An Indian-origin peer in the House of Lords on Sunday (2) called for the so-called “cricket test” of loyalty, aimed at immigrants to the UK, to be reassessed in time for the ICC Cricket World Cup, which began in England last week.
Lord Jitesh Gadhia questioned the continuing relevance of the test famously set by former Conservative Party chairman, Norman Tebbit, which required immigrants to show loyalty to the English team over teams from their countries of origin.
“When Tebbit’s comment was made in 1990, it was an era when loyalties were still questioned and social integration less advanced. We know that diaspora communities are among the most patriotic British citizens — and equally proud of their heritage,” Gadhia wrote in The Sunday Times.
“Other than the Queen and the English language, cricket is arguably the most unifying force among the countries to which it was exported,” he said.
Gadhia’s comments came as it emerged that 40 per cent of ticket sales for the Cricket World Cup have been taken up by South Asian diaspora communities – from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – who will turn out in force to support the teams of their ancestry.
Nine of the 10 nations playing in the six-week tournament are members of the Commonwealth, Gadhia pointed out.
The investment banker and peer also claims that cricket has a much wider role to play in shaping relations between countries.
“India and Pakistan have a tense relationship at the best of times but have met on the cricket pitch ever since their first Test series in 1952-53. Cricket is a common passion — if not obsession — for India and Pakistan and provides a benign channel of communication,” he writes.
The India-Pakistan opening match at the World Cup in 2015 attracted an estimated one billion viewers worldwide. That record may be broken when the two teams meet at Old Trafford in Manchester on June 16.
Gadhia also praised the game for bringing different people and faiths together within countries and reflecting on the anxious mood within UK over Brexit.
Lord Gadhia noted: “A summer of sport is the perfect antidote to our collective angst — more so as there is the real prospect of England’s cricket team emerging victorious.
“At a time when there are heated divisions, we can look to the healing properties of sport. We know that cricket can be tribal, yet at its best all sides participate in a good-natured spirit and respect a fair fight. We certainly need more of that sportsmanship in our public discourse.
“The Cricket World Cup promises thrills and drama on the field but can also have profound benefits in bringing people together across the boundaries of countries and faiths.”