India’s emergence as the world’s cricket superpower over the past decade upends an old colonial-era hierarchy. It’s a highly visible showcase of the political effects of economic power, where sheer market size creates new forms of leverage. And India’s new preeminence in cricket politics, exemplified in its ascendancy within the International Cricket Council (ICC), offers lessons for how a more powerful India might approach its future role in global politics. If India becomes even remotely as indispensable to the world economy as it has become to the cricket economy, it will have the throw-weight to demand changes in the world order to accommodate its goals. That may be India’s future as it seeks to transform itself into a leading global power.
Cricket’s development in India cannot be separated from imperial history. The British introduced the game in the early 18th century, Indian players set up cricket clubs in the 19th century, and in 1928 created a national board to govern the sport, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, or BCCI. The BCCI linked India to the governing body known as the Imperial Cricket Conference, later reconstituted as the International Cricket Council (ICC). Though smaller in scale, it’s analogous to FIFA or the International Olympic Committee — a global organization with participants comprised of national member associations. (And similarly, corruption scandals have marred cricket as well, including ongoing revelations about the cozy ties between controversial Indian Premier League founder Lalit Modi and top Indian politicians.)