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A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport Paperback – 2 May 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Ill edition (2 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330491172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330491174
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 448,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Guha effortlessly blends political and social history with a chronology of the game and those who play it in a country, as he puts it, "where all things are turned upside down." --"Time Out "

Book Description

In 2002, Ramachandra Guha published his pioneering and widely acclaimed social history of Indian cricket, A Corner of a Foreign Field. Now that India is the acknowledged centre of world cricket, with its Test ream currently ranked number one in the world, and with the Indian Premier League emerging as the most successful and spectacular cricket tournament ever held, Guha has brought the narrative up to date. He writes of the commercial marketing of Indian cricket and cricketers, of the social appeal of twenty/twenty cricket, and of the continuing tensions, on and off the playing field, between India and Pakistan. This magisterial and original work thus uses the medium of sport to explore wider questions of race, caste, religion, nationalism, and the market. It is essential reading for anyone interested in cricket and/or India.. ‘Fascinating . . . absorbingly told and with much charm’ Independent ‘An original, scholarly and highly entertaining work by a writer who combines the skills of biographer, anthropologist, cricket journalist and political historian’ Spectator --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ian Plenderleith on 7 Jan. 2003
Format: Hardcover
I've never bothered much with cricket books, aside from stats compilations, compendia of cricket journalism, and a few snatches of Brian Close's autobiography in the school library over 20 years ago when I should have been reading Jane Austen. However, I'm unreservedly recommending this one.
It's a social history of both India and the game there, following its founding in colonial times up until the latter-day clashes with Pakistan. It only really describes matches when they're relevant to the socio-political context, concentrating especially on the Bombay Quadrangular, a competition in the 1920s and 30s where the teams competed along religious/ethnic lines. It highlights the early, and unsung, heroes of Indian cricket - Baloo Palwankar and CK Nayudu - and evokes the country's irrational love of an imported sport brilliantly from start to finish. Good debunking too of the myth behind Lord Harris - proven here not to have been the game's founding father in India at all - and a great account of England's first tour there in the 1930s under one D Jardine, the year after Bodyline.
Meticulously researched and written throughout, it has to be a better bet than self-serving autobiographies and tedious tour diaries.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
Having lived in India, and being a great cricket fan, I was really looking forward to this book. The subject matter looks great and the idea for a great book is here.
That said, this book is very hard work. It is meticulously researched and the author has left no corner unturned. I simply found it hard to enjoy. Opening it up to read the next few pages came to be a chore not very far into the book.
I feel this is more like a textbook, something that a student of Indian history may be happy to plough through, but as somebody just reading it for leisure and pleasure, I just felt like there was simply too much information to absorb. I don't read textbooks for pleasure.
Would love to give this more than the 3 stars, but I didn't finish it, and to be honest I am only giving it 3 stars because I figure the amount of work the author has clearly put into it doesn't deserve less.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Indian cricket pre-Test History 13 Sept. 2003
By "ubersportingpundit" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Why did the Indian sub-continent take to cricket so completely? And why can't India have a proper sporting relationship with Pakistan? Why are the fans so passionate, and why is Sachin Tendulkar revered as a God?
No Australian can really answer these questions, so I was glad to see Ramachandra Guha's "A Corner of a Foreign Field" which is an attempt to answer some of these questions.
For such a cricket mad nation, India has been surprisingly lax about chronicalling it's cricket history, but Guha has done what digging he can.
The cover of my copy is swathed in praise; the Literary Review calls it "wonderful". From a literary point of view, I cannot own that it is that good; the prose occasionally plays out a few maiden overs and it struggles to maintain a proper length.
From a historical point of view, though, it is excellent, and explains a great deal not just about how the game started in the subcontinent, but also it explains the attitudes of the people to the game. And, it might be said, about other things. The communal hatreds of India and Pakistan make a lot more sense when you understand the Pentagular tournament that was the focus of Indian cricket until India became a serious Test nation.
As an Australian, I got a mild sense of embarrassment reading this tome. It is clear that India's board and cricketing society have faithfully copied everything crass, commercial and nationalistic in the Australian game, and applied it to the subcontinent. Australians, cynical as we are, have managed to cope with this; Indians have not, and the result is displays like the 1996 World Cup semi-final.
This book is not exactly the Indian version of `Beyond a boundary' but it is well worth a read, especially for the "Anglo" reader.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
One of the best books on Indian cricket 20 April 2004
By A. Rajamani - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The title is deservingly flattering but then there are only a handful of Indian books on Indian cricket (Guha's own "Wickets in the East" is the 5 star rare-to-find masterpiece.) The book begins with a meticulous and stirring history & commentary on early Indian cricket. The focus gradually shifts onto the Quadrangular-Pentangular 'communal cricket' in Bombay from 1900s to the 1940s until MK Gandhi wisely raised his walking stick and put a stop to it. The high point of this book is Guha's reliving the cricketing struggles and exploits of the chamar (a still oppressed Indian caste) Palwankar brothers. After this Dr. Guha moves onto more contemporary stories in Indian cricket. This falls flat because in my opinion, it is too early to talk about the social ramifications of Indian cricket. (FYI, the Indian cricket is usually comforabally upper caste/class, despite the barriers broken by the Palwankar brothers many years ago.) But the story of early Indian cricket, the Palwankar brothers, and the description of early Indo-Pak cricket are more than enough to make this book a worthy read. Guha's writing talent lies in being able to provide a passionate commentary to this history while making sure one does not intrude on the other.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
excellent book on the early social history of Indian cricket 13 Nov. 2004
By A. Datta - Published on
Format: Paperback
Ram Guha is both an environmental historian and an avid cricket enthusiast. He dons the latter avatar here to write a fantastic history of Indian cricket. This is not just a history of cricket, but a history of Bombay in the late 19th-early 20th centuries as well, along with commentary on the battle fought by the Untouchables, and a biography of the Baloo brothers, all rolled into one. He also introduces what he calls the 'Empire of Cricket' hypothesis- that the English were encouraged that the Indians took to cricket, because they thought it was some sort of justification for their imperial mission.

