- The Cambridge Companion to Cricket ed. by Bateman, Anthony et al.
Academic writings on cricket constitute a fundamental part of sport history scholarship. Anthony Bateman and Jeffrey Hill’s edited collection is another welcome addition to the genre. The editors bring together the work of eighteen fellow academics to provide “a global and historic panorama” (p. 2) of cricket, its histories, political contours, social significance, economic dimensions, and cultural contributions. Although wide-ranging in its content, the book evidently reflects many emergent thoughts, debates, and research themes in the history and sociology of sport. The authors are also cognizant of the sport’s well-established literary traditions, especially the (C.L.R.) “Jamesian” ghost that looms and lingers over cricket writings.
Bateman and Hill’s work comprises seventeen chapters plus an introduction. The chapters traverse seven key themes. These include heritage, contemporary representations, commercialization, alternate forms of play, worldwide development, power relations and international politics, and identity formation. The book has been designed to be read in any order and essentially attempts to articulate cricket’s “long, sometimes harmonious but often troublesome, process of change” (p. 9). Chapters one and two by Anthony Bateman and Rob Light, respectively, for example cover the pastoral origins of cricket in England and its proliferation throughout the country in the eighteenth century. Chapters three, [End Page 535] four, seven, sixteen, and seventeen, in comparison, deal with contemporary and enduring aspects of the modern game (such as corruption, media and broadcasting tensions, and international politics). Chapters five and six examine different subject matter (e.g., the infamous bodyline series and the legendary figure Donald Bradman). The idiosyncrasies of (inter)national cricket and colonial relations are covered extremely well in chapters by Greg Ryan, who discusses New Zealand’s cricketing past; Hilary McD. Beckles, who cogitates on West Indian cricket and nationalism; Boria Majumdar, who concentrates on the evolution and influence of the Indian Premier League; and Mihir Bose, who writes convincingly on cricket’s role in the reproduction of Pakistan and Indian relations.
The editors have sourced some excellent contributors, but two entries merit special mention. These are the chapters by Claire Westall and by Andre Odendaal. In the former, and encouraged by the (sport) literary traditions established by C.L.R. James and his followers, Westall offers an exegesis of seminal Trinidadian cricketer Brian Lara and Caribbean poetry. Westall’s specific focus is Lara’s utility as popular(ized) poetic text/subject matter. Amidst the backdrop of fine traditions in Caribbean poetry, Westall highlights the continuity and disjuncture in literary reconstructions of Lara, readers’ renderings, and the reality of the cricketer’s lived experiences. Either on the page or on the pitch, Lara’s body has become a corporeal conduit for cultural and nationalistic expression and an ongoing project of political emancipation. In the latter, Odendaal provides a provocative analysis of cricket’s spatial and racial politics in apartheid South Africa. Since circa 1889, for example, Newlands cricket ground in Cape Town has been heralded as an iconic space—eponymous with beauty, perfection, and all that is good about cricket. Rarefied as Newlands is, the stadium has, Odendaal contends, been a (re)maker of harsh apartheid meanings and practices. While Newlands holds an enamored place in the country’s cricket literature and history, Odendaal reminds us of the need for the space to be reappropriated in the context of inclusive post-apartheid identity formation.
Overall, the editors have constructed an excellent book that draws together divergent themes and issues germane to contemporary and enduring research in the sociology and history of sport and also cultural and media studies. For scholars unfamiliar with cricket’s peculiarities, in particular, this will be a welcome text. My reservations are thus minor. In the introduction, for example, the editors comment on the one-dimensionality of cricket writing, in particular the emphasis on class, gender, and ethnicity. However, the editors’ own work, too, reproduces these myopic literary traditions. Similarly, Bateman and Hill note...