Decoding India's love of cricket

T. C. A. Srinivasa Raghavan New Delhi | Updated on March 09, 2011


A few days ago, Vijayalakshmi Viswanathan, writing in these columns wondered why Indians love cricket so much.

I have a mathematical and a cultural explanation for it. Both are valid at the same time, which makes it, oh, so very marvellously Indian because we are like Professor Erwin Schroedinger's renowned cat: we can be two things at the same time. For example, the DMK and the Congress who are daggers drawn and close allies; or Dr Manmohan Singh who is clean and not-clean simultaneously; or even, if you will, Anil Kumble, who was a fast slow bowler as well as a slow fast bowler.



The mathematical explanation, on which I have held forth many times before, is that it is the inherent non-linearity of the game that explains the Indian obsession with it.

This means that the final outcome cannot be predicted from the initial conditions and that anything, absolutely anything, can influence the final outcome. India beats West Indies (1983); Bangladesh beats India (2007); Ireland beats England (2011).

This is a consequence of the very large number of variables that influence the play, imparting a degree of uncertainty. The game's administrators have tried to control it but without notable success.


The culture thing

To get a hang of the cultural aspect, I would recommend an essay on the drivers of Indian behaviour by A.K. Ramanujan, the poet, not the mathematician. It first appeared in 1990 in a volume called India Through Hindu Categories which was edited by McKim Marriott.

In that, Ramanujan explains how our conduct is context-sensitive, not context-free. As Krishna said to Arjuna, if the cause or context is right or righteous, you can even bump off your brothers.

This sort of context-sensitive behaviour led the Victorian missionaries to call us hypocrites. But a more sensible description is commonsensical behaviour — ironically, something the British excel at.

And when you come right down to it, cricket the most context-sensitive game in the world. And that is why we Indians love it, as Harry Belafonte sang in a lesser calypso, “Like a pig loves a pool of mud”.

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Published on March 09, 2011
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