Trobriand Cricket

In the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea, there is a sport that is played as a way of competition, but also as an alternative to war between neighboring tribes. It was introduced by British Missionaries in order to solve the issue of war and to make a peaceful yet competitive channel in which tribes could work out their differences. These cricketeers give new meaning to the sport of cricket in their own cultural ways.

There is one exception in Trobriand Cricket that makes everything completely different than normal European Cricket, and that is the rules. “There’s no limit to how many people can be in a team, players dress up in traditional costume, and scoring is completely different, with six runs being given for a lost ball.” (Taylor) The most important and interesting change however is that the home team always wins the match, no matter how many points were scored by the opposition. After the match, the home team will throw a huge party for the visiting team with plentiful food and drink. This is one way in which the Trobriand islanders have given a cultural meaning to sport. The game is a social event and the islanders have made chants to scream at every game. “At international matches, the opposing teams will sing their national anthems before the game begins.” I do not know much about cricket so from my experience with sports, this is similar to baseball in America, especially the Boston Red Sox at their home field at Fenway Park. During every home game, in the middle of the eighth inning the song “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond is played. It is a tradition and even though the song has nothing to do with baseball, it is festive and brings everyone in the stadium together (Bhattacharjee). Just like in Trobriand cricket where costumes, new rules, and song and dance are part of the sport, it gives cultural meaning to the game. This means that people in the stands sing along and sway side to side together in a way of friendship as well as a shared love for the game. There are many ways to interpret this, and this is just one of them.

Anthropology can be about giving something a new meaning, especially one that connects to that person or group of people. The Trobriand people have done just that, by taking cricket from the British and making it their own game, by giving it their own meaning, they have brought several tribes together in a social way to solve problems and make peace.


Taylor, B. Erin. (2013, Sep 13) If the home team wins, is it really sport? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Bhattacharjee, Riya. (2013, July 7) ‘Sweet Caroline’: Why is it a Boston Red Sox song? MSN News. Retrieved from