Cricket’s Neoliberal Narratives: Or the World of Competitive Accumulation and Sporting Spirit in Contemporary Cricket Fiction
Why should we attend to neoliberalism—a potentially “terminal” crisis within the world-system—via sport, specifically via cricket and the recent upturn in “global” cricket fiction?
Well, in broad terms, because the systemic logic and culture of “fair” competition leading to acceptable outcomes of inequality (of winners and losers) has been critical to liberal and neoliberal dynamics, with neoliberalism drawing heavily on sporting terminology and metaphors. More specifically, in this context cricket bears a notably heavy ideological burden, emerging with the first modern empire and carrying universalizing and precedent-setting claims for “fair play” that belie, while actually instantiating and perpetuating, “first” (economic) advantage. In addition, the common-story of the changes implemented in professional cricket since the 1970s tracks a clear neoliberal chronology.
This chapter unpacks the aesthetic mediation provided in recent cricket fiction from different positional locales within the world-literary system. It reads Joseph O’Neill’s first-world, transatlantic novel Netherland (2008) written during the pre-crash/pre-austerity moment, alongside, and in relation to, The Three Mistakes of My Life by Chetan Bhagat and The Zoya Factor by Anuja Chauhan, both also published in 2008 and offering buoyant visions of cricket in a youthfully “spirited,” “new” (i.e. neoliberal) and economically emergent India. Across these texts, capitalism’s classic strategy of crisis postponement is deployed to hold-off the consequences of the very real revelations their cricketing content leaks as the exhaustion of neoliberalism’s failing/falling systemic surplus comes into view.
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