The Spin | The Commonwealth of Cricket: sport, race and empire in powerful memoir

Ramachandra Guha’s A Corner of a Foreign Field was a landmark work and his new book finds him no less outspoken

It is nearly two decades since A Corner of a Foreign Field was published. The importance (not to say brilliance) of Ramachandra Guha’s work was immediately understood, and its subtitle – An Indian History of a British Sport – perfectly encapsulated its pioneering perspective. Here was a social history of the game that met and challenged the yet-lingering gaze of English colonialism across Asia – as profound and as timely, if not entirely as radical, as CLR James’s Beyond a Boundary had been in the 1960s.

A week before Guha’s landmark work was published, in July 2002, India had chased down England’s 325 to win a tantalisingly close NatWest Series final with three balls to spare, and Sourav Ganguly had torn off his shirt and whipped it round his head on the Lord’s balcony. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman stood alongside Tendulkar as batting superstars, with Virender Sehwag preparing to join them. No cricket fan of that time could fail to be aware of the depth of the Indian love affair with the game. Yet few outside the subcontinent had quite grasped how rapidly and irrevocably it was changing the dynamic of the global game, or predicted the wholesale restructuring to which it would lead.

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