Just finished Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, which is about many things – marriage, masculinity, mid-life crises, migration – but above all about the barely visible subculture of cricket in New York. O’Neill describes it as a post-American novel: as the dust of 9/11 refuses to settle, a hodgepodge of immigrants indulge in a pastime that’s almost as alien to the American psyche as Marxism or not liking apple pie. (Although, as one character points out, cricket was played in New York in the 1770s, and the first international sporting events were cricket matches between the USA and Canada, in the 1840s.)
I think I’m reading it at exactly the right time. America may not yet have ceded the 21st century to China and India at the G20 summit, but Obama’s presence at the G20 summit struck a new tone of humility. Meanwhile, Afghanistan responds to its prolonged occupation not by opening McDonalds and Starbucks in Kabul, but by moving inexorably towards a place in the next Cricket World Cup.
Cricket becomes the signifier of not-Americanness; the next step will be America meekly submitting to its charms. And the conclusive sign that the American hegemony is over will be President Paris Hilton bowling the first googly of the 20/20 World Series.