This year’s ICC World Cup has been an absolute triumph for cricket. Huge crowds, great matches and (mostly!) good weather have created a great advert for the fifty over game.
Last Sunday’s game (30 June) between England and India was a tense affair. England’s great start was pegged back by some outstanding bowling and fielding, and India looked for many overs like they’d make the challenging 338 target, before falling 31 runs short at the end.
Yet the outstanding on-field action was not what grabbed my attention in Edgbaston; it was the thousands of British Indians in the crowd who shunned supporting their home nation in favour of Kohli’s boys.
I was saddened that so many felt compelled to support their ancestral home, rather than the nation they call home. The British Indian community has integrated so well into British society and whilst I know that many British Indians supported England – the world’s cameras did not show this, which gave the wrong impression to the average English person about where our loyalties really lie. It showed our community as looking backwards rather than forwards.
Last week I met an English lady from Shadwell who had gone out for Sunday lunch and watched as young British Indians roared India on. She was offended that those who lived, studied and worked here and spoke perfect English and British by nationality, with more than half born here, couldn’t bring themselves to cheer their home country on in a cricket match. I appreciate that is just one lady, but how many others like her were there across the country?
Sometimes we forget how important these little things are. British Indians often talk about how patriotic we are and how proud we are to be British, but if that is the case then we have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. We have to show how proud we are of our home country, and – for those of us who came in trying circumstances from East Africa – remember the opportunities that Britain has given us, including the education to our children.
In this case, I often refer to the analogy of Lord Krishna. He had two mothers – his birth mother and his adopted mother. Lord Krishna’s loyalty always went to his adopted mother. In the same way, the loyalty of many British Indians will always remain with their adopted home – England.
I understand that when it comes to short-form of the game, India’s team are the rock stars of cricket. With the IPL and huge investment in Indian cricket, Kohli, Dhoni and Bumrah are some of the biggest names in the game. I’ve hugely enjoyed watching their games and seeing the popularity they’ve brought to this great game.
But if the cricketing gods determine that these two teams will meet again in the final rounds of this tournament, I will once again be supporting my country England, just as I did the last time. I am sure other British Indians will do the same, but of course it is their choice.
Because at a time when our country is trying to redefine itself on the world stage, as we try to deliver a post-Brexit future that solves some long-standing issues and tensions in society, the British Indian community should stand as the example of a community that has come to Britain and is proud to call it our home.
We should use this amazing tournament as an opportunity to reaffirm how grateful we are to Britain, and how British Indians have succeeded in this great country. That we aren’t harking back to our past, but rather that we’re a central part of Britain’s future.