The Geopolitics of Bats and Wickets

| July/August 1999

If you want to look deeper into cricket's intriguing history, check out Beyond a Boundary by C.L.R. James (Duke, 1993). First published in 1963, this modern cricket classic is both a tribute to the game that James grew up playing in his native Trinidad and a memoir of his years in England as a radical writer leading the crusade for West Indian independence. These might seem to be very different, even conflicting passions, but James reveals how closely they are linked. And not just for him: A game that served as a vessel of British values during the colonial era would be transformed into a source of national pride as Trinidad and other Caribbean islands sought their freedom. 'Cricket had plunged me into politics long before I was aware of it,' he wrote. 'When I did turn to politics, I did not have too much to learn.'

Beyond a Boundary culminates with a minor riot at a cricket match in Trinidad in 1960, caused in part by a long refusal by cricket authorities to select black captains. The symbolism was clear, notes James: However brilliant the black players were, they still needed white men to lead them. But the riot marked the end of an era, and a black captain finally led Trinidad's international team in 1961, a year before the island gained independence.

James (1901ñ1989) believed that sport was a greatly underestimated force in shaping modern life. Of those who refused to acknowledge cricket's importance in Trinidad, he was blunt: 'They are blind to the grandeur of a game which, in lands far from that which gave it birth, could encompass so much of social reality and still remain a game.


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