Caste aspersions

A critique that condemns without comprehension.

It is difficult to find the correct tone for this response to Siriyavan Anand's "Eating with our fingers, watching Hindi cinema and consuming cricket" (Himal March 2002). There are points he makes that I agree with entirely, and the validity and genuineness of his overall concern are quite evidently unquestionable. Yet, there is so much in his article, both about the film and about the sport, that does not quite measure up to the standards of rigour that a purposive politics must command. To make matters worse, there are factual inaccuracies. But most of all, his argument is politically naive if not downright irresponsible.

Casual solecisms on irrelevant issues detract from the merits of Anand's more serious concerns. There are in his article many statements whose import and relevance have not been made adequately clear. Take, for example, some of his remarks about cricket and sports in India. He laments that cricket is 'uninternational', that "one half of the population, women, are effectively excluded" from playing it, and that "in a nation of one billion only 14 can make it to the national team". Now, what is "uninternational"? If a dozen nations play a sport, then it surely is international, if international is what we are talking about. Cricket has limited international reach, yes. These limits are determined by the limits of the British colonial empire, yes. It is not a global sport, yes. But international it still is. And surely, the international reach or otherwise of a sport need not be taken as reflection of its intrinsic worth: kabaddi is a case in point. Regarding women being excluded from cricket, strictly speaking that is not correct. But even if one does not read the statement literally, is not that even more the case with football, the one genuinely global team sport? What about boxing, the sport that has been an important medium of black assertion? And that only 14 make it to the national side cannot be reason for criticism, surely: national teams in any sport are of finite size and constitute only a tiny fragment of a country's population. The more relevant point is whether, at least in theory, the best available talent in the country is chosen for inclusion in a team of six or eight or 14 as the case may be. Perhaps I am nitpicking. But political critiques should be precise.

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Himal Southasian