From England’s fields to the world: How cricket became the world’s second most popular sport

An English team of professionals on their way to North America for the first-ever overseas tour in 1859. (Wikimedia Commons)
An English team of professionals on their way to North America for the first-ever overseas tour in 1859. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 16 September 2021

From England’s fields to the world: How cricket became the world’s second most popular sport

An English team of professionals on their way to North America for the first-ever overseas tour in 1859. (Wikimedia Commons)
  • Three recent additions mean the International Cricket Council now has 94 associate members alongside 12 full members

LONDON: At its 78th annual general meeting, held virtually this year in mid-July, the International Cricket Council (ICC) welcomed three new associate members. Two of them — Mongolia and Tajikistan — joined for the first time, whilst Switzerland was readmitted after losing its membership in 2012.

This means that, in addition to the twelve full ICC members, there are now 94 associate members, Zambia having been expelled in 2019 and Russia suspended in 2021 for non-compliance with certain membership criteria.

It is a common assumption that cricket’s initial geographical spread was a function of the British Empire. The sailors and soldiers, traders, missionaries, convicts, settlers, administrators all contributed to it being played in North America, India, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean and parts of Africa, especially the south and east.     

According to USA Cricket, which has run the game since 2018 after the expulsion of the United States of America Cricket Association in 2017, the first reference to cricket being played there was in 1709. The first international match was played between the US and Canada in September 1844. By the mid 1800’s, cricket was played in 22 states by up to a thousand clubs; during the Civil War, baseball, a shorter game, became more popular with troops and has since dominated.    

The first reference to play in India is reported to have been between sailors of the East India Company in 1721. No doubt, cricket was played within the colonial enclaves of India but it was not until the mid-19th century that reports of organized matches began to appear. If the development of cricket in England was rural, it was, by contrast, urban in India, being driven initially by Parsis in Bombay, who sought to epitomize British values in their everyday lifestyles.

Around the same time, international tours became frequent commercial ventures played by professionals. Thus, an English party toured the US and Canada in 1859 and another toured Australia in 1861-62. In 1868, an Australian Aboriginal side toured England and, in 1877, England played its first Test match against Australia to begin the game’s oldest rivalry.

The domination of these tours by professionals began to wane, as the English cricket establishment became increasingly influenced by upper class products of public schools. One leading light was Lord Harris, who, as governor of Bombay, promoted cricket as a unifying force that generated team spirit, character, but was above all an amateur pursuit.

Lord Hawke was of similar mind. He led parties of amateurs to India, South Africa, the West Indies, Australia and New Zealand between 1892 and 1903. These tours were the stuff of soft diplomacy, the game seeking to expand its influence wherever English was spoken, promoting particular moral codes and supporting “imperial” purpose. 

This divergence between amateur and professional approaches to the game had repercussions until well in to the second half of the 20th century. The model of cricket promoted by the likes of Harris and Hawke, in which the cultivation of a superior style, played in an elegant and graceful manner under pressure, served to exclude many from playing the game.

On top of that, cricket was accused of being used as an instrument to maintain hegemonic order; an agent of control and reaffirmation. In the West Indies, it took until 1948 for a black man to be appointed captain, but only for one match. In South Africa, a Test-playing nation since 1889, it took until 2006 for a non-white man to be appointed captain. In India, the game was arranged around religious and communal lines until after independence. 

The control of the game by white, mainly English, men has been loosened gradually over the last 50 years. A symbol of that control was embodied in the Imperial Cricket Conference, formed in 1909 to administrate the game, primarily from an English perspective, with England, South Africa and Australia being founder members. In 1965, “Imperial” became “International”; in 1989 “Council” replaced “Conference,” and in 2005, the ICC headquarters moved from London to Dubai.

It is reasonable to argue that this move has provided the impetus for the ICC to be much more international in its perspective, encouraging a larger number of national cricket governing bodies to promote cricket at a wider level of youth, and through women’s cricket. The game is now the second most popular sport in the world, thanks in large part to India, along with Pakistan and Bangladesh, with a combined population approaching 1.5 billion.

Yet, cricket is absent from the Olympics, having made its one and only appearance at the 1900 Games, when England defeated France. There are hopes that it may feature in 2028 in Los Angeles, and the ICC has formed a committee to explore it.

A key issue is which format is most suitable, with T20 and T10 believed to be under discussion. The latter was introduced in the UAE in 2017, followed by Qatar, Malaysia, Fiji and over 10 European countries. Another issue is what its impact might be on revenue streams that currently feed directly into cricket. If these issues can be overcome, cricket at the Olympics would be a major boost to the expansion of cricket’s global and increasingly inclusive appeal, long removed from its previous narrow, imperial, expansionist phase.


Manchester City stars send Saudi National Day message to fans in the Kingdom

Manchester City stars send Saudi National Day message to fans in the Kingdom
Updated 5 sec ago

Manchester City stars send Saudi National Day message to fans in the Kingdom

Manchester City stars send Saudi National Day message to fans in the Kingdom
  • Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo wished Saudi Arabia a happy ‘National Day’ in a video posted on the Abu Dhabi-owned club’s Arabic Twitter channel

DUBAI: One of the English Premier League’s top clubs, Manchester City, has congratulated the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the occasion of its 91st National Day.
Two of the club’s 2020/2021 title-winning stars, Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva and defender Joao Cancelo, wished Saudi Arabia a happy ‘National Day’ in a video posted on the Abu Dhabi-owned club’s Arabic Twitter channel.

