Cricket nationalism: Lessons for school leaders

Lt Col A Sekhar
Cricket nationalism: Lessons for school leaders

Here in Chennai, as with many million cricket fans across India and the world, the mood among cricket fans is...despondent.

Yet, as I met two young cricketers, playing at fairly high levels locally, I asked them...

What do you remember of Tendulkar?

The answer,in a jiffy...that six against Pakistan...2003 World Cup!

And of Dhoni...Thala?

Again, tracer bullet answer...the six to win the World Cup 2011!!

And of Kohli....

Silence! Sullen silence...and slowly, one said, I cannot remember now...

Here, we have arguably the greatest white ball cricketer the world has loss and the table is turned upside down...

I was lost for words for quite a while, and then as is wont, tried to analyse the response, and the factors behind it.


Anjali Doshi, the former NDTV cricket reporter, now based out of London, in a perceptive article on India and the Orgy of Nationalism, divided cricket followers into three categories:-

  • Players

  • Disciples

  • Fans

The players, those who have played the game at some level, have a deep appreciation for its nuances and are largely unaffected by India’s wins and losses – account for about 5 million of India’s total population. 

The disciples, who also follow Indian cricket closely but whose emotions are tied in very strongly with India’s wins and losses, account for about 50 million. 

And the fans, categorised as BIRGs because they bask in the reflected glory of India’s victories and disassociate when the team is losing, form the rest at about 65 million.

This portrait, made in 2013 after a study by Star Sports, has only got accentuated over the last six years.

Therefore, today in India, courtesy the ruling party whose raison d'etre is hyper-nationalism, and media organisations exploiting cricket, Indo Pakistan cricket wars like we have done of groundwater in Chennai with disastrous consequences, what lessons are students learning about nationalism, victory, defeat, sportsman spirit, life? And as educators, what are we doing, and to do, for our citizens of the future to get the right lessons?

It is hard to decide which brings out the worst in India’s cricket nationalism: victory or defeat 

Anjali Doshi

Let me go back a few years...

It was during one of the local football tournaments that I, as a scholastic institutional head, just out of the Army, learnt some truths in the best way possible.

We, the host team, had entered the finals and in the finals, were outclassed by a superior team with better skills, and stamina. Yet, the players, coaches, not to mention parents blamed

  • the referee

  • the ground

  • the spectators

Having seen the match in full, I was aghast to hear no mention of the lack of teamwork, the selfishness of the captain, and the lack of stamina. The lack of partisanship of the neutral referee was roundly criticized, to my astonishment.

It took me quite an effort to change the culture, and sure enough, once it changed, we started winning legitimately.

The second, equally alarming trend I saw was the support given to such excuses for losing, and the subsequent poor on-field, undignified behaviour by the players condoned by coaches, teachers, and even Principals.

Host team will win Sir! Aisa hi hota hai!

This trend is even more apparent in co-curricular activities, (where the Judges give old Pakistani and Australian Umpires very good competition in partisanship), is detrimental to our students, and the country as a whole.

It is the right kind of learning coupled with common sense and distilled understanding that makes an Indian citizen. Outside of the formal classrooms, sports fields, swimming pools, debates, competitions shape our thinking, mindset and most importantly our values, which have to endure for life. Forgiving, teamwork, the team above self, playing hard but fair, acceptance of defeat, grace in victory, avoidance of excuses/ conspiracy theories are all lessons of life learnt outside of academic classrooms. They are often, the difference between happiness and unhappiness, and the universal guide book for relationships and success at work.

We, as school leaders, teachers, coaches, parents, and elders, have the responsibility to instill in our children the essence of these values, thinking beyond the immediacy of a basketball victory or a debate loss for our own good and for the sake of our nation. Increasingly, in a hyper-competitive world, we are coming up short. Revisiting of Rudyard Kipling's famous poem ‘If’ is essential, perhaps the best metaphor one can give in an academic context.


If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; 


If you can dream- -and not make dreams your master; 

If you can think- -and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools; 


If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on! '


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings- -nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And- -which is more- -you'll be a Man, my son! 

Rudyard Kipling

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