Tiffin Talk: 'Cricket, Sport & The New India: A soft power analysis of India's global position by Professor Brian Stoddart

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12 September 2013 12:45 pm

Since its early 1990s “opening up”, India’s rise to global significance and influence has taken many forms. Arguably among the most surprising, and most striking yet, is its ascendancy in cricket’s playing and governance arenas. In many respects this is not just about the game, because much of the new strength derives from India’s greatly increased commercial clout, and that in turn has assumed important symbolism more broadly. Put simply, for many international observers India’s cricket governance problems are redolent of those found in commercial and governmental circles. This presentation traces the rise of India’s playing strength over the past two decades and places it in the context of national socio-economic change. It then outlines the rise to significance of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in world cricket governance terms. In particular, the economic power now wielded over world cricket by India and the BCCI (India contributes at least seventy per cent of world cricket revenue) is linked to India’s influence in matters ranging from match scheduling through to governance control and performance. Two other specific aspects demonstrate how India’s cricket performance has been used by observers as a proxy for India’s overall governance performance. First, the question of the IPL and Lalit Modi is examined to demonstrate how issues of “corruption” continue to raise concern. Second, the politicisation of cricket governance is examined to indicate why this, too, raises external concern – Sharad Pawar and Arun Jaitley are just two among many leading politicians who head cricket governing bodies, with the inevitable consequent claims of manipulation and arrangement for political purposes. This issue of governance and conflict is also linked to evolution of the wider sporting activities of India, demonstrating a continuance of challenging patterns.
This paper, then, uses cricket as a parable about a soft power rise in global terms, but a rise reflecting complexities and concerns externally.

About the Speaker:

Emeritus Professor Brian Stoddart concluded his formal academic career by serving as Vice-Chancellor and President of La Trobe University. He undertook his first two degrees at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, where he developed his interests in India before obtaining a PhD from the University of Western Australia, focusing on nationalist politics in South India.

Professor Stoddart became an international pioneer in the study of sports history and culture and soon moved into senior university management positions. He now works as an international consultant on higher education reform, and is currently Chief Technical Adviser to the Department of Higher Education in Cambodia for a project funded by the World Bank. Previous similar missions have been undertaken in the Lao PDR, Jordan and Syria. He has also consulted to universities in Australia, Malaysia and the UK on strategic planning and international development.