This introductory essay seeks to contextualize the contributions in this journal special issue on cricket by comparing and contrasting cricket with other sports. Though not wishing to portray cricket in essentialist terms, or as temporally fixed or uncontested, the essay suggests that cricket has certain peculiar features which are not only celebrated by cricket followers and dumbfound its detractors in equal measure, but make the game particular interesting for sports studies scholars. More specifically, drawing predominantly on Allen Guttmann’s schema of modern sports forms outlined in From Ritual to Record, the essay argues that particularly with reference to rationalization, specialization and the importance of equality, cricket could be said to contain many unmodern characteristics. The essay builds on these sensitizing ideas to outline the contents of the volume suggesting that four recurrent themes emerge: the importance of identity; the multiple and overlapping forms of identity; the role of cricket in fostering and challenging competing identities; and the playing out of power relations through sport. Taken together, the contributions expand our understanding of the game by inviting three forms of comparison: cultural, temporal and cross-disciplinary.


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