“We wish a Happy National Day to all in Saudi Arabia,” Silva said.
“Happy National Day to all in Saudi Arabia,” fellow countryman Cancelo said in the 19-second video.
The video has received nearly 50,000 views since it was posted on the @CityArabia account, which has more than 5 million followers.
Meanwhile, the same video was also tweeted on the English Premier League’s Arabic twitter account (@EPLWorld), and has attracted more than 63,000 views. 

 

 


How the Indian Premier League has come to shape the cricket calendar

How the Indian Premier League has come to shape the cricket calendar
Updated 23 September 2021

How the Indian Premier League has come to shape the cricket calendar

How the Indian Premier League has come to shape the cricket calendar
  • The turbulence in cricket, as shown by cancelled test between England and India, shows no sign of abating, as players and structures buckle under the pressure of playing through the pandemic

Resumption of the Indian Premier League (IPL) took place last Sunday in the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, having been suspended on May 4 in India.

Almost half of its scheduled matches had been completed when Covid-19 tests on a number of players and support staff proved positive. This, coupled with rising cases amongst the general population, led the authorities to bow to the inevitable.

Now in its 14th year, the tournament is the biggest revenue generator in cricket’s history and has propelled India to a pre-eminent position in the game’s geo-politics. It is against this backdrop that the cancelled Test match between England and India at Manchester on Sept. 2 needs to be assessed.

It is clear that the repercussions are manifold, but that the outcomes from this stunning occurrence are much less clear. The result of the match and the series is not yet known. No official reason for the cancellation has been agreed. Reports suggest that Covid-impacted cancellation is not covered by insurance for this match.

Lancashire County Cricket Club, the host of the match, has suffered financially and psychologically, not for any fault of its own and is unable to carry the losses without support. According to various reports, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is set to lose upwards of £20m, much of it in broadcasting revenues. Spectators will receive ticket refunds, but their travel and related costs will be lost.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall back in May, once the IPL was suspended. At that time, it was clear that another window was sought into which it could be rescheduled. The opportunities were limited.

The Indian team would be in England between June 3 and September 7. It is rumoured that one option being explored by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in mid-May was to ask the ECB to consider starting the five-match series one week earlier in the last week of June. This would provide a larger buffer between the end of final Test at Manchester and the start of the IPL, when bubble to bubble transfer was envisaged. There is no record of a formal approach having been made, although rumours abound that the ECB was not keen.

Apart from its tragic effect and consequences, Covid-19 has introduced uncertainty into all of our lives, not just those of professional cricketers. It was with some apprehension that many of us in England entered the new era created by the relaxation of social controls on July 19. Capacity crowds flocked to the Test matches and, as the Indian coach said, when he and other members of his party were criticised for attending the launch of his book in London, “England was open”. Subsequently, he tested Covid-positive, being followed in this respect by other members of the backroom team.

Crucially, it was a positive test for the assistant physio on the day before the Manchester Test was due to start that acted as a trigger point. Despite all of them testing negative, the Indian players appeared to be spooked. A number of them were travelling with young families and were fearful that the virus might spread amongst them. Training was cancelled the day before the match, an ominous sign. The ECB’s CEO admitted to through-the-night discussions with his Indian counterparts, but it seemed that the Indian players were adamant.

Once it was announced that the match was not going to take place, it was termed a forfeiture on news lines, but this was quickly retracted, being replaced by cancellation. The tone of public statement by the ECB was that this was regrettable, had nothing to do with the imminency of the IPL and could be explained by mental health issues that had built up to bursting point after almost four months of touring.

Recognition of mental health issues has increased in cricket, particularly during the bio-bubble existence under which the game has operated in an increasingly packed global schedule. Nevertheless, surprise was expressed in some quarters as there was no obvious sign of such problems when the India team joyously celebrated its victory at the Oval four days earlier.

By general consensus, India played the better cricket and deserved to be 2-1 up in the series, but who could predict how the final Test would play out? The ECB is keen for the match to be rescheduled, the BCCI not so keen, at least not as one that completes the series.

Discussions are on-going in attempts to find a solution that would fit into India’s schedule when they tour England in early July 2022 to play two white-ball cricket series.

Whatever the outcome, it is unlikely to please everyone. Some find it a bit rich that India had a 20-strong squad in England, enough to field a team in Manchester. By all accounts, the players chose not to play, preferring to keep themselves free and fit to fly to the UAE for the quarantine period prior to the recommencement of the IPL.

England has good reason to feel aggrieved, yet its own record is not unblemished, having cancelled its tour of South Africa in late 2020. The ECB does not seem to want to fall out with the BCCI. Indeed, both boards have been at pains to say what good relations they enjoy.

If they cannot agree a solution, the International Cricket Council will be in the unenviable position of having to rule on the outcome of the series.

