‘A match that you watch from the stadium is a sacred thing’: an interview with the historian Mukul Kesavan

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‘A match that you watch from the stadium is a sacred thing’: an interview with the historian Mukul Kesavan

In this episode, we chat with author, essayist, and perceptive cricket columnist Mukul Kesavan.

Besotted with cricket for over five decades – and viewing it through the lens of politics, sociology, and history – Mukul talks about his magnetic attraction to the game and its many pleasures.

Talking Points:

  • An Anglophone middle-class initiation into cricket in the 1960s
  • The post-facto skepticism built into the way we receive legends and lore
  • Viswanath – ‘this extraordinarily skilled and beautiful Teddy Bear playing cricket’
  • India’s tour to Pakistan in 1978-79 – and Pakistan TV’s coverage of the matches
  • The utterly unmemorable Feroz Shah Kotla – and the contrast with Chepauk
  • Learning cricket as a process of being socialised into English
  • Cricketing depravity – and Delhi Daredevils’ first IPL game
  • Watching Imran Khan bowl live for the first time
  • The “neat perfection” of Sunil Gavaskar
  • An aesthetic case for cricketing greatness – Laxman v Rahane v Gill
  • Neville Cardus – and “everything undesirable about cricket writing”
  • Cricket and politics – what should we expect from our athletes?
  • Leading Indian cricketers tweeting in unison regarding the farmers protests
  • The thunderous silence around Wasim Jaffer
  • The IPL in Delhi during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic
  • The significance of Mohammad Siraj – and how we watch cricket in a charged political landscape


Mukul Kesavan

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan (@sidvee)

Mahesh Sethuraman (@cornerd)


The Lutyens variant – ESPNcricinfo.com – Mukul Kesavan on his introduction to cricket

Beyond borders – ESPNcricinfo.com – Mukul Kesavan on franchise Test cricket

Watching, hoping, praying – ESPNcricinfo.com – Mukul Kesavan on the 1983 World Cup final

The Viswanath problem – The Telegraph – Mukul Kesavan

No room for bigotry – ESPNcricinfo.com – Mukul Kesavan on the time some Indian fans taunted Andrew Symonds

Jaffer alone – The Telegraph – Mukul Kesavan

The nation state and modern sport – The India Forum – Mukul Kesavan

A fairy tale on the field – The Telegraph – Mukul Kesavan on the significance of Mohammad Siraj

India. Australia. Chennai. 2001 – The Cricket Monthly – Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

India. Pakistan. Chennai. 1999 – The Cricket Monthly – Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

‘Every generation needs its writers to tell its stories’ – 81allout podcast with Sharda Ugra

Cricketing memory and a quest for rare videos – 81allout podcast with Jai Galagali

Books discussed:

Men in White – Mukul Kesavan

Brightly Fades the Don – Jack Fingleton

Cricket Crisis – Jack Fingleton

Pundits from Pakistan – Rahul Bhattacharya

Chinaman – a novel – Shehan Karunatilaka

The Match – Romesh Gunasekera

A Corner of a Foreign Field – Ramachandra Guha

Anyone But England – Mike Marqusee

Beyond a Boundary – CLR James

The Black Jacobins – CLR James

Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville – Stephen Jay Gould


Lead image from here.


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