On The Censorship of Cricket

The thing that caught my ear this morning was the cricket scores. England are on tour, playing Pakistan… in Abu Dhabi. The English cricketers cannot travel to play in actual Pakistan due to security threats.

This echoes the problems experienced by delegates to the Jaipur Literary Festival last weekend. Threats of violence (real and imagined) kept Salman Rushdie away from the podium, and even derailed a planned video-link appearance.

In both cases, the threats of a few reactionaries are spoiling the chances of ordinary people to enjoy their preferred leisure activities. In both these cases they are Islamists, although Hindu Nationalists are guilty of similar ad hoc censorship of artists such as the late M.F. Hussain.

But anyway, my half-formed thought is this: I wonder to what degree the practice of sport might be considered ‘expression’ in the same way as we think of writing as expression? The elegance of Sport is often likened to dance, which undeniably a form of artistic expression. And dancers are routinely referred to as ‘athletes’ with similar fitness regimes. The need for an audience is common to both groups too. If an audience is barred from a performance, then that is an infringement of the artist’s freedom of expression. Is not the barring the Pakistani cricket fans from the games (by virtue of the games being played in another country) a similar infringement?

The problem is not experienced by the players. Since Pakistan has a proud cricketing heritage, with millions of enthusiasts. Denying these fans the ritual of test matches feels like a denial of their cultural expression too. The Islamic fundamentalists are demanding that their conception of Pakistan trumps any other ideas of what is important.

This is probably an old conversation for Pakistani cricket fans. Yet it is seldom discussed here in the UK. The fact that the Test Match venue has been moved to Dubai is not remarked upon by the sports reporters. I think it is a useful issue to highlight, because if these similarities between art and sport hold up, then that would be a very useful point for free expression campaigners to insert into the campaigning rhetoric. One assumes there are more sport-lovers than literature-lovers.

One thought on “On The Censorship of Cricket

  1. The practice of sport could, quite rightly be considered ‘expression’, for the same reasons you give. It would probably be considered a improvised ‘performance’ art: Here’s a set of rules, lets see what the performers make of it.

    The need for an audience, for dance and sport, is for financial reasons only. The freedom of expression is exercised even when they are performed behind closed doors, with no one present but the performers themselves.

    Art, arguably, needs and audience for it to be art, as it is the meaning infered on it by the viewer that makes it art. But, by painting, sculpting, dancing etc, the person creating is expressing something. Stop the creative process and the freedom of expression is blocked. Stop the viewing of an object and the freedom to express has already been exercised, the freedom to show it off may be infringed rightly or wrongly, but not the freedom to expression.

    As far as the audience is concerned, wouldn’t that come under the freedom of association?

    (apologies for the poor constructed rambling)

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