Does India Need a Caste-based Quota in Cricket? Drawing Parallels from South Africa

Gaurav Bhawnani and Shubham Jain students at National Law School Bangalore in this paper look at caste representation in Indian cricket.
In India’s 85-year-long Test history, only four of the 289 male Test cricketers have reportedly been Dalits. While concrete steps have been taken to address a similar under-representation of non-white players in South Africa, Dalit under-representation in Indian cricket has received scant attention. There is a need to understand this as a function of systemic barriers arising from corporate patronage post-independence and the urban stranglehold of the game, instead of attributing it to choice, inherent inability or upper caste “tastes.” The grass-roots development approach of Cricket South Africa can serve as an example to address this anomaly.
The authors are aware that this proposal will invite huge criticism:
Before we conclude, we would like to note our own hesitation in authoring this piece. As cricket fans, we worried that a quota would lead to a deterioration in the quality of the Indian team. However, our own hesitation made us realise how ingrained the idea of merit has become today. Without going into the value of the idea of merit—and there are several arguments against it—objective merit has often been extremely flimsy in the context of cricket. There have been as many as 41 players (Lynch 2017), Hardik Pandya being the most recent example, who scored their maiden first class century in a Test match. While first class statistics often form the primary basis of selection, these players show that quite often quality cannot be measured “objectively” by numbers. Players such as Marcus Trescothick were selected despite very ordinary domestic performances and went on to lead great Test careers. Such players are picked for their “grit,” “potential,” “spark:” any number of qualities which ensure that selections are not carried out solely on the basis of statistics. If our argument results in the selection of a Dalit batsman with a slightly lower batting average, he might, in fact, go on to become the next Trescothick. Even if he does not, and merely scores a single century, that century may inspire millions, as Temba Bavuma’s first, and only, century by a black South African did.
The paper is quite a read and covers many aspects of Indian cricket which are barely known and have been forgotten.

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