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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cricket: The Play Between Global and Local

SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES (SOAS)

Cricket: The Play Between Global and Local

Global Media and Post-National Communication: Theoretical and Contemporary Issues

Fiza Fatima Asar

4/1/2010

The paper answers the question “Analyze the dialectic between global and local in understanding glocalization.” As per my discussion and agreement with Dr. Annabelle Sreberny, I will look at the example of cricket (only) in understanding glocalization. The paper looks at different aspects ranging from the importance of technology, diaspora, and corporations in understanding the phenomenon of glocalization in the sport.


Analyze glocalization to explore the dialectic between local and global?

Today’s cricket is being globalized on Indian terms(BBC World Service 2009) and the centre of cricket is no longer at Lord’s, it has shifted to India. Keeping in mind this scenario of world cricket today, I am going to study the concept of glocalization and while doing so decipher the interplay between global and local in the example. In order to do so, I will look at the English sport of cricket (as previously agreed by Annabelle Sreberny) specifically with regards to South Asia’s contribution to the sport.

Although the question inquires about glocalization, because of the interplay between global and local in glocalization, it becomes imperative to understand the theories behind globalization as well. It was the globalization of the sport (here taken to mean its spread across the borders of a single country) that led to its glocalization in certain countries so that today’s cricket is a result of both processes. I am going to argue that the sport which was originally globalized on the back of colonialism was glocalized by South Asia and is now being globalized on its terms. In trying to see the factors behind these trajectories, I will show that in fact there is a very thin line between global and local and that in a world which is largely dependent on market forces, technological advancement and the power of corporations, perhaps the dichotomization between global and local is not the best way to understand the world.

The Early Globalization” of Cricket

There is no doubt to the fact that the English sport of cricket was turned into a "multi-national sport" (Gupta, 2004) on the back of British colonization. Many discussions related to cricket in the intellectual world therefore, most logically, relate to theories of colonialism and post-colonialism (Appadurai 1996, Malcolm 2001, MacLean 2009). However, for the purposes of this paper, I am not relying as much on the theories of post-colonialism as those of the forces of globalization and glocalization in order to understand what is going on in the world.


There is much discussion over what forms “globalization” and Giddens offers (1990), as related to by Sreberny (2000), one of the most appealing theories that demonstrate that although there has always been human interaction and mutual adaptation between communities, the globalization as we understand today is thanks to the speed introduced by technology such that time, distance and space have contracted into one. Owing to this argument globalization as we understand today began after colonization and in fact even as late as de-colonization when advanced technology changed the dynamics of human interaction and interdependence. In understanding the early phase of globalization in cricket, I will take globalization to simply mean the process by which the sport became global or was taken beyond its English borders.

For anything to be classified as global, it has to have certain shared values and practices beyond a single country’s boundaries. Appadurai (1999) quoted James (1963) in describing that what makes cricket global are its strong values of rigid adherence to external codes which is part of its discipline of internal moral development. Cricket was a quintessentially masculine activity, and it expressed the codes that were expected to govern all masculine behavior: sportsmanship, a sense of fair play, thorough control over the expression of strong sentiments by players on the field, subordination of personal sentiments and interests to those of the group, unquestioned loyalty to the team. (Appadurai 1999, pp. 91-92). In BBC Documentary Empire of Cricket (BBC World Service 2009) the same is described in the words “Cricket is associated with uprightness, honesty, integrity, a straight forwardness….”

Observing the way World Cup tournaments operate, is another way of understanding the global phenomenon of cricket. Sugden and Tomlinson's (1994) understanding of soccer teams can be applied broadly to cricket as well when they say that World Cup and other such International tournaments allow teams to define their nationalities in relation to this global game (Lechner 2007). Furthermore, the way cricket is watched also makes it global for example the standardized requirement of a cricket stadium and the way spectators are seated, the way cricket is understood by the spectators and also the way technology and the existence of cricket lovers around the world has allowed for the globalization of the sport. Cricket spectators around the world (although while defining themselves in connection with nations or nation-states) spend hours with their eyes glued to the television screens showing the matches live from the host country. The availability of satellite television and viewings via subscriptions over the internet have also allowed for the diaspora around the world to watch these games live over their computer screens whether they are students living in dorms, or employees in a company with no access to television channels broadcasting cricket matches.

