Free public event explores the 1911 ‘All India’ cricket tour of England

A fascinating chapter in cricket history will be explored at a free public event on Tuesday 1 October when Dr Prashant Kidambi, Associate Professor of colonial urban history, discusses the first ever Indian tour of England in 1911.

As Britain celebrated a new age with the coronation of King George V, an ‘All India’ team led by the Maharaja of Patiala arrived for a series of 23 matches. Fourteen of these were ‘first class fixtures’, with the visitors completing a tour scorecard of won two, drew two, lost ten.

Previous attempts to form an ‘All India’ cricket team had fallen apart because of political and religious disagreements, which the 1911 squad somehow overcame, combining the talents of six Parsis, five Hindus and three Muslims. Significantly, two of the squad were Dalits, considered part of the ‘untouchable’ caste – one of whom, Palwankar Baloo, was the tour’s star player, taking 114 wickets across all 23 games.

Dr Kidambi’s new book explores how the very idea of India took shape on the cricket field and raises important questions about the role of sport in shaping our ideas about belonging, ethnicity, race and national identity today. On Tuesday he will be joined for an expert panel discussion by Professor Richard Holt, internationally known for his work on sport and Victorian Britain, Dr Paul Campbell, a University of Leicester sociologist and expert on ‘race’ and sport, and Kamlesh Purohit, ex-cricket correspondent for BBC Asian Network.

The event, which has been organised by the University’s unit for Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement (DICE) in association with Leicestershire County Cricket Club, will take place in the Attenborough Building in the centre of campus, between 6.30pm and 9.00pm. Places are free and can be booked via Eventbrite.

Professor Surinder Sharma from DICE said: “This has been a fantastic summer for English cricket – a World Cup win and a pulsating Ashes series. However, the cricket loyalties of many BAME British people lie elsewhere, on the sub-continent, where the draw of the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cricket teams remain powerful, even for young cricket lovers who have been born and bred here.

“Indian cricket, especially, is a beguiling force in the world game, whether in test matches or in the shape of the hugely entertaining and commercially successful IPL. But how did we get here? How was this relationship been the English and Indian cricket originally formed?  Why does cricket matter for much to India? Dr Kidambi’s book offers a fascinating insight into these questions. We also draw on the views of some excellent respondents. There will be plenty of time for questions from the audience.”

Cricket Country: An Indian Odyssey in the Age of Empire by Prashant Kidambi is published by Oxford University Press.