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Well played sir!: All time awesome campaigns in India – II


well-played-sir-all-time-awesome-campaigns-india-ii-amit

The English language and cricket are two legacies from the colonial times that India embraced wholeheartedly. It’s clear, however, that they symbolise much more than a language and sport for us.

In the initial period, both were markers of brown sahib privilege. If you went to a ‘Convent’ and spoke English (not just read and understood it), you clearly belonged to the upper middle class. The same applied to cricket, while anyone could and did play it, ‘proper’ cricket required being able to afford expensive equipment, going to select coaching clubs and living by the MCC coaching manual.

Bombay, with its head-start had the best of cricket clubs & coaches and more than half of the Indian cricket team during this era came from this one city. Cricket was a burra sahib pass time with a tea break and a rest day after 3 days of exertion in a test match.


Sunil Gavaskar, the epitome of ‘correct’ technique was our poster boy. The emergence of Kapil Dev with his raw talent and an un-coachable batting style created a minor flutter, but did not disrupt the system much. He was more importantly, a classical medium fast bowler with picture perfect action and gorgeous natural outswing.

Representing another era in batting style, the unbelievable Sachin Tendulkar, was still from the Mumbai school and the British absolutely loved him for the perfection of his technique. He was carrying forward a legacy much better than the British themselves, who were moving on to soccer!

It was perhaps with the emergence of Dhoni that a new era started in Indian cricket, symbolising the same in the society. Dhoni’s ‘background’ (some of it a myth, but made for good story) made his success in cricket interesting story - from a city which had no cricket culture worth noticing, a youth spent struggling to afford cricket gear, a job in Railways and a batting style that suggested complete lack of access to the MCC coaching manual and ‘proper’ clubs.

Like him, stories of small town/rural youth making it big on the national platform, often defeating the more privileged but less hungry big-city counterparts started to emerge with greater frequency. Television, with a spurt of talent shows across quizzes, singing, dancing you name it, started to present this dream come true narrative.

With India’s economic rise and unabated love for the game, the old order changed. India became the new capital of cricket, leaving behind England by some distance.

Nothing represented it better than IPL – a combination of masala cricket, Indian money power and stories of small town talent winning multi crore contracts over night.

The cricket world cup, once only hosted in England, was coming to be hosted by the subcontinent. With Dhoni at the helm of the favourites – the Indian cricket team.

Pepsi – the perennially irreverent brand, had done the classic ‘Nothing official about it’ campaign back in 1990’s. It needed to combine its persona while reflecting the changed world order. The un-coached and under privileged were the masters now. The game had changed.