A Gesture of Champions

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By Garga Chatterjee

West Indies won the ICC T20 cricket world cup at the Eden Gardens of Kolkata. Curtly Ambrose, the legendary right-arm fast bowler of yesteryears, who helps the team in various capacities, joined in the victory celebrations of the team in the field. He put up 3 fingers very near to the front of the sports channel camera and counted them with a look of victory and accomplishment. Those whose world of cricket is limited to the adult male variety of the game are likely to have missed the significance of this gesture. It is sad that this was so extra-ordinary, given that women form a significant portion of the cricketing fandom, in the world and in the subcontinent. In fact, the West Indies male team was joined in the celebrations on field by some members of the women`s team – as professional colleague from another branch.

Bangladesh, India and to some extent in Pakistan also, the adult male cricket player often has a ‘macho-manly’ presence in their ads and endorsements, which are very important as part of their income, as one of the major products of the businesses they were. Of course, various other interests cooperate on what is the business empire of cricket, but cricketers are also used for saying something to society. So, its important to see what they are saying, what attitudes they are endorsing, directly that is very boorishly, but indirectly by types of ads, that is relatively suavely. Shahid Afridi, infamously once said, when asked about what he thought about Pakistan women`s cricket, “their hand has magic. They make great food,” and then said with an indignant look, “there, you have my answer”. This is just one example and its not just Pakistan. I dont remember any other men`s team that has acknowledged the performance or even existence of the women`s team at their moment of greatest victory. Subcontinental macho-men with much more sponsorship money from testosterone-high adverts have a lot to learn from what Curtley Ambrose did on the 3rd of April, 2016.

And the differences between the Windies and the rest do not end there. Here is a federation of separate equal sovereign states co-ordinating in a system of some practical equality between nations. That’s a better model than the United Nations, with their official security councils, and hard coded imbalance of power, in favour of the white man. And lets listen to the song that the West indies team danced away to, during the tournament – the song frequently used the world `Champions`. As the travelling fans sang along, each was often draped in the flag of her particular nation, and several islands are name checked in the tune: Trinis from Trindad and Yard Boys from Jamaica, Vincies from St Vincent and the Grenadines, Bajans from Barbados. As the song insisted, they are all champions. Strikingly, the anthem lists several black champions, not just from the West Indies, but from all over. One part of the song mentions Nelson Mandela from South Africa and Serena Williams from the US.

Can Team India or one of its members in their performance peak be imagined doing a heart-felt tribute to Dr. B.R.Ambedkar or for an anti-colonial legend like Patrice Lumumba? Here is the Windies team singing a `we` kind of a song, and the example is a guy from far-away South Africa – a `foreigner`. Can one imagine this in Bharat-Mata-Ki-Jai land, that the Government of India would tolerate such an natural attitude to imagined collective identity called the `nation`? No. It reflects a lack of certainty and lack of confidence about the `naturalness` of the nation. Cricket then provides just another cover to hide the severe lack of `naturalness` in the state and hopefully also the build some `naturalness`. The more a society is emoved from their relaxed human state, more is its capacity to produce hate. What we assume as ` real cricket` is the male, sighted version of it – women`s cricket, older people`s cricket, blind cricket are not considered `real` thing, not. At the heart of this constant reference to the ‘real’ form is a profound lack of understanding about human abilities and the many forms it can take. That sounds like a good way to reduce the hate-production value of cricket.

2016 has been a magical year for cricket as a shared human game – the unlikely event of West Indies winning the men`s T20, the women`s T20 and the men`s under 19 world cups. This extra-ordinary co-incidence has expanded and joined the separate streams of cricket in certain cricket fans. Thats a huge achievement. Let’s celebrate this victory of the West Indies, the champions.

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