Cricket, and What it Tells Us About the World

IPL also introduced cheerleaders in cricket, a novelty, causing many purists to choke on their tea and scones
IPL also introduced cheerleaders in cricket, a novelty, causing many purists to choke on their tea and scones (Image PTI)

The final of the third edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was played last Sunday, bringing to an end over 6 weeks of cricket craze in India. From the very beginning the whole thing seemed like a carnival, closer to Bollywood, with its song and dance routines and celebrity presence, than the genteel- village green image of cricket in England. The razmatazz is essential to the success of the IPL, as it has essentially transformed a hitherto visually unspectacular game, into a spectacle that is accessible to a greater variety of people. It is the richest cricket tournament in the world, as has buttressed the position of Indian cricket,  which already controls 70-80% of the games finances.

The league, and it’s founder Lalit Modi, are neck deep in a corruption scandal at the moment. However, the success of the IPL, and the preeminence of India in the sports power and financial structures, reveals a lot about what might be the future of the global sports industry. As with the cricket, non-western states and businesses seem set to be the ones calling the shots in global sports.

Migration has a huge part to play in the success of non-western cricket. I watched the finals of the Intenational T20 championship took place between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the hallowed Lord’s  Cricket Ground in London. Pakistan won that game, and the gentry of St. John’s Wood, the upscale residential district where the ground is located, found themselves aghast at the ensuing celebrations of the fans.  And when the Pakistani cricket team was forced to cancel matches in its home country because of security concerns,  the Pakistani authorities were happy to move the games to  London citing the local support as an opportunity to profit more.  The presence of a diaspora ensures support and viewership for any team from the sub-continent. It also means that broadcasters find a ready global market for games with these teams, in turn providing greater profits for the national sides.

However, it is not demographics alone; a substantial lot also depends on the willingness of governments to provide subsidies to sports. In India, or Australia for that matter, the state has been subsidizing cricket for the longest time. And by this I do not mean a certain league or format, but the game of cricket itself, passing laws to make it accessible to free-to-air television (deeming it an issue of ‘national interest’). On the contrary, in England, or the Carribbean nations, cricket authorities actively worked towards taking cricket off free-to-air TV, presumably to make more money from broadcasting rights. However, this hurt the potential market for cricket  in these countries, with free to air sports such as football, motor-sports or basketball increasing in popularity.

Lastly, it was the willingness of Asian entrepreneurs to innovate. The format of the IPL is called T20 cricket, where matches might end in 3-4 hours, as opposed to the traditional 5-day long matches. T20, ironically enough, originated in England, in order to increase the popularity of the sport. Puritans in the English cricketing establishment, however, confounded any attempts to popularize the format, deeming it “hit-and-giggle” cricket. Where the English failed, the Indians thrived-creating an immense marketing campaign around T20 cricket, grabbing newer audiences and cashing-in on every advertising opportunity.

We may well see similar processes impacting other global sports. Add to the above factors the  huge media markets available in the developing world, as well as high degrees of player mobility bringing in fresh audiences, and you have a game changing scenario.  Upcoming leagues in developing countries have the opportunity to tap into already established markets, that would like to see more of local talent, and broadcasting that suits local time-zone and sensibilities.

All this means that there is every possibility that African football, South American Baseball and Chinese Basketball would become more popular than their western counterparts. All they need is an entrepreneur, much like Lalit Modi, to come along and shake things up.

Does Europe have a problem with Islam?

via EuroIslamproject

The last couple of months have seen intense debate on European society’s openness towards Muslim immigrants. Following the Swiss ban on minarets and the French proposal to ban the burqa in public life, fears have been expressed over the exclusion of Muslims from European social and political life. Politicians have gained enormous capital by channeling fears over Islam and immigrants, and populist measures such as the burqa ban in France.

Which begs the question: does Europe have a problem with Islam? Are European politics and society inherently at-odds with the values of their Muslim citizens? One thing is clear: European politics has become increasingly obsessed with controlling and regimenting its Muslim citizens. The successful campaign in Switzerland to ban minarets, as well as the growing influence of far-right politicians in Austria and the Netherlands are testimony to the popular appeal of anti-Islam populism in Europe.

“Some Indians Find it Tough to Go Home Again”

keeping it real in the desh
keeping it real in the desh

Blogging and general online activity has been slow since I am in Brussles nowadays looking for work, but I naturally paused and clicked when this headline from the NYT popped up on my RSS-feed.

This article talked mostly about how Indian expat-professionals found themselves disillusioned and disappointed by working culture back home . It provides interesting and entertaining caricatures of Indian bureaucracy and cultural values:

There are no shortcuts to spending lots of time working in the country, returnees say. “There are so many things that are tricky about doing business in India that it takes years to figure it out,” said Sanjay Kamlani, the co-chief executive of Pangea3, a legal outsourcing firm with offices in New York and Mumbai. Mr. Kamlani was born in Miami, where his parents emigrated from Mumbai, but he has started two businesses with Indian operations.

When Mr. Kamlani started hiring in India, he met with a completely unexpected phenomena: some new recruits would not show up for work on their first day. Then, their mothers would call and say they were sick for days in a row. They never intended to come at all, he realized, but “there’s a cultural desire to avoid confrontation,” he said.

