England v India at the Cricket World Cup: A clash of cultures

India and Pakistan flags Image copyright Getty Images

“It’s so embedded in the culture. The atmosphere that’s created when an India game is on, it just adds to the emotional connection. That’s really why I support India ahead of England.”

Pavan Patel, 21, is English-born and bred but during England’s Cricket World Cup match against India on Sunday, he’ll be rooting for India.

This cultural clash is not an uncommon thing to hear.

Cricket fans born and brought up in England, with family ties to another country, often choose to support their familial country over England.

In 1990, Lord Norman Tebbit, a politician from the Conservative party, controversially suggested that Asian immigrants and their children had not truly integrated into Britain until they supported the England cricket team ahead of their country of origin.

According to the International Cricket Council, over 80% of World Cup tickets have been bought by people who live in England, but less than half by people who actually support the England team.

So what are the reasons behind this?

Image copyright PAVAN PATEL
Image caption Pavan Patel’s background convinced him to support India

‘It’s a cultural connection’

“It really helps me feel in touch with my Indian roots. It’s one of those things you’re raised into,” Pavan tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

For many young British Asians, family and cricket go hand in hand.

“From a young age I’ve always just seen Indian cricket on TV. So the whole family get together and watch India’s game. It’s an electric buzz.”

Pavan says the attachment he feels to the Indian team is because of a “similar culture and background”.

“So growing up it’s a cultural connection that I just didn’t share with the England team.”

‘I just don’t fit in here’

For 28-year-old Pakistan fan Annie Hayat, more diversity in the England team when she was growing up would have made all the difference.

“I would’ve felt more related and connected to the English team than I currently do.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t get to see much of that [Asian people] in the team. You felt like ‘I just don’t fit in here’ so you just steer towards the Pakistan team.”

With the likes of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid playing regularly, Annie does recognise that Asians are now “represented a bit more” in the England team.

But it’s not just about ethnic representation.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni batting together for India

A story of ‘rags to riches’

Cricket in England is seen as a sport for the ‘elite’ – with 43% of men playing international cricket for England going to private school, according to a report by the Sutton Trust and Social Mobility Commission.

“With the English players, I’ve not heard of many working-class stories, it’s more of a selective group that I can’t identify with,” says 23-year-old Sagar Ghelani, an English-born India fan.

“But for Indian cricketers, I’ve heard the stories of rags to riches, where they’ve come up in poverty and had to toil.”

Sagar finds the stories of Indian cricket stars like Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni “inspiring”.

Dhoni was a ticket collector for the Indian railways and has gone on to captain India to multiple trophies, becoming a worldwide icon along the way.

“They really followed their passion, their dream and became cricketers. I can feel that,” Sagar adds.

Image copyright SIA NAJUMI
Image caption Sia feels a clash between England and Afghanistan

The hate crime effect:

For many older immigrants, facing racism and discrimination when they first arrived in England was a big reason for not supporting the team.

But is that the case for the next generation?

Not for 23-year-old Sia Najumi, who is an Afghanistan fan.

“I wouldn’t say my support stems from the consequences of hate crime. It’s my parents’ country and I’m proud they’ve qualified, which is why I support them.”

Sia does say however that the reported rise in hate crime in the last five years has “driven” her closer to her Afghan culture and community – including the team.

“It does feel like there’s this invisible wall and an ongoing division between my culture and the English community.”

The latest statistics from the government show the number of hate crimes recorded by the police has increased by 123% since 2012/13, with 94,098 offences in 2017/18.

Pavan says that while hate crime hasn’t affected his support, “the current political atmosphere is probably not going to encourage” the future generation of British Asians to support England.

Image copyright SAGAR GHELANI
Image caption Sagar says integrating in a country has nothing to do with supporting a team

So going back to Lord Tebbit’s test, does not supporting England in cricket mean you’re not integrated?

Not according to Sagar.

“It’s an easy link to make between supporting a team and not being a proper part of the country.”

Sagar says he considers himself English, supports them in football and loves the NHS.

But he supports the Indian cricket team because they “connect” with him in a way the English team doesn’t.

“Supporting a team doesn’t necessarily reflect what your view of a particular country is.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The England football team represents more diversity for British-born Asians like Pavan

Is cricket a special case?

Many of those who support Asian teams like India and Pakistan in cricket, support England in every other sport they follow.

A survey by ComRes and BBC Asian Network found 77.19% of British Asians born in the UK support the home nations in international football tournaments.

According to Pavan, supporting a team in any sport is about feeling a “relatable” connection to them.

“Growing up here, you’re just surrounded by football and everyone supporting England. That whole environment fed through to me.”

A greater diversity of backgrounds in football has also “made a huge impact”.

“You see people from every background which reflects the entire country. Someone like Raheem Sterling, I’ve heard about his background and struggles.

“So I think you see yourself more in the England football team than the cricket team.”

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