The globalisation of sport and its impact on national identity in England and Wales: cricket’s new international power base


Cricket, once deemed a conservative sport dominated by a small number of test match playing nations, has altered rapidly in recent years. As the appeal of the game spreads globally to incorporate China and the campaign to include white ball cricket1 in the Olympic Games gathers momentum, the traditional format is increasingly giving away to short-form competition geared to promoting entertainment, excitement and dramatic final over outcomes. With cricket’s widening global reach, the viewing audience is being ever more treated to viewing the world’s best players appearing for a range of franchise teams around the globe competing in Twenty20 leagues from India, to Australia and the Caribbean via England, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan with new venues keen to join the circuit.2

In essence it will be argued throughout this chapter that the changing nature and impact of the game is driven by socio-economic and political forces generated by the reality of globalisation. These have altered cricket’s status and meaning as well as its relevance for a population, particularly, though not exclusively, since 2005. The regaining of The Ashes in 2005 constituted a watershed year for English and Welsh cricket. During this year England regained the Ashes following 18 years of struggle, and the newly launched Twenty20 competition was successfully bedding down in the domestic cricket calendar. However, access to watching the game on free-to-air television ended with the conclusion of the Ashes series and the scenes of jubilation at the Oval following the final test match of the summer.

The increasing globalisation of the sport with its subsequent monetisation has impacted substantially on a game that was long administered from Lords Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood, London. Now its power base is in South Asia, with the Mumbai based Board of Cricket and Control, India (BCCI) being its main driver. The game’s overall governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), not necessarily always able to enforce its authority because of the alignment of power within its decision-making structure, shifted its headquarters to Dubai in 2005.

Despite the recognition that sport is nowadays about more than big business, strategic influence, global politics and notions of soft power, much of the prevailing literature on cricket fails to fully take the issue of identity into account. This chapter seeks to explore how the changing nature of cricket, largely inspired by globalisation, has impacted upon national identity in the United Kingdom with particular reference to England and Wales, as cricket in Scotland and Ireland has its own autonomous governing bodies. Once a trademark of national character, cricket is now in danger of becoming a niche sport increasingly available only to those with considerable disposable income, access to private education and a family history of connection to the sport, as Berry (2015) compellingly argues. Yet since 2005, the performance of the England team in all three formats has improved, which should have impacted positively on its image and ability to project itself within national life. However, this has not been the case.

Consequently, this chapter seeks to review the impact of globalisation on the place and role of cricket in national identity. In so doing, it explores the traditional perceptions of the game and how, if at all, they have been challenged on and off the pitch. This will involve an overview and discussion of the way the sport is viewed in cultural terms, and how what Haigh (2008) deems the “Indianisation” of the game has sought to take hold of the sport with the connivance of the BCCI, The England and Wales Cricket Board (EWCB) and Cricket Australia who seek to dominate the administrative and financial decision-making structures of the increasingly global game.

Initially, discussion will explore the changing face of cricket and the traditional perceptions surrounding the game, before moving on to developments in the latter part of the twentieth century and a consideration of cricket’s declining place in national culture. At this point the focus will shift to the impact and lost opportunity of the golden year of 2005 and whether the cricket authorities moved from a perspective of reactive to proactive thinking and strategising.

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