Much of the existing literature on Indian cricket identifies the game’s inherently political dimension and attributes the pre-eminence of cricket in the Indian imagination to a set of complex and contradictory processes that parallel the emergence of an ‘Indian’ nation. Yet until the early 1980s, while cricket was popular, hockey was the ‘national game’ and soccer was equally popular in large parts of the country. From the 1980s onwards cricket assumed centre-stage, not necessarily stemming, as many have written, from some peculiar Indian affiliation for the game, but inextricably linked with the expansion of Indian television and a confluence of other factors: the creation of a large middle class, economic reforms, the politics of identity, the birth of the satellite television industry and broader trends in globalization. This essay maps the growth of Indian television to draw out these linkages and demonstrate the central role of television in making cricket integral to modern notions of Indian identity.


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