For the two! people who’ve been following my blog, I guess you are familiar with the larger questions this journalic space features: issues pertaining to identity. And I think it’s interesting to think about issues of identity with the newly formed and marketted IPL cricket tournament currently being held in India.
As it is quite well known, each of the 8 teams has been allowed to ‘buy’ and use foreign players. Also, each of the 8 teams has bought national players (even those who play for different states). In fact, other than the big few (ie. Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman etc. who are fixed within their city/state teams), the rest of the teams are a mixture of local, national and international talent. We thus have strange anomilies where a true Punjabi (Harbhajan) is playing for Mumbai while a Mumbai player (M. Karthik) is playing for Punjab.
our Indian identity need not be rooted in our state-wise affiliations (ie. Maharashtrian, Kannadiga etc), but as something much larger and fluid. A punjabi can play for mumbai because he is truly indian. And an australian can play for deccan chargers because he has been welcomed as one of our own.
Interestingly, however, many of the teams are rooted to a particular city. Therefore we have the Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians, Chennai Kings, etc. and yet we have a Jarkhand player (Dhoni) leading the Chennai team; and this is supposed to evoke some sort of bonding.
What is most interesting however, that despite these obvious problems above, I have still found myself rooting for my home-team, ie. Bangalore. Simply because I currently live there. Ethnically I have no association with Bangalore, and have only recently moved… but somehow my loyalty is with Bangalore. Sadly, ‘my’ team is doing very poorly, so I have already formulated other surrugate loyalties… ie. apart from Bangalore, I like the Chennai and Rajasthan teams best, followed by Delhi.
What does all this have to do with the problem of national identity?
Well, for one, the “INDIAN” premier league, despite its international flavour, is an Indian tournament rooted in India, for India, and running with Indian money. Yet, many of the international players have commented on the positives of sharing the dressing room with previous adversaries… most recently Ponting, who spoke positively about being in the same dressing room as Ganguly and his nemesis Ishant Sharma. In effect, here we have the possibilities of International comradarie and breaking of barriers.
Then again, this tournament is Indian, in that it features many states/city based teams. Yet, each of these teams are brought together as a conglomeration of various state players and urges loyalty simply on the basis of your current location.
And here’s my point: The IPL provides a positive example of how Indian identity exists. It is hard to demarcate our identity in terms of state or ethnicity, and yet we remain truly Indian. And for those visitors who join the party, who come into India, even they get to see what India is, what being an Indian is, from the inside, and the Indian identity is able to even incorporate the outsiders for a while. As a result, our Indian identity need not be rooted in our state-wise affiliations (ie. Maharashtrian, Kannadiga etc), but as something much larger and fluid. A punjabi can play for mumbai because he is truly indian. And an australian can play for deccan chargers because he has been welcomed as one of our own. In both senses, being Indian is not so much a boundary, but rather an idea that attracts us all to its core.