Caste, Cricket and Classical Economics

… among other things, I should note.

All of what you read in the title of today’s post is from a nice little write-up on the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) website.

The shiny red ball at the centre of a game of cricket, is made by highly skilled craftsmen in Meerut district who work long hours tanning, greasing, cutting, stitching, shaping, lacquering and stamping it. Despite the glamour surrounding the game, this continues to be a caste-based occupation

My takeaways:

  1. The prices of cricket balls ranges from Rs. 250 to Rs. 3500. Three and a half thousand, for one ball?!
  2. Three ingredients go into the making of a cricket ball: Alum-tanned hide, cork and cotton thread. But note that ““People do not have a problem with leather in the form of a cricket ball, but they do when it comes to working with it,” he adds.”
  3. Making cricket balls, like so many other professions in our country, is associated with a specific caste.
  4. Move aside, pin factories: “Line se kaam hove hai aur ek karigar ek hi kaam kare hai [The tasks are sequential and a craftsperson specialises only in one task],” he explains.
  5. Pig bristles are used instead of needles to stitch the balls, and therefore Muslims don’t take up this profession.
  6. Why is Meerut big on making cricket balls? Partition, migration and specialization.
  7. The author, Shruti Sharma, is a PhD scholar working on “the social history of sports goods manufacturing in India“. What a lovely topic!
  8. What questions do you have after having read either this post or the article by Shruti? Here are mine:
    • How do they make ’em in Sialkot?
    • How do they make ’em in, say, Australia?
    • Are there quality standards for cricket ball manufacturing? Of course there are.
      There are standards that specify the “construction details, dimension, quality and performance of cricket balls”. And they’re updated. You can read ’em, if you like, but it will cost you one hundred and forty two pounds.
    • What else has Shruti written? This lovely metaphor, from an essay written by her: “The two sides of the ball divided by a seam is a metaphor for the simultaneous embedding in and distancing from the social norms and relations concealed in the ball in its commodified form. The shiny side – nurtured and maintained – symbolizes the aesthetic spectacle that cricket is in a stadium and on television. This aesthetic fuses play with nationalist fervor. The rough side of the ball becomes a signifier of the spaces where cricket is produced – socially, spatially, and temporally distant from the aesthetic site of play.”
  9. Rabbit holes are underrated. When you read an article, go down one, and see where else it can take you!

2 thoughts on “Caste, Cricket and Classical Economics

  1. […] Fantastic Ashish Kulkarni picks this very interesting article by Shruti Sharma on what it means to make a cricket ball in Meerut. Shruti is working in direction of a PhD on the social historical past of sports activities items manufacturing in India, on the Centre for Research in Social Sciences, Calcutta. Wow! […]

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