April 9, 2008

Indian cricket

New spin on Mahatma Gandhi and cricket

Martin Williamson





This week extracts from the new Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, published today, are running in The Times. In the latest one, Ramachandra Guha looks at Mahatma Gandhi’s role in the development of India's game.

An Indian journalist met an old classmate of Gandhi's, who remembered a “dashing cricketer” who “evinced a keen interest in the game as a school student”. If these oral testimonies are reliable, Gandhi spun a cricket ball long before he spun khadi, the hand-woven cloth he argued should be worn by all Indians in preference to machine-made textiles.

The thought is appealing, even if the evidence of the printed record runs in the other direction. In his autobiography, which deals extensively with his childhood and schooldays, Gandhi does not mention cricket.

Cricket barely touched Gandhi, yet, by virtue of who he was and what he did, he had a substantial impact on cricket in India. As I argued in A Corner of a Foreign Field, the Mahatma's teachings profoundly influenced the way the game was played and perceived.

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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