Ashes September 3, 2009

Settlers and sons

Cricinfo
The Sydney-based Roebuck has long maintained that Aussie dominance in the Ashes is a fitting reflection of the contrast between (what he perceives to be) the vibrant and competitive "prevailing culture" in his adopted home and a chronic national
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From Imran Coomaraswamy United Kingdom A response to Peter Roebuck’s “No time for back-slapping”.

I’m a regular follower of Peter Roebuck’s columns for Cricinfo and the Sydney Morning Herald. The former Somerset captain is certainly one of the most eloquent and thought-provoking cricket writers around today. His most recent opinion piece for Cricinfo, however, a warning to English cricket that it’s "no time for back-slapping," strikes me as faintly ridiculous, and some of the comments in it regarding English-born Asian cricketers I find really rather disconcerting.

The Sydney-based Roebuck has long maintained that Aussie dominance in the Ashes is a fitting reflection of the contrast between (what he perceives to be) the vibrant and competitive "prevailing culture" in his adopted home and a chronic national malaise back in the old country. It seems the Australian team’s sudden fall from grace has upset his worldview. Convinced that "English culture" still lacks "vim and vigour," he looks elsewhere for an explanation for England’s recent success.

Its Ashes team was not entirely a product of English cricket, or indeed the country at large. Four of the top six batsmen were born in South Africa and raised within its traditions. The coach comes from Zimbabwe, two of the players come from the local Asian communities, and two Irishmen have fought their way into the one-day party. It’s hard to deny that Kevin Pietersen and Johnathan Trott learnt their cricket in South Africa, but including Andrew Strauss (who has lived in England since the age of six) and Matt Prior (who has represented Sussex from Under-12 level upwards) on that list is frankly comical.

What is less humorous, however, is Roebuck’s reference to English-born Asians Ravi Bopara and Monty Panesar. In what way is either of these two ‘not entirely a product of English cricket, or indeed the country at large?’ The implication here is that players from local Asian communities are somehow not really English. In fact, Roebuck goes on to articulate this opinion explicitly: “At present, counties have roughly 119 foreign-born players on their books, and that does not include Irishmen (14), Welshmen or Scots. Obviously the 23 locally born Asian players have been omitted. Of course they are a separate category.”

Why should locally born Asians even enter into this discussion? In this context, why are they a “separate category” rather than simply locals? Roebuck is on very dangerous ground here, as in the not so distant past, there have been a number of highly controversial public debates on the “Englishness” of black and Asian cricketers representing England, notably the racially charged Henderson affair in 1995. In this case Roebuck makes clear that he celebrates the success of these cricketers, but feels it disguises the fact that “Anglo-Saxon England is underperforming.” (Which Ashes series was he watching? In the one I just saw, Bopara and Panesar underperformed and were dropped.)

He notes that the rise of the locally born Asians in county cricket “says a lot about them and English society, all of it favourable.” His remarks about them in this article say a lot about him, not all of it so favourable.

It can hardly be convincingly argued that the England cricket team is a product of the system or the national will. To the contrary it consists in no small part of settlers and sons. And it's the same in county cricket. Whatever Roebuck might mean by “the national will,” I find it rather offensive that he regards recent immigrants and their children as being at odds with or excluded from it. There is also no small amount of irony in the fact that these comments are being made by someone who is one of the five million current residents of Australia who were born outside that country’s shores.

Roebuck regards the Ashes as both a Test series and a test of the relative merits of the protagonists’ cricketing systems and wider cultures. The essence of his argument in this piece is that while deserving of its victory, Strauss’s team was not really English, and hence the real England does not deserve bragging rights over Australia - the former is still morally bankrupt, while the latter “remains intact.”

That sporting success is a direct measure of national self-worth is questionable to say the least. As for the notion of “prevailing culture,” one appalled Cricinfo reader (krumb) has rightly condemned his description of England today as an “absurd caricature that bares [sic] absolutely no relation to a deep and complex society.” I might add that for all its faults, this society is a great deal more inclusive than Roebuck’s comments betray him to be.

Other Cricinfo readers have been quick to comment that elsewhere in the same piece, Roebuck manages to make ill-informed statements about the origins of Yorkshire and Geordie dialects, the history of black professional footballers in England, the previous captains of the Indian cricket team and the composition of Surrey’s playing staff. He also sounds a familiar refrain about strong fast bowlers from the mines and classical batsmen from public schools, portraying these as English cricket’s now sadly exhausted seams of cricketing talent, rather than manifestations of a class divide and stereotypes that ought to be eradicated.

Amid all this, it must be said that Roebuck makes some very valid points. There is clearly a need to examine whether the success of the likes of Pietersen and Trott is masking a lack of up-and-coming home-grown talent. The jury is still out on whether the various academies and specialist coaches are having an impact. Conflicts of interest in the selection process and the media must be resolved sooner rather than later. The England team is still ranked fifth in the world, and the ECB would indeed do well to avoid back-slapping in favour of further soul-searching.

