The Hindu @140

The Hindu @ 140: Sports and journalism over the years

Inzamam ul Haq being run out by Jhonty Rhodes watched by Captain Imran Khan.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The 19th century was notable for two developments — the establishment of English-language newspapers across the world, and the codification of the rules and spread of international sport. It was the birth of modernity.

The Hindu was both a part of this modernity and a key recorder. Both journalism and sport have changed beyond recognition in 140 years. When Charles Bannerman became the first batsman to score a Test century, he did not have to do television interviews or block trolls on Twitter. On the other hand, he had a new invention, the telephone, that might have irritated him.

In 1877, Spencer Gore became the first Wimbledon champion. Four months earlier, the first cricket Test was played in Melbourne. The following year, the Parsis prepared to undertake the first-ever cricket tour by an Indian team to England. But the Russo-Turkish War interfered. Britain prepared to defend its lands in the eastern Mediterranean, and 7,000 Indian troops were sent to Malta. This contained two key Parsi players, including their best bowler, and the tour was called off. It was another eight years before a Parsi team arrived in England as India’s first tourists.

At The Hindu office in 1955: Jesse Owens

At The Hindu office in 1955: Jesse Owens   | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

Instead, Australia became the first overseas team in England. No Tests were played, but the Australians beat the MCC by nine wickets in a match where the hosts were led by W.G. Grace. ‘Demon’ Spofforth finished with match figures of 14.3-5-20-11, as the MCC folded for 33 and 19 in their two innings. The 105 runs scored remains the lowest aggregate for a completed match — the entire action took some five and a half hours.

It wasn’t just cricket and tennis, though, that entered modernity. The Marquess of Queensberry rules, by which boxing was governed, were published in 1867; England’s Football Association was formed in 1863, the Rugby Union in 1871, the Amateur Athletics Association in 1881, and the Hockey Association in 1886.

At The Hindu office in 1986: Sunil Gavaskar

At The Hindu office in 1986: Sunil Gavaskar  

England’s first division football league commenced in 1888. Basketball was invented by an American gym teacher, James Naismith, in 1891 and around the same time, volleyball too was first played in the U.S. The modern Olympics was inaugurated in Athens in 1896. Sport had become serious.

Road to standardisation

Many of these sports had existed before, as had the Olympic Games. But rules varied, even some of the equipment did, and codification was a crucial step on the road to standardisation and proper competition. Competitive sport needed a platform that took it seriously, and spread its message. And made heroes of champions. Newspapers provided that platform.

At The Hindu office in 1986: P.T. Usha

At The Hindu office in 1986: P.T. Usha   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

While The Guardian, The Scotsman and Sydney Morning Herald already existed in the first half of the 19th century, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Express joined them in the second. Thanks to the media, W.G. Grace became the first sporting superstar, recognised everywhere, discussed regularly, and the darling of advertisers (although such things had to be done discreetly in the amateur’s world). And what of India in the meantime? Important newspapers that came into being in the 19th century were The Hindu, The Tribune, The Times of India, Amrita Bazaar Patrika and The Pioneer. The organisation of competitive sport kept pace.

At The Hindu office in 1981: Kapil Dev

At The Hindu office in 1981: Kapil Dev   | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

The Madras Cricket Club was founded in 1846, the Indian Football Association in 1892, and the Bombay Gymkhana in 1875. The Durand Cup football tournament, the second oldest in the world, was first played in 1888 and the Rovers Cup in 1891. The Beighton Cup hockey tournament was born in 1895. Writing in the Portrait of Indian Sport, Anthony de Mello, the first secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the power behind the inaugural Asian Games, said, “For a nation’s sporting ambitions to bear fruit, the liaison between sport and the sports page must be close.”

At The Hindu office in 1988: Australian cricket legend Dennis Lillee

At The Hindu office in 1988: Australian cricket legend Dennis Lillee   | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

That was written in 1959. Pages are not as immediate as screens today. But just as without a Bannerman, there could not have been a Virat Kohli, without the sports pages there would be no action replays.

Suresh Menon is Wisden India Almanack Editor and columnist with The Hindu.


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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 8:45:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/specials/thehindu-at-140/sports-and-journalism-over-the-years/article24986689.ece

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