Sunday, 22 February 2009

The whole story?

Cricketer's autobiographies and other books can be an interesting sort of read. Their content seems to depend on the mood of the author at the time. They can sometime feel like they focus a bit too much on the controversies, and it's certainly the comments on controversies that get them publicity!

Now Cricinfo has some sort of a review of Graham Halbish's book (published in 2003). The very fact that a cricket administrator's inside story might be considered interesting is a bad sign, as sport stories rarely get taken off the field for good reasons. The review is interesting in that takes the international rifts described in the book, and paints a background of the longer term history between cricketing nations, England and India in particular. Just as Halbish and the Australian Cricket Board aligned themselves with the English in 1996, Australia is equated with England. I'm not sure that it shows the full picture.

In the many discussions about cricket, it becomes obvious that there are quite a few different perceptions of history. An Englishman might see his country as the founder of the game and an upholder of its spirit and traditions. He might think that in modern times those colonials, both rough, brash Australians and ambitious Indians, have at various times tried to take over with innovation backed by lots of money, and while it's fair enough to have them as equals in these days, there shouldn't be any superpowers in the modern game.

One Indian view might be that the English have been the imperial overlords, controlling cricket as they controlled their empire and looking down on those outside the establishment. The Australians are usually considered a ruder part of this establishment, being Anglo-Saxon and having played the English a long time before India received a similar status. Any Australian influence on or off the field is seen simply as a continuation of the colonial rule, and the suggestion is that the white countries need to both give the Asians an equal voice and see the size and importance of Indian cricket for what it is, so that it finally takes its rightful place.

An Australian with a sense of cricket history might see his nation as the underdogs that are continually taking on the establishment, playing hard to make their mark on the field even when they couldn't do so elsewhere. It started with games against England led by the aristocracy, including a master of gamesmanship known as a gentlemen solely because he didn't need income from the game. While one of the biggest steps towards highly paid players with the game driven by tv income happened in Australia, he might see the same struggle continued with the new power-brokers on the subcontinent.

There is some truth in all of these views. However, they cannot be the whole story, even viewing them together. Apart from the flaws or omissions in each and the fact that each nation has as many perspectives as it has citizens, an approach to history and current situation of the game worldwide can never be about two blocs or even three nations. We need something beyond all this.


Anonymous said...

An excellent article. To me this is compounded when, because of patriotism, people rally behind the views of one of their authors/heroes/legends. I cannot see how it benefits anyone (but themselves) when a Sunny Gavaskar delivers a hate-filled monologue during commentary based on all his bad experiences in England or Australia, or when an Adam Gilchrist releases an autobiography that is skewed and tells just one side of the story.
I also found it disgusting when Fletcher released his book revealing events that should never have left the sanctity of player-coach confidence. It shows in a way that the culture of cricket has changed so much to be personality or celebrity-centric, that everyone wants a piece of the action and are happy to let go of a lifetime's friendships for a few extra bucks in retirement. As such, sensationalism takes higher precedence and you're unlikely to come across too many books that don't target audiences that only want to continue hearing more of the same.

Jonathan said...

I couldn't agree more about rallying behind heroes!

As for books, I recently finished Gilchrist's tome which I received as a gift. For the large part, I found it interesting, until I was disappointed that it became full of controversies towards the end. On reflection, it was a pity that it was such a large part of the story in his mind, not just in the book. As you say, it is made worse by the fact that the controversy drives the sensationalism that drives the sales.

(The other thing that showed the state of his mind at the time of writing was the very strong theme of the timing of his retirement - these comments weren't disappointing to read, but it isn't an emphasis you'd expect in an autobiography written with more time for reflection.)