Chris Jordan on racism in cricket.

Just take Tamil Nadu cricket for example, why are the majority cricketers to have come up from TN Brahmins who account for roughly 2% of the population.

Only 4 people from the Dalit community have played for India.

From an article in the wire "Y EXTERNAL AFFAIRS SECURITY CULTURE OPINION VIDEO ANALYSIS MEDIA GOVERNMENT WORLD EDITOR'S PICK TOP STORIES LIVE WIRE SCIENCEDoes India Need A Caste-Based Quota in Cricket?Dalits and Adivasis are severely under-represented in Indian cricket. Adopting a quota system similar to that of South Africa will help remove structural barriers and ensure more diversity.Jul 26, 2018 | Gaurav Bhawnani and Shubham Jain
In the 86 years since India attained Test status, 290 different men have played test cricket for India. However, only four belong to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. That’s four, instead of about 70, as it should have been per the population proportion. This is a disparity that just cannot be dismissed as insignificant.

Unfortunately, Dalit under-representation in Indian cricket has received scant attention. A similar under-representation of black players in South Africa resulted in the introduction of a quota for non-White players in the playing XI across all levels of the game. On the other hand, we don’t even have accurate data about the socio-economic backgrounds of players playing a sport which is followed religiously by most Indians.

Lack of debate on caste and cricket

Very few scholars have looked at possible reasons for this stark under-representation of Dalits in cricket. Sirivayan Anand wrote that this was a product of Brahminical tastes. Brahmins, who are historically indolent, like cricket because it involves hours of merely standing around and an absence of physical contact. This resulted in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Steven Anderson wondering whether this was true. This article also carried interviews with Indian cricketers and commentators like Harsha Bhogle, who promptly dismissed any caste bias in cricket by stating that players and selectors don’t even know each other’s castes. Even mainstream sites like ESPNCricinfo promptly dismissed this article for having cited Anand’s controversial thesis.

Palwankar Baloo. Credit: Public domain image.

Ramachandra Guha’s history of Indian cricket, A Corner of a Foreign Field, chronicles the life of Palwankar Baloo, a Dalit, and India’s first great cricketer in Guha’s opinion. Guha’s shows that there were a number of Dalits playing at the highest level in the early 20th century, before India received Test status. This led Boria Majumdar in the International Journal of the History of Sport to conclude that the change of patronage from the princes to corporate houses post-independence resulted in a decline in Dalit participation. These corporate patrons required cricketers to meet certain educational qualifications so that they would be employable post their retirement from the game. Consequently, opportunities in cricket, as in other private, corporate employment, were shut to those who could not access education.

Structural barriers

We heartily agree with Majumdar that it is the structure of the sport, and not Brahminical tastes per Anand or choices as Guha seems to suggest in his book at one point, that is responsible for this decline in Dalit participation. Apart from the corporate patronage leading to the decline in the number of Dalit cricketers, we believe that structural impediments can be seen from the urban concentration of the game, the contrast with the women’s sport as well as the imbalance in the number of minority batsmen and bowlers.

The fact that the urban concentration of the game has an exclusionary impact can be seen from a study of Muslims, another minority community in India that is underrepresented in cricket. In 1970s-80s, about half of the Indian Test cricket team hailed from merely six cities: Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata. However, the share of these six cities has steadily declined to less than 40% in recent years.

This shift to smaller towns has coincided with a significant increase in the number of Muslims playing for India. A statistical review of Indian cricket found that Muslim representation has increased from about 4% between 1950s and 1990s to 12.5% this millennium. That this is not merely a correlation but involves an aspect of causation can be seen from the fact that only two of the eight Muslim players to have made their debuts in this millennium come from one of the six traditional powerhouses of cricket. Moreover, most Muslim cricketers come from families on the lower rungs of economic standing. Consequently, it is probable that the urban stranglehold and corporate patronage have had a similar impact on Dalits participating in cricket. We will discuss why their fortunes haven’t changed, unlike Muslims, later in the piece.

As Sukanya Shantha notes in Round Table India, the Indian women’s team that made waves in 2017 by making it to the finals of the World Cup had several women from “lower caste” backgrounds and did not reflect the upper caste homogeneity of its male counterpart. This also helps pinpoint that the structure is the culprit. The women’s game in India survives on the patronage of the Indian Railways, with 10 of the 15 member-squad being employed by them. Unlike corporate patrons, the railways is a vast employer, hiring across qualification levels, providing for reservations in employment, thus ensuring a more diverse employee pool.

The Indian women’s cricket team that reached the World Cup final in 2017. Credit: Reuters

Class hierarchy

The fact that most Dalit and Muslim cricketers to have played international cricket for India have been bowlers and all-rounders further points to inequities in the structure of the game. Cricket has historically had a class hierarchy. Until the dissolution of the professionals-amateurs system, it was fairly common for most bowlers to be professionals from the lower classes, while the upper class amateurs would only play as batsmen.

Unlike early 20th century England, while there might not be institutional barriers any more, that is not to say that systemic barriers have vanished too. In fact, these barriers have permeated across jurisdictions. For instance, Temba Bavuma remains the only black batsman to have represented South Africa in Tests, even after the introduction of transformation guidelines, that is racial quotas.

Even though the quotas have been in place at lower levels of the game for several years, last year’s charts show that despite being outnumbered 30-36, there are seven white players in the top ten run-scorers, while six of the top ten wicket-takers were non-white. Similarly, D’Arcy Short is the only batsman amongst the six aboriginals to have played international cricket for Australia across formats.

The limited data suggests that this issue persists in India as well. Three of the four Dalit Indian test cricketers have been pace bowling all-rounders; five of the eight Muslims to have debuted for India in Tests in this millennium were pace bowlers; as many as 27 Muslims to have played in the IPL are also bowlers, while another 8 are all-rounders, as opposed to only 8 batsmen. The expenses involved towards equipment and training of batsmen is the most likely cause of this disparity. Lungi Ngidi, South Africa’s latest black fast bowling sensation, even confessed that he became a bowler only because batting equipment was too expensive and unaffordable."

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