When South Asia Glocalizes Cricket

However, where the sport is globalized, it has also been indigenized on local terms in their respective countries. One strong reason for cricket developing its local flavors lies behind the fact that sports, like cricket, exist as tools for creating a sense of nationalism in states. Sugden and Tomlinson are instructive in understanding the glocalization of a sport and their argument can be applied to the glocalization of cricket in the same way too. They argue that national teams relate to themselves and their respective countries in terms of a global sport in tournaments like that of the World Cup (Sugden and Tomlinson 1994). When they, as quoted in the above section, talk about the global aspect of the game being manifested in a World Cup tournament, there is also much weight in their argument that particular identities are formed by players in defining themselves with their national teams. Hence, there is an inherent interplay between global and local in the same example of a World Cup tournament. Where the sport is understood to be global and related to in a global fashion, the nationalistic instincts of teams make for its local trajectory.

The way cricket is watched and related to by the audience also makes for its glocalization. Although, they are talking about soccer players, Guilianotti and Robertson’s arguments can be applied to cricket audience as well, when they point out that “by claiming particular identities within (soccer's) universal framework, they turn the 'global game' into the 'glocal game' (Guilianotti and Robertson 2004). Similarly, although the spectators around the world may understand the sport at the same level and watch the sport at cricket stadiums across the world, their affiliations to their national teams and its representation through flags allows the spectators to turn the global game into the glocal. Even in a neutral space like Sharjah, the diaspora will affiliate themselves to the countries of their origin and support separate teams.

Media plays a huge role in invoking the sense of patriotism and nationalism that accompanies any cricket match between two countries and hence glocalizing the sport as understood by Guilanotti and Robertson (2004). However, it is also interesting to note that “…the ingredients of that self-definition are standard (Archetti 1994)” and once again soccer’s example, for me, also applies to cricket when it is observed that “media representations of critical events, embellished by continuous (soccer) talk, reproduce the collective memory and reinforce a sense of national distinction, usually focused on a set of assumptions about the national style held to reflect long-standing national characteristics". (Archetti 1994).[i]

Matches between Pakistan and India are exemplary in demonstrating the role of media in covering the respective country’s nationalism and hence the glocalization of the sport when the South Asian rivals are on the ground. Nalin Mehta (2009, pp 579-580) beautifully captures media’s sensationalizing of the sport rivalry while building on nationalistic sentiments of a country when he discusses television nationalism as was played up by the Indian channel Aaj Tak on September 24, 2007. “It was the morning of the India-Pakistan final in the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup in South Africa and India’s biggest news channel decided to focus only on the build-up of the game, to the exclusion of all other news”. Mehta goes on to admit that Aaj Tak was not an exception and that every other new channel in various languages was focusing its attention primarily on cricket that day.

Appadurai (1996) furthers the discussion by suggesting that the sport is glocalized (in South Asia) in various ways that interplay with each other. According to him these can be observed in the way the sport is “patronized, and publicized,” as is clear from the example above, and in the way “talent is created and nurtured outside the urban elites” (Appadurai 1996, pp 91). This can be observed in the origins of many famous Pakistani and Indian cricketers for example. Irfan Pathan, an extremely popular fast bowler of India, is known to be the son of a mosque imam[ii]. There are many such examples in all South Asian teams. It is because the sport is enjoyed by the non-elites in the South Asian countries that innovations like tape ball and tennis ball have also been introduced[iii]. In India, when cricket is played on the streets or in play grounds (non-professionally) instead of a cork ball many tend to use a tennis ball because of its affordability. Pakistanis use a tape ball (where a red tape is wrapped around a tennis ball) which not only makes it appear as a cork ball but also makes it harder and faster than a tennis ball. These innovations are examples of the sport being glocalized in South Asia.[iv] Furthermore, when India won the 2008 Twenty-20 World Cup (against Pakistan) and Pakistan won the 2009 World Cup it was the general understanding by many cricket lovers that it was the fact that the sport was played in the streets (and hence in shorter formats as that of Twenty-20) that allowed for the South Asian teams to be so good at the tournament.

Globalization by the Asian bloc

Joseph Maguire and Hilary McD. Beckles have made arguments that suggest that the countries of the West have economic and technological advantages that permit them to dominate global sport (Gupta 2004). Maguire has long argued that the globalization of sports has led to the domination of the West over non-Western countries. However, cricket shows a different scenario of the world today. A BBC documentary called, Empire of Cricket, looks into how “today’s cricket is being globalized on Indian terms (BBC 2009). The following section studies how India, a country, and South Asia, as a region, first glocalized the sport and are now involved in the process of globalizing the sport and taking it to the West and other parts of the world. This already implies the strong interplay of global and local and the hazing of the dichotomies between the two.

