Sunday, April 15, 2007

Cricket Test

It could hardly have passed anyone’s attention that we’re in the middle of the Cricket World Cup competition. Despite following the odd match with slightly more than a cursory interest, I have to say I haven’t followed this as I would have in previous years. One just doesn’t have the time these days – even for a one day match. I don’t remember how I could have followed test matches in years gone by, which to the bemusement of non-cricket lovers every where, can last five days and still end in a draw! But with the Bengal Tigers punching above their weight and causing upsets against India and now South Africa, the hype is getting too irresistible. At time of writing England proved to be a challenge too far. Next time, just maybe……..

The current tournament (and a friend’s blog) brought to mind the old debate around which cricket team to support a.k.a. the Norman Tebbit Cricket Test. For those younger than a certain age, you probably don’t remember Norman Tebbitt. Suffice it to say he was a Conservative party big wig during the Thatcherite years, a driven ideologue whose obituaries will no doubt be filled with his contribution to the race debate in Britain. The Norman Tebbitt Cricket Test essentially is a crude test of loyalty, allegiance and identity. Stirred up by footage of Britsh born Pakistanis (and later Indians, Sri Lankans and West Indians), supporting the teams of their parent’s origin, Tebitt basically posed the question about whether you can be English and support another team.

In the days before Bangladesh was honoured with test status, I ‘followed’ Pakistan’s exploits, then a star studded team led by Imran Khan in the 1990s. It never occurred to me to do anything else. At school the black boys followed West Indies, the Indians India and the majority of the white boys England apart from the odd Antipodean. It helped that Pakistan were flamboyant and successful, but looking back even then cricketing affinities could be seen along racial lines.

As primitive as it was it seems that this did not only apply to Cricket. With no decent sub-continental team to support, we sided with Argentina or Brazil with England being a reserve for our support in the event they played Germany. Perhaps our choices were a reflection of how black players (there are/were no English Asian footballers) were treated on the pitch despite representing their country – remember how John Barnes got monkey chants and had inflatable bananas waved at him despite being the most skilful player in the side. Similarly if you went to a cricket match, you couldn’t help being put off by the antics of the ‘barmy army’, usually booze fuelled and politically incorrect to say the least. Its not surprising that few of us would pass the Cricket Test. Scottish nationalists famously printed out t-shirts with ‘I failed the English Cricket Test’ on the front.

But how does all this apply to the post modern world we live in today? Multiple identities in a multi-cultural world are de riguer with no-one batting an eyelid if for example, you celebrate Eid, enjoy a Thai curry, holiday in Africa, speak three European languages and feel at home in a sarong. Children born of immigrant parents have no problems carrying dual or more identities - its just they way they are. Whether they are bi-lingual, have multiple heritages or different religions, they can be more secure in their identity than many may think. By having to face the question about who you are it perhaps does more to query the insecurity of the questioner as well as being forced to organise the thoughts of the questioned. If someone can give me a definition or checklist of what it means to be English/British perhaps the question can be answered.

This opens a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity to muse the subject of identity of the children of immigrant communities, multiculturalism and integration, but that my dear readers, is for another day. For now, we must revel in the irrelevance of the Tebbit Test. If I was good enough, I would have almost no problem in playing for England. Just look at the ‘success’ of Monty Panesar and Sajid Mahmood to see how defunct the question has become.

Of course, not content with that, the Tebbit Test question has been replaced by a new generation with the ‘Army Test’ - Would you fight for England against the country of your (parents') origin? The debate rumbles on….


Anonymous a brother said...

A splendid topic for research indeed.

One can perhaps extend the reasoning in your last part to religious warfare, too. If India were to wage war against Bangladesh (Allah forbid), it would no doubt be deemed as religious warfare, obligating Muslim Bangladeshis to fight for the country. But if Pakistan were to wage the war instead, would it be a religious obligation for a Bangladeshi to fight for his country?

8:42 pm  
Blogger Mr. C said...


Brother don't open that one up again! More than 35 years on from Bangladesh's independence war, ordinary people are still suffering from the polarising and corrosive impact of the corrupt political elite accusing one another of being on either side of that particular 'struggle'.

11:08 pm  
Anonymous a brother said...

Have you forsaken your blog completely??

3:46 am  

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