India at Play

Cricket, once the sport of the British upper classes, is in India a great leveler. Everything about the game seems ideally suited to the Indian national character: its rich complexity, the endless possibilities and variations that can occur with each delivery, the dozen different ways of getting out – all are reminiscent of a society of infinite forms and varieties.

New Dehli – On June 1, the Indian Premier League came to a thundering climax with a cliffhanger final match, watched by 60,000 cheering fans in a new stadium and an estimated 300 million television viewers around the world. As cheerleaders danced and waved brightly colored pom-poms, and star sportsmen from across the globe, clad in their teams’ multi-hued regalia, looked forward to a $2.5 million payday, black-market tickets changed hands for as much as $2,500.

Football? Basketball? No, the IPL is the newest Indian innovation revolutionizing that most staid of Victorian sports – cricket.

As the globalizing world discovers a twenty-first-century India full of high-tech computer geeks, efficient businessmen, colorful fashions, and glitzy entertainment – a far cry from the old stock images of fakirs on beds of nails, maharajahs on elephants, and mendicants with begging bowls – it is also finding an India obsessed with what most regard as a nineteenth-century sport.

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