Thinking about the sociology of cricket

If you thought that cricket was a pleasant and quaint sport with matches that last days, a British commentator suggests otherwise. Like other sports, cricket has become dominated by money (“lucre”) and this threatens to overwhelm the commentator’s interest in watching the interactions between players:

Cricket has had a real battering in the last few months. This was not just because of the match-fixing scandal at the end of the last English season; it was also because of the rather gutless way in which certain parts of the cricket establishment, here and internationally, responded to it. Cricket is a game now obsessed with money. Even those who do not engage in match-fixing, and who condemn (quite rightly) those who do, share the same devotion to filthy lucre. The only difference is that they prostitute the game in different, and entirely legal, ways.

I have never been an especially partisan follower of cricket. It is not just that, on one level, it’s only a game (I shall deal later with the charmingly old-fashioned notion that it is, by contrast, more than a game), and therefore which side wins or loses is in the end irrelevant. It is that the main interest to me, as a follower of the game, has been its aesthetics and, almost as much, its sociology. It has the capacity to be a visually beautiful game, and because games of cricket can go on for up to five days, there is plenty of time for the spectator to examine the interaction of the players with each other – with those on their own side as much as with those on the opposing team.

The solution for this writer is to watch cricket at a lower level, such as watching is son play with other 14-year olds. You will hear this argument from some Americans as well: the professional sports are tainted and if you want to enjoy an authentic version of the game where players play because they love the same, you have to go to the college level or lower. I tend to think this argument leaves out an important aspect of why people watch sports – they want to see the best athletes in the world perform amazing plays. High school athletes may love what they are doing but it is hard not to think about how a college or pro athlete could athletically do so much more.

I have also always enjoyed watching the interactions between players. Additionally, I enjoy going to sporting events to watch interactions between fans and the players and amongst fans. In short, if you gather so many passionate people together in a relatively small location with much on the line, there is bound to be some interesting interactions.

Of course, cricket on the international level also has the potential to open up discussion about colonialism and class – how exactly did an English sport find its way to the streets of Australia, the West Indies, Pakistan, and India?

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