Indian Premier League (IPL) and Indian Cricket League (ICL) are two cricket tournaments, of Indian origin, that are charged with being the main instruments towards the new globalized look of cricket. Both boast of involving serious money and most talented players (BBC 2009). Both of these tournaments are based on the Twenty20 format which is fairly new in the cricket game. They involve the formation of cricket clubs and teams formed by players from various countries, and in the case of IPL, these names involve Indian or South Asian cities or provinces. What sets globalization apart, according to Giddens (1990), is how it leads to increased interdependence (Sreberny 2000). ICL and IPL formats allow international players to take part in these tournaments and the mutual dependence of both ICL and IPL organizers as well as the players of various countries ties in with Giddens concept of interdependence in a globalized scenario. Lead sentence.

IPL is based on clubs named after South Asian city names, majority of them Indian. Names like Lahore Badshahs, Hyderabad Deccan Chargers, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils add to the South-Asianization of the sport. Hence, IPL and ICL have both glocal and globalizing flavors in them. Nalin Mehta also ties in the strength of the Asian bloc in cricket with India being one of the ‘media capitals’ of the world. Cricketers like the Australian Brett Lee are learning Hindi in order to be more market-able in India. (Mehta et al 2009, pp 701). However, media’s role cannot be studied without acknowledging the importance technology has played in globalizing and glocalizing of a phenomenon. Furthermore, some of the team owners, who have placed bids on players are not only wealthy entrepreneurs but also media-related celebrities like Preity Zinta, Shahrukh Khan and Juhi Chawla (Bollywood stars). The marketing of the sport on television screens then obviously makes use of these popular faces.[v]

Technology and diaspora are two factors that Amit Gupta also talks about when discussing the reasons behind globalization of cricket at the hands of India (Gupta 2004). He gives credit to the technology of satellite television and cable in allowing cricket to reach all parts of the world, either live or recorded. “With the growth in both industries came the spread of global sports networks ESPN and STAR. Both transnational television networks recognized the appeal of cricket…” (Gupta 2004, pp 264). Gupta explains that it is the global audience of the game that attracts advertisers as well as the format of the sport which allows a break after every few minutes.

As in the case of Sharjah, “the global coverage afforded by new technology was made more significant by the existence of a large South Asian diaspora”. (Gupta 2004). Sheikh Bukatahir, cashed on this presence of South Asian diaspora and benefits of technology, by arranging extremely successful cricket tournaments in Sharjah of UAE, a country which as such had no cricket base. These tournaments were watched with much excitement in Pakistan and India too and soon became an annual phenomenon in the cricket world. Interestingly enough, thanks to the globalization of cricket that Sharjah now plays a role in glocalizing the sport in UAE. This scenario is being further strengthened by the importance of internet where people from across the world can access cricket live commentary, discussions over the matches, comments by spectators and news regarding cricket or cricketers on websites like Cricinfo and blog sites like Well-pitched. Today, Pakistani and Indian students in the United States can access live coverage of the match even via live streaming through the internet where a nominal amount can be paid and the match can be watched online over laptop screens.

The BBC documentary called ‘The Cricket Revolution’ played an interview of one of the organizers of IPL who discussed how it was the League’s ambition to take the sport to countries like China, USA, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia where either there was the sport being played by the locals or the existence of South Asian diaspora was playing a major role in the sport’s popularity. In an interview as part of the same documentary, the organizer of IPL discusses how his organization sees USA and Saudi Arabia as two of the most favorable countries for the marketing and hence globalization of cricket. The reason behind these countries being termed as favorable is not only their economic importance in the world but also the fact that large Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan communities live in the US and Saudi Arabia and hence already have an interest in the sport.

Grobalization

In the cricket world, therefore, it is not surprising that there is the acknowledgement of a shifting of power relations from the West to the East and specifically towards India. Mehta et al (2009, pp 699) say that “India’s growing financial power is the bedrock of its increased control over world cricket.” There is much talk about the Asian bloc referring to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and it is a point of concern for many of those outside this Asian bloc. This fear is not just based on the sporting talent of the Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Indian team members but also in the fact that “of the International Cricket Council’s total earnings, 80% are now estimated to come from India” (Mehta et al 2009, pp 700).

