Prof Desai has authored a number of books on subjects ranging from Shakespeare to Sport, and lots of journal articles with the appropriate academic jargon. He currently writes a column for the Independent newspapers on his escapades growing up in Durban, soon to be published in a book entitled ASkapies Life.
Prof Desai is an unusually prolific and wide ranging writer whose work has been published in academic and popular books and periodicals around the world. One of South Africa’s foremost social commentators, Prof Desai’s work is internationally celebrated for its courage and clarity of vision and for its focus on the lived experience of oppression and resistance.
He is presently writing a book entitled Reverse Sweep: A Story of South African Cricket and an edited book,Chatsworth: Between Continuity and Change, which will be published in September by UKZN Press.
His concern in terms of research is best encapsulated by these lines from Robert Browning: ‘Our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things/The honest thief, the tender murderer/The superstitious Atheist.’
He dedicates this lecture to his father who passed away after a long and debilitating illness:‘If only, only, he could be here. The gown, the tradition, the sense of occasion, how it would have brought out the Englishman in him.’
Abstract of the Inaugural address by Prof Desai
The pre-eminent figure in South African cricket post 1990 was Ali Bacher, credited with charting South Africa’s return to international cricket, in which he was supported by key African National Congress (ANC) politicians. As pressure mounted for the racial transformation of South African cricket, and as Bacher prepared for the crowning glory of his life’s work, organising the 2003 Cricket World Cup, the leadership of South African cricket was handed to a Black African, Gerald Majola. Majola’s appointment was seen by many as a catalyst to revitalise grassroots cricket and create the conditions for more Black Africans to play for the provincial and national teams. While Majola consolidated his position as CEO, the actual results of his leadership were difficult to discern, and he was soon caught up in boardroom battles and then allegations of corruption. In a drawn-out battle that saw the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula intervene, he was eventually ousted as CEO.
As Majola’s tenure unfolded, so the global game was rapidly changing. The emergence of the Indian Premier League (IPL)accelerated the appropriation of the game into the service of capital’s accumulative logic, turned stadiums into spectacles of commodification, and for the very best cricketers, brought fabulous salaries. These cricketers are now increasingly caught between playing for their country, especially in the test match form of the game, and the IPL, while national cricket associations have to deal with the increasing spectre of private ownership. This inaugural lecture seeks to understand the consequences of the often contradictory impulses between the drive to level the local playing fields and cricket’s de-linking from the nation state and re-territorialisation into privately owned clubs