The great Indian Willow Trick: Cricket, nationalism and India’s TV news revolution, 1998–2005

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The emergence of India as the financial and spiritual heart of world cricket in the 1990s is intrinsically linked to India’s satellite TV revolution in the same period. The 1990s began with just one Indian television channel – the state owned Doordarshan – but by 2006, Indian viewers were remote-controlling their way through more than 300 private satellite television channels. While the reasons for this phenomenal growth of the television industry are varied and complex, cricket has played a central role in the story. This paper will outline Indian satellite television’s linkages with cricket and what they mean for notions of identity and expressions of Indian nationhood. In particular, it focuses on India’s 24-hour television news networks – there are more than 50 in 14 languages. Unlike any other country in the world, the Indian television news industry has consciously ridden on cricket’s shoulders to such an extent that by 2006, cricket-oriented programming accounted for the greatest expenditure in news gathering and the greatest visibility across most news channels. Television producers looked towards cricket because of its indelible link with what might be called Indian-ness, but their focus on the game, in turn, substantially redefined and reinforced these linkages.


By Nalin Mehta in The International Journal of the History of Sport, Volume 24 - August 10, 2007

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