Aaron Kumar analysing the Tebbit Test in the context of recent India-England series
After winning the 4th One Day International against England and with it the series, India’s captain MS Dhoni observed that his team relish playing in Birmingham because “just like in the Champions Trophy final here last year, we enjoyed more support than the home team”.
While Dhoni’s comments were essentially an acknowledgement of the steadfast and passionate support that his team receives, both at home and abroad, the Indian Captain’s point does however lend itself to a debate which seems to occur practically every time a subcontinent team tours the UK.
The debate first started back in 1990, when the former Conservative MP Lord Tebbit created the “Cricket Test”. In an interview with the LA Times, he stated that “ 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”.
This interview was greeted with a large amount of hostility across various parts of the UK. Indeed the Labour MP, Jeff Rooker, called for criminal charges to be brought against Tebbit for inciting racial hatred.
It is often said that Sports and Politics should never be mixed, and for a politician as prominent as Tebbit, to essentially tell immigrants and their children which teams they should support, does appear to be a bit too heavy handed.
Cricket after all is a sport, that many of us, regardless of our background or ethnicity, love. Who can forget Brian Lara’s leg glance to take him to an unprecedented 400 not out against England in 2004? Or Andrew Flintoff’s phenomenal all-round Ashes series in 2005, which for once had the whole country talking about Cricket, rather than its more popular and big sibling, Football, and who can forget Yuvraj’s Singh’s astonishing feat of hitting Staurt Broad for 6’6s in an over in the World T20 in Durban 2007. These were some special and historic moments in World Cricket, and while some of those accomplishments may have been achieved against the teams that we were supporting, as fans of this wonderful game we can surely appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy what essentially is an amazing game.
Tebbit’s test is becoming more and more outdated and that is a testament to the multicultural society we live in. In fact the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, recently said that his children all supported Spain, their mothers Country, in the 2012 European football championships and would likely fail the “Cricket Test” as a result.
Over 20 years on, since the controversial comments by Lord Tebbit (and with a real sense that the UK today is more multicultural than ever before) I spoke to some British Asian fans across the country to get their views on the world game and to find out which International Cricket team they supported.
Kushal Malde (20) was born in England but supports the Indian Cricket team passionately, “I’ve been brought up as an Indian. Even though my nationality is British, everywhere I go I’m treated as a British- Indian. It’s always important to remember your roots and I hope my children will support India too”.
The point that Kushal makes is a very valid one, let us look at football for example, the primary focus is on Club football. Even ahead of the International game, if a child from London supported Everton because his father was originally from Merseyside, the child may be on the receiving end of some light hearted banter, but all in all, most would accept the child’s right to support the team that he felt best represented him.
Some light hearted banter between fans is always inevitable but Shakeel Bhamla (32), an England fan warns that there is a danger of banter crossing the line in terms of what would be deemed as acceptable behaviour. “I don’t understand some third generation England fans booing England players in England. I appreciate most of it is just banter but it is a bit frustrating at times. “
While Kushal and Shakeel have chosen to support different teams and both told Asian Lite that they never had a sense of divided loyalties when supporting India or England respectively, the same cannot be said of every British Asian fan. Nilsha Makwana (35) who was born in England and supports India admits that she finds it very difficult to know which team she should pledge her allegiance to when these two teams play.
“Absolutely! Although I’m Indian by origin I’m also a proud to be British. I think its a shame that most British Indians just support India even though they are British born & bred. It’s a shame that when it comes to other sports such as Football we will gladly support England but in Cricket we switch to India.”
British Asians being so keen to support England in football does perhaps, strongly emphasise the fact that supporting a Cricket team from the Subcontinent, is a way of embracing an immersing oneself in their roots. It is not a negative slight against England, after all I am sure that Nick Cleggs’s children do not support Spain in Cricket.
We have come a long way from the Cricket Test, there are some excellent British Asian players on the fringes, or in the England national team, such as Ravi Bopara and Moeen Ali and fans are free to decide who they want to prevail. One thing is for sure, in 2014 no one should be telling you which team you should support, that just would not be Cricket.