Ramachandran Guha’s book is a serious attempt at according cricket the importance it deserves in South Asian history. The book charts the trajectory of the game’s evolution from a British import—from the middle of the 19th century to the turn of the century when the game became a site for the contestation of colonial power—to modern times. It should appeal not only to readers interested in the history of cricket in India but also to those who might be interested, not in cricket itself, but in broader themes of South Asian history such as nationalism and communalism.
The first section of the book introduces the key figures, clubs and contests which shaped the history of the sport in India, opening up before the reader a history hitherto little known. In describing the struggle between polo and cricket in colonial Bombay, Guha demonstrates how the exigencies of colonial politics often resulted in a sport’s appropriation and indigenisation, with cricket emerging as an arena for the articulation of a very Indian brand of nationalism. Turning the colonial ideology on its head, resistance and subversion were often dominant in the second phase of the histories of British games in the colonies, particularly cricket and soccer.