chapter
Prologue: Stepping Stones Across a Stream
Pages 5

Sport in South Asian Society-Past and Present is concerned with sports’ arrival, spread and advance in colonial and post-colonial South Asia. Of necessity, it cannot be comprehensive in its range of questions, but it is one of the first attempts to cover these matters within the precincts of one volume. However, the editors wish to make one thing clear at the start. In the following pages there is no effort to crush or club concerns covering different time periods by scholars into a spurious thematic coherence. Rather, the virtue of this collection lies in its presentation of the eclectic role of sport in colonial and post-colonial South Asian society. Thus an array of articles, which view critical issues of nationalism, communalism, commercialism and gender through the lens of sport are made available. As argued elsewhere, they ‘‘illustrate the conceptual, empirical and analytical subtlety of studies of modern sport.’’ 1

Neither does Sport in South Asian Society seek to ascertain the preeminence of one nation’s or one areas’ sport over that of others. Rather, it makes the point that claims to understand the social history of South Asian sport by simply looking at the history of a sport in one province or region are simplistic and short sighted. Further, the editors have attempted to demonstrate that it is too limited an approach to interpret sport in terms of the exigencies of the colonial state. Should that have been the case, sport would not have outlived colonialism to generate the mass following it has done, and one point of this extensive historical, cultural and socio-political inquiry is to understand the currency of sport in present day South Asian life. Drawing inspiration from C.L.R. James’ well-known epigram, ‘What

do they know of cricket who only cricket know?’ 2 we have tried to suggest, following the Jamesian model, that South Asian sport makes sense only when it is placed within the broader colonial and post colonial context and so, in particular, the following pages attempt to

demonstrate that sport not only influences politics and vice-versa, but that the two are inseparable. Sport is not only political; it is politics. It is also culture and art. To deny this is to simplify inexcusably and myopically the position of sport in modern South Asian society. In view of the complexities of South Asian sport, a single volume can

only scratch the surface. Thus Sport in South Asian Society can only reveal part, and not the whole story of how significant sport has become for South Asia-politically, economically, culturally and emotionally. Furthermore, the paucity of written material on South Asian sport means that this book cannot be satisfactorily comprehensive, but, to borrow my co-editor’s phrase, used elsewhere, ‘‘it certainly attempts to be stimulatingly exploratory’’.3