Sport and the Imperial bond

Dr Prashant Kidambi

Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (£43,708)

July 2009-April 2011

In recent years, historians have shown how sport became deeply intertwined with imperial and national identities within the British Empire. This research project explored the history of the first ‘Indian’ cricket tour to Britain in 1911, an extraordinary venture peopled by an intriguing and improbable cast of characters. The team’s flamboyant captain, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, was the newly enthroned ruler of one of the biggest Indian princely states and eager to use the visit to burnish his credentials as a loyal ally of the British imperial state. Their star bowler, on the other hand, was from an ‘untouchable’ caste, the lowest rung of the Hindu social hierarchy. The rest of the team was drawn from different parts of the subcontinent and belonged to different religious communities: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Parsi. The project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, sought to retrieve the story of this intriguing tour and situate it within the wider context of changing Indo-British relations.

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