Wisden Sports Writing, £18.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

Book review: The Great Tamasha, By James Astill

The rupee rules at the wicket today. But can the old game survive in a new economic era?

The Indian word tamasha means fun, magic, live street theatre with totally unexpected twists, all rolled into one. For Indians, Bollywood films are tamasha and so is cricket.

Get money off this title at the Independent bookshop

That India should have made cricket a tamasha is a familiar story of the world's great sponge absorbing a product, however foreign, and making it its own. But while it is remarkable that India should have done it with such a quintessentially English game and, arguably, the most structured of all ball games, it is not unique. Brazil, another emerging power, long ago took England's national game, football, and fashioned a very Brazilian version.

The crucial difference is that Brazil does not economically control football. It has to export its best players to Europe which remains in charge of the world game. In contrast, India is cricket's economic superpower, providing 80 per cent of world cricket's income. While English and Australian cricket followers are riveted by this summer's Ashes series, cricket administrators of both countries know they have to kowtow to India to generate the television income necessary to keep their cricket going.

India's rise has been helped by the odd nature of cricket. Unlike other team sports, where international matches provide the icing on a thriving domestic structure, cricket would die if there was no international competition. Even then this rupee take over of a Western sport is unprecedented. China used the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a giant coming-out party to mark the return of the Middle Kingdom to the top table. But the Olympics, like all other sports the world plays were not only created by the West, but remain firmly under Western control.

The Indian dominance of cricket has been reinforced by the Indian Premier League, a tournament of 20-over a side matches. Played for three hours in the evenings, it is cricket's version of a Bollywood movie and, exploiting the insatiable appetite of a youthful country of over 1.2 billion, it has, for the first time in the modern era, created a successful domestic cricket competition.

James Astill, the Economist's correspondent in India between 2007 and 2010, watched the rise of IPL and has used it to tell the wider story of modern India. Much of this story is known but while Astill relies on previously published material, what makes his book exceptional is his first-hand reporting.

We meet powerful Indian politicians from Sharad Power, who aspired to be prime minister and headed international cricket, to residents of Dharavi in Mumbai, one of the biggest slums in Asia. One of the most touching stories is of the railway clerk in Rajkot who, using a concrete pitch and tattered nets, has coached several first-class cricketers, including his son - now a leading light of India's Test team.

But this takeover of cricket cannot hide India's many problems: corruption, crony capitalism, a thriving democracy which has also made politics a family business and the tendency to talk about planning while refusing to plan. It is no surprise that IPL's creator, the businessman Lalit Modi, having fallen out with the establishment, is now in exile in London without a passport, the Indian government having revoked it. The rich Indian board spends so little on developing facilities that on the field India rarely performs like a superpower.

Astill relentlessly highlights all this and comes to the sad conclusion that India may end up killing the great traditions of cricket. The greater worry is that, with Indian politicians matching the short-sightedness of the cricket administrators, the country will never fulfil its desire to be a great power. China may not own a Western sport but it will always have the greater clout.

Mihir Bose's books include 'A History of Indian Cricket' (Andre Deutsch)

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all