The turbulence in cricket shows no sign of abating, as its players and structures buckle under the pressure of playing through the pandemic.

Last Monday, citing mental and physical well-being issues, the ECB cancelled England’s four-day tour in mid-October to Pakistan, leaving the latter enraged. By coincidence, this allows English players who were on the tour and in the IPL to participate in its play-off stage. The IPL’s influence seems to be all conquering.


Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match to be held at Tokyo Game Show

Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match to be held at Tokyo Game Show
Updated 23 September 2021

Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match to be held at Tokyo Game Show

Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match to be held at Tokyo Game Show
  • A second round of the contest will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2022

TOKYO: A Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports competition will be held over two days next month during the Tokyo Game Show 2021, Asia’s largest gaming fair, the Japan eSports Union has announced.

The Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match, taking place on Oct. 2 to 3, was announced in August 2018 by the JESU at the invitation of Prince Faisal bin Bandar Al-Saud, president of the Saudi Arabia Federation of International eSports and the Arab eSports Federation.

Among the games that will be contested between Team Japan and Team Saudi Arabia are Football, Gran Turismo, Tekken and Street Fighter.

The competition will be held on home and away match basis, featuring a Japan Round and Saudi Arabia Round. The Saudi Arabia Round was originally scheduled to be held in July this year but is being rescheduled for 2022.

The event is part of the “Japan-Saudi Vision 2030 2.0,” for which the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has developed a strategic economic partnership between the Kingdom and Japan.

This story originally appeared in Arab News Japan.


Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets

Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets
Updated 23 September 2021

Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets

Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets
  • Hyderabad fast bowler Thangarasu Natarajan tested positive for COVID-19 and was put in isolation hours before the game
DUBAI: Delhi Capitals notched their seventh win in the Indian Premier League with a thumping eight-wicket victory over virus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday.
Hyderabad fast bowler Thangarasu Natarajan tested positive for COVID-19 and was put in isolation hours before the game. The team was also without all-rounder Vijay Shankar, who also went into isolation after being identified as a close contact of Natarajan.
Without two key players, Hyderabad was limited to 134-9 by Delhi’s seamers and spinners.
Shreyas Iyer (47 not out) and captain Rishabh Pant (35 not out) led the run-chase with a clinical unbroken 67-run stand as Delhi went atop the leaderboard with 14 points by reaching 139-2 in 17.5 overs.
“Our bowlers did a pretty good job to restrict them,” Pant said. “We have one of the quickest bowlers in the world (and) pretty happy as the skipper.”
Shreyas raised the victory by hammering West Indies fast bowler Jason Holder to long-on boundary for six to hand Hyderabad its seventh loss in the tournament.
Shikhar Dhawan, who was left out by India for next month’s Twenty20 World Cup, continued his rich form in this season’s IPL by scoring 42 off 37 balls before Shreyas and Pant combined in a 42-ball stand and led the chase.
Earlier, Hyderabad struggled to put up partnerships after it won the toss and opted to bat. David Warner fell to Anrich Nortje (2-12) in the first over without scoring as the South African paceman didn’t allow the top order to score freely off his four overs.
Captain Kane Williamson (18) couldn’t capitalize on two dropped catches before finally holing out in the deep halfway into the innings off left-arm spinner Axar Patel (2-21).
Kagiso Rabada (3-37), who earlier had removed Wriddhiman Saha inside the batting powerplay, restricted Hyderabad to a below-par total with the wickets of Manish Pandey (17) and Abdul Samad (28).
“Didn’t get off to the start we would have liked,” Williamson said. “They put us under pressure and that is what you expect … for us, it is focusing on our cricket and trying to improve.”

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal
Updated 23 September 2021

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal
  • Club’s Brazilian coach Pericles Chamusca feeling the heat after inconsistent start to season

Al-Shabab will be looking to break one of Saudi Arabian football’s longest jinxes when they attempt to beat league champions Al-Hilal for the first time in seven years at King Fahd International Stadium on Thursday night.

The club’s last league win over Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League was way back on Oct. 17, 2014 — a 1-0 triumph thanks to a stoppage-time goal by South Korean player Park Chu-young.

The results since then highlight Al-Hilal’s dominance, with nine wins from the 13 league matches between the two clubs, with the other four ending in draws.

Al-Shabab go into the match sitting in 11th place in the SPL with five points from one win, two draws and two losses, while Al-Hilal are in second spot with 10 points from four matches, having had their match against Al-Fayha postponed.

Brazilian coach Pericles Chamusca took over at Al-Shabab at the start of the season but he is already feeling the heat after the inconsistent start, especially as the club finished second last season. A match against the champions might not be the fairest way to judge his team, but many predict that he could follow compatriot Mano Menezes — sacked by Al-Nassr earlier this week — out of the door if there is no immediate improvement.

There is some good news for Al-Shabab, however, with the return to fitness of several players. Chamusca will be able to call on Argentine playmaker Ever Banega, Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo, Senegalese defensive midfielder Alfred N’Diaye and Saudi keeper Fawaz Al-Qarni for the match against Al-Hilal.

Al-Hilal, meanwhile, will welcome back Salman Al-Faraj after his recent injury.