Anyone but England

The old order yieldeth

Marqusee places cricket's evolution in a historical perspective and reveals the inevitability of the changes the sport has gone through in recent times

Suresh Menon

November 8, 2008

Text size: A | A



It was bad enough when CLR James wrote his masterpiece, but at least he was from a cricket-playing country. And he was in awe of Victorian traditions. Three decades after Beyond a Boundary, Mike Marqusee, who didn't even have the decency to belong to a Test-playing nation, and seemed to enjoy recording the dismantling of meaningless traditions, wrote his masterpiece. As Francis Wheen puts it in the introduction to Anyone But England, "it must be infuriating that two of the greatest books about the game have been written by chaps who were not only foreigners but also socialists". Difficult to tell which was the greater crime.

The two books are often spoken of in the same breath, but that is unfair to both. James' is an unclassifiable paean to continuity, while Marqusee's is not only about change but about placing that change in a historical perspective. It took an American to challenge the establishment, albeit an American who is passionate about the game. When James wrote in 1963, West Indies under Frank Worrell were just emerging as a world force. Great team, great players, but no administrative muscle. It is tempting, if mischievous, to read Marqusee's book as confirmation that players may come and players may go but officials endure forever - and they contribute most to rankings.

But that is simplistic, and fails to take into account the upheavals in society. For Marqusee's book is about passion, money and success coming together to wrench control of the game away from England. In the 1990s two events of significance occurred: England and Australia lost their power of veto in the ICC, and cricket, a sport protected by class, now became one supported by the market.

Marqusee's triumph lies in exposing the historical inevitability of the change. The game has changed more in the last quarter century than it did in the hundred years before that; Marqusee tells us why this was only to be expected. He is not happy with many of the changes, but no one can wish them away.

The spiritual father of Anyone But England is not Beyond a Boundary, but Derek Birley's The Willow Wand - for its iconoclasm, its refusal to accept the myths of the game untested, and for its act of holding up a mirror to the game from a completely different angle. In a new chapter, written for the tenth anniversary edition, Marqusee says, "I prefer my cricket unbranded - by either nation-states or multi-national corporations. The history of the game is intertwined with the formation of social identities - national, imperial, post-imperial. But that has only been possible because the game itself is so protean, so durable, so forbiddingly idiosyncratic... "

These very qualities give hope. "That is why one should never be too pessimistic about its future," says Marqusee.

From the book
"The hypocrisy that has long been regarded as one of the chief characteristics of the English takes root early in cricket, and is indeed one of the things that makes English cricket English - the way it lies about itself to itself. The Englishness is in the lie, in the cult of the honest yeomen and the village green, in the denial of cricket's origins in commerce, politics, patronage and an urban society."

Anyone but England: Cricket, Politics and the Fate of the Nation
by Mike Marqusee

Verso, 1994

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore

RSS Feeds: Suresh Menon

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Suresh MenonClose
Suresh Menon Suresh Menon went from being a promising cricketer to a has-been, without the intervening period of a major career. He played league cricket in three cities with a group of overgrown enthusiasts who had the reverse of amnesia - they could remember things that never happened. For example, taking incredible catches at slip, or scoring centuries. Somehow Menon found the time to be the sports editor of the Pioneer and the Indian Express in New Delhi, Gulf News in Dubai, and the editor of the New Indian Express in Chennai. Currently he is a columnist with publications in India and abroad, and is beginning to think he might never play for India.
Related Links
Teams: England

    Dhoni wins the first round in the captaincy battle

Ian Chappell: Both Dhoni and Cook have made some inexplicable blunders, but India's captain pulls ahead slightly

    TV contracts dictate daytime scheduling of Caribbean matches

Tony Cozier: it's unlikely that fans in West Indies will ever get to enjoy five-day cricket in the evening

    Why isn't Ashwin playing?

Martin Crowe: It's hard to understand how India's best spinner is being left out in favour of bits-and-pieces players

    Gower savours life in the last chance saloon

Rewind: David Gower was on the verge of being dropped for good in 1990 when he made a charismatic century against India

Coming back to win from hopeless first-innings situations

Anantha Narayanan: A look at some of the most thrilling victorious fightbacks in Tests

News | Features Last 7 days

India look for their Indian summer

Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

South Africa face the Kallis question

Accommodation for a great player like Jacques Kallis should be made with careful consideration and South Africa cannot get carried away with sentiment

India's bowling leader conundrum

The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

Five key head-to-heads

From two embattled captains to the challenge for India's openers against the new ball, ESPNcricinfo picks five contests that could determine the series

Packed tours, and Shiv's late stumping

Also, best post-war win/loss record, most runs in two calendar years, most ducks in a Test, and brothers with similar numbers

News | Features Last 7 days

    India look for their Indian summer (87)

    Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

    South Africa face the Kallis question (56)

    Accommodation for a great player like Jacques Kallis should be made with careful consideration and South Africa cannot get carried away with sentiment

    India's bowling leader conundrum (44)

    The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

    Why isn't Ashwin playing? (38)

    It's close to inexplicable how India's best spinner is being left out in favour of bits-and-pieces players

    Five key head-to-heads (33)

    From two embattled captains to the challenge for India's openers against the new ball, ESPNcricinfo picks five contests that could determine the series