Gupta (2004) holds globalization responsible for the commodification of cricket. And this does hold some weight when the Marketing strategies and adverstiments by various corporations is observed around World Cup. This is due to the realization that World Cup is a globally involved event attracting not only tourists to the host countries, but also attracting a huge audience via television screens and internet. However, others have termed this phenomenon, where the corporates, based on the profit making motive decide how the world stage is set, as “grobalization. The main interest of the entities involved in grobalization is in seeing their power, influence, and in many cases profits grow (hence the term grobalization) throughout the world. (SocProf, 2009)

The example of Sharjah mentioned above perhaps raises the question that a large part of glocalization (and even globalization) occurs due to the existence of market forces, and exploitation of these at the hands of entrepreneurs either using media directly or indirectly for their ends. Sheikh Bukatahir was able to do this because of the presence of large Indian and Pakistani diaspora populations in the Persian Gulf that served as ready customers for the sporting entertainment with heavy nationalistic overtones….he was to pay substantial purses to the participating teams, hence commodifying them. Similarly media corporations use their profit-making motive to exploit patriotism and play up sport events, as in the case of Aaj Tuk mentioned above. The interplay of the interests of all such corporations plays towards the glocalizing tendencies of a sport.

The global reach of sports and the existence of globally available television, added with internet’s wide availability, has allowed for the corporate world to forward its products to the wider global consumer market (Smart 2007). Out of 78 players, 51 were not Indian in the IPL auctions and a total of $ 32 million were spent in bidding over them. Players which were initially against the idea of IPL and ICL began warming up to the format realizing the cash power it had and the role it was playing in globalizing the sport. For example, the Australian player Adam Glichrist who initially decried the Twenty20 format announced his early retirement later in favor of the League. “Gilchrist, ofcourse, was to win a $700,000 pay packet from the IPL just a week later.” (Mehta et al 2009, pp 697)

Similarly because IPL bidders over cricketers are wealthy entrepreneurs and media celebrities, these faces then assist in marketing the tournament worldwide. In the process, are not only actors and actresses participating in a process of commodification but the players are also commoditized[vi]. The theory of grobalization in explaining India’s role in cricket’s globalization then becomes true. It is the profit making motive of the bidders involved, the success dependent on strong marketing of IPL that then drives the sport of cricket. And if IPL and ICL are being charged with the globalization of cricket, then the role of money and profit-making incentive cannot be ignored in this process of globalization.

When Nalin Mehta studies the impact of television and globalization on cricket, he too is trying to demonstrate the commodification, and hence grobalization’s involvement in cricket. “Aaj Tak had attached its fortunes to the aspirational nationalism of the Indian cricket fan” (Mehta 2009, pp 579-580). And as Sugden and Tomlinson have already showed, sense of nationalism is the glocalization of a sport. “Dancing with Aaj Tak was Kapil Dev, the last Indian captain to win a World Cup (in 1983), who had stayed in the studio through the day as a contracted expert. It is clear then that money plays a central role in the decision to play up nationalism on media and by corporations.

In the earlier sections, I have argued that the trajectories of global and local constantly interplay between each other such that there is a hazing of the fine line between them. The theory of grobalization further explains that the global and local trajectories are not enough to understand the glocalization of the sport. It is the power of money from corporate and media celebrities that has driven the glocalization of the sport, in the form of IPL and ICL, in India and has also driven its globalization at the hands of the same powerful individuals and corporate.

Implications on Indentity, Nation-States and “Local”

Beckles argues that the wealth generated by globalization has taken away the nationalist identity of the players and, instead, made them captives of the market process that makes them sell their services to the highest bidder. Her argument resounds in the IPL example where the players are bid on by wealthy entrepreneurs and media celebrities on their marketing value. Australian, British and New Zealander players, among others, have gradually warmed up to the format after being won over by high prices attached to their offers from IPL and ICL. But it remains to be seen whether this format is really eroding nationalistic feelings or do these tournaments exist alongside the typical tournaments between countries.

Ashes tournament between England and Australia is not losing its charm and the recent test-match victory of England over Australia (in Summer 2009) after several years was a source of rejoice across Britain. This pride was visible amongst all ethnic communities within Britain as well. Media celebrated the victory over television and newspaper and the tournament became the talk of the town. Similarly the Twenty20 World Cup, like the traditional world cup, receives much excitement and attention across the cricket-watching world. When Pakistan won the Twenty20 World Cup in 2009, not only did Pakistanis within Pakistan come out into the streets to celebrate but the victory also became a source of pride and celebration amongst the Pakistani communities across England. Youtube has videos up from Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and London where Pakistani restaurants, shops and the Diaspora in general celebrated Pakistan’s victory through the evening. The upcoming World Cup in 2011 is being expected with much anxiety and excitement across South Asia where the tournament will be hosted.

