ICL: Indian Cricket League

England cricket team enjoys growing Pakistani fan base


Cricket fan Zahoor Qureshi, like a growing number of British Pakistanis, will sport the red and white of England rather than the green of Pakistan when a new Test series swings into action this week.

In a sign that some Asians living in Britain are starting to pass an infamous “cricket test” of national loyalty, Qureshi and his 13-year-old son say they prefer to support the England squad over the tourists.

Many more people, however, will be waving green flags for Pakistan as the two sides clash in the first Test of a four-match series starting at London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground on

July 13.

This, they argue, is not proof of treachery to the country in which they live and prosper, but of a deep-rooted sense of pride for the nation of their forefathers when it comes to the traditional game of cricket. “I have to support England. As much as I love the land of my parents this is my adopted country,” said Qureshi, 39, a manufacturing systems consultant from London who moved to Britain from Pakistan when he was 12.

Qureshi, who is also president of the Islamic Society in Britain, said second generation British Pakistanis like himself and their third generation children often felt closer to England than Pakistan.

“For many people this is it, England is their home, there is no going back. They have love for England as much as our parents have for their own respective countries,” he said. “There is a genuine change, my son also wants to go and support England against Pakistan.”

Former minister Norman Tebbit, once a close ally of ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher, invented the “cricket test” or “Tebbit test” in 1990 when he infamously spoke about the supposed split loyalties of immigrants to Britain. His theory, which caused uproar at the time, stated that a person could only be classed as truly British if he or she supported England at cricket.

Professor Mohammad Anwar, of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick, strongly disagreed, arguing that it was impossible to judge an immigrant’s Britishness on the cricket team he or she backed. “The main thing is that 99.9 percent of these people regard themselves as British Pakistanis and British Muslims. That British (factor) is important for identity and loyalty,” he said.

At the same time, Anwar noted that more and more second and third generation British Asians were rooting for England when it came to the crunch. In the 1970s to 1990s, many Pakistanis living in Britain suffered racist abuse, which discouraged them from wanting to support England at anything. Some claim they were discouraged from joining cricket clubs because of the colour of their skin, while others tried to support England but were laughed at for doing so.

In addition, the British press fuelled racist sentiment and there were barely any Asian faces on the England cricket team. Khalid Hussain, a teacher in his early 40s who lives in Yorkshire, northern England, was born in Britain to Pakistani parents and has always supported Pakistan at cricket. “I do fail the ‘Tebbit test’ and I am pretty proud to fail it,” he said, noting that Britons living in Australia would also flunk, as they would never back Australia over England.

“We, as a minority people, should strictly believe in the rules of the country we live in but equally we should not then lose our culture and background,” Hussain said. He had a tough time growing up in Britain because of racism, but said attitudes were changing, with British Pakistanis being made to feel more welcome and many British Asians, such as India-born former England captain Nasser Hussain, playing cricket for the country. “As a result, my kids certainly don’t support Pakistan, they support England,” Hussain said.

Ultimately, it does not matter whether British Pakistanis want England or Pakistan to win they are all still British citizens at heart, said Naeem Akhtar, an IT analyst who runs a website for Pakistan cricket fans. “Being British isn’t just supporting the team, it is more about your way of thinking,” said Naeem, who is a life-long Pakistan supporter despite moving to Britain as a child.

Source:The News

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