When cricket and cultures collide
Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer (football). It started in England and spread globally through British colonialism. Many communities have asserted aspects of their own cultures, including language, while also enjoying the game.
The first Australia cricket team to tour internationally was a group of 13 Jardwadjali, Gunditjmara and Wotjobaluk men from the western districts of Victoria. As well as being skilled cricketers, the team drew crowds for their displays of traditional skills including boomerang and spear throwing. The tour happened in 1868 and unfortunately the Aboriginal Protection Act introduced in Victoria in 1869 made it very difficult for indigenous people to continue playing competitive cricket thereafter.
In India, public broadcasters such as Doordarshan have a tradition of commentating cricket in multiple languages. For instance, if a game is broadcast in English and Hindi, the commentators will speak one after the other or alternate for half-hour slots each. When private sports channels came to India in the 1990s, however, they favoured English commentary, which was the owners’ language as well as the language used by many other cricket-playing countries. India has more Hindi speakers than English speakers, however, so it’s no surprise that Hindi sports channels are now out-performing their English-language counterparts.
In recent years, private sports channels have started to understand how they can gain access to larger audiences by broadcasting in more local languages. News Corp-owned Star Sports launched India’s first Tamil sports channel in 2017. Commentators add their own sense of humour, and the Indian Premier League is now broadcast in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali. Commentators such as former Indian test cricketer Aakash Chopra, enjoy the freedom to develop their own style in their first languages, rather than trying to adapt to the long-established conventions of English-language commentary.
In the Trobriand Island of Papua New Guinea, locals developed a unique cricket style where they play in traditional dress and celebrate runs with chants and dance. It’s said to be an alternative to tribal battles that previously plagued the island. Cricket is also enjoyed in many other parts of Papua New Guinea where more international rules are followed.
The West Indies, the team formed by players from the 16 English-speaking Caribbean countries, left their mark on cricket through calypso, a unique Afro-Caribbean blend of music and poetry. The West Indies team famously celebrated their victory over England in 1950 at Lords, the sacred home of cricket, with a calypso composition. This is just one of many moments of cricket and Caribbean history that have been immortalised through calypso.
Even Greece is a member of the International Cricket Council. ANZAC troupes played cricket while stationed on Greek Islands in World War One, and the tradition is carried on by St Kilda’s Hellenic Cricket Club in Melbourne.
Cricket is a game that unites people from all over the world as well as being a way for them to express unique aspects of their cultures.
Written by Sophia Dickinson, Lexigo: Sophia is a writer and communications consultant with 10 years’ experience in the public service and not-for-profit sectors. She has also taught English in France and spent a year working at a local NGO in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She is passionate about writing, intercultural communication and languages (she speaks French, Indonesian and is learning Spanish). Read more about her experiences at sophiadickinson.com.au