These examples raise questions about what “national” or “local” is understood to be. Anderson (1983) points out that the global, the regional, the national, and the local,… all of these might constitute the loci of the ‘imagined communities.’ (Sreberny 2000) In Appadurai’s words “Locality for the modern nation state is either a site of nationally appropriated nostalgias, celebrations, and commemorations or a necessary condition of the production of nationals” (Appadurai 2009, pp 190). The difference between national or local and global becomes hazy when diaspora comes to question. A British Pakistani may consider him/herself British when England plays against Australia but may affiliate him/herself with Pakistan when Pakistan wins the Twenty20 world cup.

In my opinion, for as long as tournaments involving national teams will attract such attention and patriotism, players will continue to play for their countries alongside other teams such as those in IPL or ICL. This ties in well with Appadurai’s understanding of the world in terms of ethnoscape, amongst other scapes. He argues that because people and ethnic communities travel beyond boundaries, the world cannot be viewed in terms of national boundaries alone. He further explains in the book Modernity at Large that “the nationalist genie, never perfectly contained in the bottle of the territorial state, is now itself diasporic” (Appadurai 2009, pp 160). In my understanding of his theory, it is the ethnoscape which makes the divide between national and global hazy and hence the idea that IPL or ICL formats are eroding nationalism remains a complicated one.

The team owners of IPL spent as much as $14 million on the 27 Indians – an average of $518,518 per player. The 51 foreign players attracted $18 million – an average of $352,941 per player (Mehta et al 2009)…In a country where cricketers are the biggest brand names in the consumer economy, the IPL’s team managers were gambling more on the brand value that their stars command, than on their cricket skills. It can be argued whether such marketing of cricketers is good for cricket or bad. It could be that the cricketers are being bidded on their talent or the fact that bidders are aware that cricketers of a specific nationality will bring more returns in terms of marketing and audience favoritism.

Conclusion

Taken together, grobalization, glocalization and globalization all exist in tension between one another so that neither truly ever prevails. “Sport is now an established part of a globally extensive entertainment industry and sportsmen and sportswomen have eagerly embraced the notion that they have a responsibility not only to be successful in competition but also to entertain spectators and viewers by participating in the promotion of sport as a spectacle. In turn, sportsmen and sportswomen have come to recognize that the global popularity and media profile that sporting success brings can deliver lucrative opportunities to them”. (Smart 2007)

The above example of cricket shows that there exists a very fine line between global and local in understanding the glocalization and the globalization of the sport. Although the sport is agreed to be an English one, it is being globalized today on Indian terms. What is understood to be global and glocal in this example, hence, becomes hazy. Where the Twenty20 format of IPL has revolutionized cricket and could arguably be eroding nationalism, the sense of pride continues to exist in tournaments, such as World Cup, involving national teams. What is clear is that for the globalization of the sport it is not just the demand, the existence of diaspora but the economic interests of those involved that is speeding up the process of cricket glocalization and globalization.


[i] It would also be interesting to study the depiction of cricket in Indian films (from both Bollywood and independent productions) like Lagaan, Iqbal and Slumdog millionaire, and its implications on creating a sense of nationalism and pride amongst Indians. Furthermore, the choice of cricket for these movies, also shows the existing passion for cricket amongst Indians, like other South Asians, that the film-makers cash on.

[ii] An imam is the essentially the head of a mosque who also leads the five times prayers in congregation.

[iii] Cricket can be seen being played in streets, small parks, even roof tops of homes – all reflecting how the sport has been nurtured by the non-elites in South Asia. Nike’s ad < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvJPTbFssZo> for the cricket audience in South Asia reflects the same glocal quality of the sport in India.

[iv] It is commonly believed by many Pakistanis that it is the innovation of tape ball that makes a tennis ball harder and faster to bowl with and hence is the reason behind Pakistan’s ability to produce some of the fastest bowlers on an international level. Some of these names include the legendary Waqar Yunus, Wasim Akram, and Shoaib Akhtar (the latter known as Rawalpindi Express internationally, Rawalpindi being the city of his origin and Express to imply the speed of his bowling).

v The website indiaserver.com (like other such websites dedicated to IPL) gives names of the teams and their respective details regarding who the owners and the brand ambassadors of each teams are. http://cricket.india-server.com/ipl/teams/knight-riders.html

[v]Reference

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