One of the things I like about this book is that there aren't long winded descriptions of cricket matches. He picks out key matches, key innings, and doesn't go into laborious descriptions of the perfect square cut. By keeping it pithy he makes it way more exciting.

My only grouse is that I wish occasionally he'd be a historian more than a cricket writer. There is a lot of material there that is ripe for analysis, but I feel he deliberately subdues the historian in him to be accessible to the lay reader. I wish he'd looked at issues like land and space in Bombay a little more closely, using cricket as the nucleus.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Top notch book on the history of cricket in India 8 Aug. 2010
By @souvikstweets - Published on
Format: Paperback
Guha's book is an wonderfully researched work on the evolution of cricket in India starting from the early adoption of a British game by the Bombay Parsis to the 1999 world cup. The book meanders through the history of British India - interestingly, cricket & politics were largely more separate then, than after the Indian partition, particularly since Kashmir emerged as an issue of central importance - the kings & commoners, the religious commune of the pentangulars, the MCC teams & the ambivalent loyalties of the British in India, not least divisive among them the team captained by Douglas Jardine. Combine this with the complex caste hierarchies, the constitutional & the revolutionary nationalists, throw in a little Gandhian intervention & you get quite a concoction of history, politics & sports stirred up with something mischievously spicy.

But of particular interest to me was what I learnt about Indian cricketers before Pakistan was another country, & what I learnt about India & Pakistan, after they separated but before cricket really established itself as a mirror of popular sentiment & a benchmark of national prestige. There are certain interesting notes on why cricket is indeed so popular in India or the Indian subcontinent - the most popular one being a sort of national pride in beating the British at something, the more exalted ones around the cosmic sensibilities of a 5 day game to the Hindu.

Interesting also are the notes on contradictory positions on cricket when it comes to India playing Pakistan - largely in the final decade of the twentieth century with India rife with riots & religious divide as is the ubiquitous & timeless gentility of the men who have played this game for more than a century separated from the social, historical, religious, & racial biases of its gargantuan following.

If history & cricket both interest you, then this book is your poison.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
History of India through Cricket 16 July 2009
By Jai, The Seeker - Published on
Format: Paperback
2008 was a great year for me. One of the highlights was regular book club meetings where I got introduced to Ramachandra Guha (by a friend).

I got the book "A corner of a foreign field" by Ramachandra Guha for coming second in a quiz. I liked owning the book because it had the book smell which I adore. I never got around to reading till March 2009.

The main reason - I thought it would be a book filled with details and scores of Cricket matches played through the ages. I could not have been more wrong.

The book is a look back on history of India through evolution of Cricket. It is a breezy read even for a non cricketing buff. The most important part of the book was the rise of Palwankars in cricketing world. Baloo Palwankar was born in the caste of Chamar (cobblers) and became one of the best bowlers in the pre-independent India. It is his skill which allowed him to play along with "so called" high caste players.

This is the time when untouchables were not allowed inside homes, temples and other public places. Even though Baloo Palwankar represented India, he was not allowed inside the pavillion during the initial years. He formed a great partnership with a wicket keeper called Seshasayee. Seshasayee is a Tamil Iyengar. For those of you who do not know caste equations; Tamil Iyengars are considered on top of the caste heaps. I am sure the spirit of the game would have made Baloo and Seshasayee hug each other and dance with joy when ever they took wickets together. I would give a million dollars to see the sight.

Baloo was denied captaincy through out his life because of his caste. This created lots of furore amongst the fans arguing for and against the practice. There is no doubt in my mind that this debate contributed a lot for removal of untouchability.

Baloo inspired his brothers to become Cricketers. One of his brother Vithal Palwankar became Captain of the Indian team. This could happen because the Captain of the Hindu team would stand down during the matches citing injury and forcing the hands of the team managers.

The most telling part of the book was comparison between under privileged sports persons in India and the rest of the world. I am sure very few of you would have know about Baloo Palwankar. However every one in the US remembers Jackie Robinson the first black person to play major league base ball.

Jackie was remembered by the US president Bill Clinton and made a moving speech on the 50th anniversary of the first match Jackie played in the major league.

Why is that we forget our heroes who are not even remembered even by Dalit leaders asks the authour. He tries to deduce himself;

a. Is it because Palwankars played Cricket before India became a full test playing nation?
b. Or should we blame politics because Baloo Palwankar fought an election against Dr. Ambedkar and lost
c. Or should we simply pin the blame on that always available scapegoat, the lack of interest in history among Indians

The book has enthused me so much that I plan to start a sports scholarship in the name of Palwankars. Ofcourse, I need to get a job first.

The book also clearly showed why Advani was misunderstood when he said Jinnah was a secularist. The book has a speech by Jinnah where he praises the hindu muslim unity and says that the communities should laud cricketing victories acheived by each other.

I wrote a longish review because any thing less would not do justice to this wonderful book. It goes without saying that you can borrow this book on condition of returning it to me. Normally I am not possesive of any book as I always felt sharing with out any condition enhances the book value. However I would like to posess this book.
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