Freddy ‘Mustapha’ Mercury

Check out Queen’s brilliant, hysterical song  ‘Mustapha’. I could not be sure, but Freddie Mercury is singing in Arabic, Persian and English, mashing names of prophets with ‘As-salam-alalikum’. The song is part of the Queen’s 1978 album Jazz, and they performed it live regularly.

In live performances, Mercury would often sing the opening vocals of “Mustapha” in place of the complex introduction to “Bohemian Rhapsody“, going from “Allah we’ll pray for you” to “Mama, just killed a man…”. However, sometimes the band performed an almost full version of the song from the Crazy Tour in late 1979 to The Game Tour in 1980, with Mercury at the piano. They dropped the second verse and went from the first chorus to the third. Also notable is that the song was often requested by the audience, as can be heard on Live Killers.- Wiki

How cool does this make Freddie Mercury then? Son of Parsee-Indian immigrants, described as Britains first Asian star, singing ‘Allah we pray for you’  in racially charged late 1970s Britain. Sheer Awesomeness.

Ian Buruma on Enlightenment, Language and Multiculturalism

I spent a large part of today watching Prof. Ian Buruma’s brilliant lecture series at Princeton university entitled ‘No Divine Rights: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents’ which I am posting here. Buruma is a scholar of great versatility. His subjects range from a fictional-biography of an Indian cricketer-prince, to works on European and Japanese history. In this lecture series he tackles the relation between state and religion in America, Asia and Europe, in which he makes extremely revelatory connections between religion and state in different societies. All the lectures here are extremely interesting especially for students of global history.

Buruma’s assessment of how elitism, liberalism and democracy interacted with religion in Europe is particularly informative. Throughout the series he is concerned with the changes affecting Europe, which he addresses directly in his last lecture posted here. His views on the changing meaning of the Enlightenment, the role of language in forming identities amongst immigrants and his examination of the kulturkampf between Europe and Islam is deeply informed, as is evident from the range of his examples, and deeply relevant.

Update: Also posting the other two lectures in the series:

“I loved him…once the World Trade Center came down, I changed my mind”


This week two stories related to racist discrimination caught my eye. The first of these is from Dresden, not too far from a our beloved Leipzig, within a region that has been host to a spate of racist attacks.

It was while Marwa el-Sherbini was in the dock recalling how the accused had insulted her for wearing the hijab after she asked him to let her son sit on a swing last summer, that the very same man strode across the Dresden courtroom and plunged a knife into her 18 times.

Her three-year-old son Mustafa was forced to watch as his mother slumped to the courtroom floor.

Even her husband Elvi Ali Okaz could do nothing as the 28-year-old Russian stock controller who was being sued for insult and abuse took the life of his pregnant wife. As Okaz ran to save her, he too was brought down, shot by a police officer who mistook him for the attacker. He is now in intensive care in a Dresden hospital…

…Unemployed Alex W. from Perm in Russia was found guilty last November of insulting and abusing Sherbini, screaming “terrorist” and “Islamist whore” at her, during the Dresden park encounter. He was fined ¤780 but had appealed the verdict, which is why he and Sherbini appeared face to face in court again.


This story has led to widespread protests within immigrants in Germany, as well as in Egypt, the homeland of the deceased. What surprises me here is the fact that the assailant, with known anti-islamic sentiments, was able to bring a knife into the courtroom? Would it be the same if the case was against a Jewish person in Germany? And even more surprising is that the police mistook the husband for the assailant? Especially after the guy had stabbed her 18 times?


The other story was carried in the New York Times, which investigated the of Tanveer Ahmed, a 43 year old immigrant who died in detention, and whose death went unreported for 3 years.

A World Beyond Stereotypes: A life in Leipzig, Germany

By Mikhaila Alana Cupido

This essay won the first prize in the ‘World Beyond Stereotypes’ essay competition organized by Uni Leipzig

Pocahontas has always been one of my favourite stories as a kid, and at the ripe old age of twenty-three I realized how she must have felt when her ship boarded in England. When I arrived at the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof weary, very tired and already homesick I could’ve sworn that a million eyes watched me as I struggled to get my very heavy bag labeled with the South African flag out of the train. Then trying to guess which one of the millions of German woman standing around could be the one that I was looking for. To this day I am glad that a Coloured female South African along with an Afrikaner male South African conveniently sticks out in a crowd and we were found in no time.

I wish that I could say after having been here for so long that my daily dose of humour concerning where I come from has ended, but alas no. And on the upside it almost always makes my day, so I won’t complain. Here in Leipzig people often take the time to ask me completely random questions … but then again … as a student I have learnt that if you never ask, you might just never know. So I guess being asked random questions are a must, to keep in check what it is that German citizens or even Europeans think and know about Coloured South Africans.

In 2006 I very enthusiastically left my comfort zone to tackle a new continent and a new life. I come from Cape Town, and where I grew up everyone is Coloured and almost everyone talks like me, has my skin colour, and more importantly hair like mine. And then I arrived in Leipzig and not everyone knew this, much to my dismay.