With the 2011 Cricket World Cup getting towards the business end of the knock out rounds, The Akh has to ask, who are you supporting?
One of the things that got a young akh politicised was back in 1990 when prominent Conservative MP Norman Tebbit stated:
“A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It’s an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?”
Tebbit’s cricket test as it became to be known, referred to a perceived ‘loyalty’ or ‘lack of loyalty’ of immigrants and their children from certain parts of Asia and the Caribbean to the England cricket team.
Tebbit suggested that those immigrants who root for their native countries rather than Great Britain in sports might not be sufficiently loyal to their new country.
The tabloid press at the time relished this statement and pointed aggressive fingers at the new communities for our disloyalty to both Queen and country.
How true was this statement?
Four out of every five people from the black Caribbean community living in Britain described their national identity as British, English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish. Three-quarters of the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities identified them selves in the same way. Among people of mixed ethnic origins the figure was 87% and 81% in the “other black” category, those originating from outside Africa or the Caribbean. They included many born in Britain and describing their ethnicity as black British in recent official surveys.
This attitude was further challenged by ONS data showing only 27% of people in Scotland described themselves as British, with the rest preferring to identify themselves as Scottish. In Wales 35% said they were British and 62% Welsh. Their loyalty to the England cricket team may also be questioned without impugning their patriotism.
A 2009 Home Office consultation paper titled “Earning the Right to Stay” proposed a points system to determine who was qualified to be a British citizen. The paper suggested that points should be deducted from a person’s score total, if they demonstrated an “active disregard for UK values”. What constitutes an “active disregard” was never made clear.
It never meant criminal activity, perhaps it meant an action that was within legal boundaries, yet was disrespectful. As an individual I feel uncomfortable having to stand for the British national anthem or saluting the flag – I don’t really believe in the monarchy, and the flag is a emblem of colonial expansion that dominated the countries of my fore fathers.
So perhaps I am showing an active disregard?
But I am already here. There is nothing much that can be done about us who are already here, but for those who wish to enter it’s a different ball game.
“I want to see a greater pride from British people about their own culture and identity – English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish, so that people can actually celebrate their own sense of identity much more clearly and have the confidence to celebrate and welcome other people.”
David Blunkett, Home Secretary, 2003, at the launch of the “Britishness Test”
In other words, immigrants will be tested so that British people can feel better about themselves.
At it’s core root, identity politics insists upon the premise that who we are determines what we do and how we think. The assumption being of course that there is one singular proscribed way of being British, or at the very least a behavioural standard below which no one may be considered British, seeking to set a standard to reach and the penalties for not meeting it.
It’s precisely these narrow, constrictive framings that never make any sense.
So who am I supporting?
How English exactly is the cricket team?
Let’s start with the management, coach Andy Flower was born in South Africa and played for Zimbabwe. Spin bowling coach is Pakistan’s Mushtaq Ahmed, while Australia’s David Saker is the fast bowling coach.
Of the current squad ,captain Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb are all South-African-born but qualify through British parentage (though they still had to fulfil residency requirements), whilst Eoin Morgan is an Irish citizen, while Ajmal Shazad became the first Yorkshire-born player of a Pakistani background to play for Yorkshire and England.
England have been captained by a Scot (Mike Denness), four South African-born players (Tony Greig, Allan Lamb, Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen), three Indian-born players (Douglas Jardine, Colin Cowdrey and Nasser Hussain), Italian-born (Ted Dexter) and Australian-born (Gubby Allen). South African Cape Coloured player Basil D’Oliveira famously played for England during the Apartheid era, whilst other notable players of the past 20 years include Graeme Hick (Zimbabwe), Andrew Caddick (New Zealand) and Geraint Jones (Papua New Guinea/Australia).
In fact players of Pakistani, Indian and West Indian heritage have all represented England
Usman Afzaal, Kabir Ali, Sajid Mahmood, Owais Shah, Adil Rashid, Ravi Bopara, Ronnie Irani, Monty Panesar, Min Patel, Mark Ramprakash, Vikram Solanki, Phil DeFreitas, Dean Headley, Chris Lewis, Devon Malcolm, Gladstone Small, Alex Tudor
Almost a decade later after those comments, I remember watching a Channel 4 documentary entitled “The White Tribe”. Darcus Howe questioned Tebbit about his now infamous test.
To my astonishment, he admitted to being an immigrant himself from the lowlands of Europe, and preened as he spoke of how the tribes people from whom he came were proud to lift themselves from their lowly status up into the hallowed corridors of the English.
Tebbit’s test did not survive the passage of time and is now truly dead.
Perhaps it’s time for all those right wing politicians and commentators who talk about multicultural aspect of Britain being a failure being hit out of the park for a six.