Brelvi, the famous radio commentator A.F.S. Talyarkhan and Mahatma Gandhi, condemned the Pentangular as a communally-divided team. A rival first class tournament on regional lines, the National Cricket Championship later named ‘Ranji Trophy’ was established.

Cricket in the Modern Days

The modern day cricket is dominated by Tests and One Day Internationals, played between national teams. The players become famous by representing the nation. In the Pentangular and the Quadrangular, C.K. Nayudu, was an outstanding Indian batsman of his time.

India entered the world of Test cricket in 1932, a decade and a half before it became an independent nation. The first Test was played between England and Australia when Australia was still a white settler colony.

Cricket in India after 1947

Indian cricket remained the business of the Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) even after India was liberated. The ICC, renamed the International Cricket Conference was dominated by its foundation members, England and Australia, which retained the right of veto over its proceedings. In 1989, the privileged position of England and Australia scrapped in favour of equal membership.

The colonial flavor of world cricket during the 1950s and 1960s can be seen from the fact that England and the other white commonwealth countries, Australia and New Zealand, continued to play Test Cricket with South Africa, a racist state that practiced a policy of racial segregation by barring the non-whites to play. India, Pakistan and West Indies boycotted this, but they did not possess the necessary power in the ICC to debar that country from Test Cricket.

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