On the morning of 6 May 1911, a large crowd gathered at Bombay’s Ballard Pier. They were there to bid farewell to a motley group of sixteen Indian men who were about to undertake a historic voyage to London. The persons whom the crowd cheered that sultry Saturday morning were members of the first All-India cricket team.
Conceived by an unlikely coalition of imperial and Indian elites, it took twelve years and three failed attempts before an ‘Indian’ cricket team made its debut on the playing fields of imperial Britain in the blazing coronation summer of 1911.
This is a capacious tale with an improbable cast of characters set against the backdrop of revolutionary protest and princely intrigue. The captain of the Indian team was nineteen-year-old Bhupinder Singh, the embattled Maharaja of Patiala. The other cricketers were selected on the basis of their religious identity. Most remarkable, for the day, was the presence in the side of two Dalits: the Palwankar brothers, Baloo and Shivram.
Drawing on an unparalleled range of original archival sources, Cricket Country is the untold story of how the idea of India was fashioned on the cricket pitch in the high noon of empire.