Talking about cricket and politics yesterday, one thing I didn’t mention was Norman Tebbit’s famous ‘cricket test’. Tebbit is a Conservative politician, and in an interview in 1990, he said
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?
I actually think he’s right that it’s an interesting test, even if it’s a mistake to read too much into it. After all, if someone is from a Pakistani family and has grown up with a cricket-mad father telling them stories of Javed Miandad and Imran Khan, it’s natural for them to support Pakistan and that sporting allegiance doesn’t necessarily prove anything about their patriotism. It’s only cricket, after all. And yet you kind of hope that somewhere along the line it would seem natural for them to support England.
The reason I bring it up is that yesterday England were playing Pakistan in Leeds, a city with a large Pakistani community. Playing for England was Sajid Mahmood, and some of the crowd were chanting ‘traitor’ at him. Which seems a bit pointed. It didn’t seem to harm his bowling — the opposite if anything, he took 4 for 22 in eight overs — and he laughed it off afterwards, saying “It was probably my dad down there instigating it!” But still, it’s another example of cricket’s habit of getting dragged into the politics of post-imperial multicultural Britain.