Scotland and “imperial” sport

If cricket is the ultimate sporting symbol of the ‘British’ empire, is it also the ultimate example of the dominance of the ‘English’ in this empire?  England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the West Indies are the main cricketing nations but the new affiliates include Ireland, Canada, Kenya and Scotland these days (not forgetting the Netherlands and Afghanistan of course) who were all once colonies of the British Empire. Various historians have written about how the English exported cricket to its empire and how cricket became a symbol of imperialism and nationalism. Wales are included within the ‘England’ cricket team. Northern Ireland’s cricket has never taken off – they played once in the 1998 Commonwealth Games (according to Wikipedia). So with Glasgow’s forthcoming hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2014 is this the time for a further revival in Scottish cricket?

Well Scotland do have a cricket team as stated. In 1994 they joined the ICC and played in the 1999 and 2007 World Cups (they didn’t qualify in 2003 or 2011). They will be hosting Pakistan for two ODIs in May 2013 in Edinburgh and playing Australia in Edinburgh for an ODI in September after the Ashes and also a test match with the Australia A team in June as the Australians warm up for the Ashes (see cricinfo for more Scotland cricket fixtures this summer). Scotland have actually had a cricket team since 1865 (see the CricketEurope site), they played Australia and South Africa in the 19th century, the West Indies in 1906 and India in 1911, so why have they never reached the international success of other members of the British Empire? And why have they only come to the international stage since the 1990s? Can any of their ‘outsider’ status within the imperial game be attributed to Scotland’s position within the British Isles and Empire?

Ryan Watson plays through backward point again...

Ryan Watson plays through backward point against India at Glasgow’s Titwood ground on 16 August 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well cricket is not featuring in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow although it might feature again in the 2018 games in Australia, so it’s not going to get more attention next summer. As noted there are some high-profile teams coming to Scotland this summer though. And Glasgow University is holding a conference in May 2013 on C. L. R. James and his seminal book on cricket (and race and empire and nationalism and class and many other things!), Beyond a Boundary. Mike Brearley, the former England test captain, among a range of writers, fans and academics will be speaking over 9-11 May. Link to Beyond a Boundary Conference Website. What would James have said about Scotland’s role within the cricketing hierarchy and cricketing Commonwealth?


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