At this point, I should also make clear that I do not believe Peter Roebuck to be a racist. I have read enough of his writings on cricketers of all backgrounds to be convinced otherwise. However, if he intends not to “belittle diversity,” he really ought to reconsider a number of his comments in this piece, and revise his perceptions of English national identity. Finally, I can understand that Surrey’s recent need to sign wicketkeeper Steve Davies from Worcestershire might give someone cause to question the county’s own youth system (though as the 23-year-old is a product of the National Academy and England Under-19s, I wouldn’t myself see this a symptom of English cricket’s ill-health).

On the other hand, that Roebuck apparently interprets the fact that “two Afghan refugees open the bowling for their Under-16s” as further evidence of Surrey cricket’s decline is pretty shocking. I should note here that I have no proof other than Roebuck’s word that there are any “Afghan refugees” in Surrey’s Emerging Players Program. What I do know, however, is that they do not have an Under-16 team. Aman Shinwari has opened the bowling for both Surrey Under-15s and Under-17s. From his name, I would guess that he is of Pashtun origin. On the Surrey website, he names James Anderson as his favourite player, and states that his aspiration is to play cricket for England. I sincerely hope that no one ever tells him his success is an indication that Surrey cricket has “run out of gas.”

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Matthew Baden on September 25, 2009, 4:25 GMT

    Great article Imran.

    I wouldn't worry so much about Roebuck though, no one listens to him in Australia, and as far as i know, no one listens to him anywhere else. He is another psuedo intellectual of the game with no real knowledge of the game at the highest level. He enjoys using hindsight to back many of his views and rarely does he speak any sense.

  • CriNaut on September 23, 2009, 15:11 GMT

    Excellent piece! Cricinfo should consider using your services regularly.

  • Peter on September 23, 2009, 10:00 GMT

    I nice response Imran. I have had the pleasure of watching Aman Shinwari play his cricket for various youth levels at Surrey CCC, he is an amazing talent and widely thought to be the best fast bowler of his age in England and he bats in a Bothamesque style too. The great shame is that under current rules he can't qualify for England which is as you state his dream and ambition, but he's very focused young man so don't be surprised in a few years time to see a dvd gracing the shelves, "Shinwari's Ashes". I should also point out that at the same age group (u15) Surrey's keeper is the England keeper.

  • Jim Cooper on September 22, 2009, 12:40 GMT

    Mohit Suryawanshi - your comments on immigrants to Australia and sporting teams are clearly made from a position of ignorance. Immigrants are treated roughly the same, no matter where they are from (we give Poms as hard a time as anybody), although it has historically been difficult for non-English speaking groups. But ask an Italian immigrant from the 50s or 60s and a Vietnamese immigrant from the 70s or 80s about their experiences, and they will be very similar.

    Your opinion on the makeup of sporting teams is also incorrect. We have plenty of "non-white" immigrants from SE Asia, and we have plenty of Olympians in many sports from those communities. Not many Australians are from the major cricketing Asian nations, but sooner or later, someone will be good enough to make the team.

    Australia is a nation of immigrants, and all our sporting teams reflect that.

    Our real representational problem is not with immigrants, but that too few Aborigines play at the top levels of sport.

  • StaalBurgher on September 15, 2009, 13:59 GMT

    You people have completely missed his point. Typical though as for some reason it is unexceptable for him to wish that people that share his heritage excel - while in the same breath we are suppose to be ecstatic that Asian players are doing well in England. Admittedly he confuses it with his Asian rant - but that does tie into it. If you go and consider the percentages the Asian community is over represented in cricket. This in itself is not a problem, but you have to consider why the Anglo-Saxon part of the country has rejected cricket to a large extent. The fact that two South African created players are in the team indicates the struggle cricket in England faces. Football is poaching almost all of the elite sporting youth - for a vast number of people in England even playing cricket is anathema. If Pietersen had grown up in England he would unlikely be playing cricket.

  • SKANDA......SriLanka on September 14, 2009, 5:49 GMT

    A most intelligent analysis Imran...Excellently worded... I will however be surprised if there is'nt a rational explanation. I am sure that Peter is merely bemoaning the decline in the talent emerging from what was once considered Britain's traditional sources(outdated though this may be) rather than belittle the entry of the alternatives... Congratulations on your thought provoking piece...

  • Skanda....Sri Lanka on September 14, 2009, 4:38 GMT

    An intelligent analysis Imran...Excellently worded..and yet knowing Peter as I do,I will indeed be surprised if there is'nt a rational explanation for what has been conveyed.

  • Vic Nicholas on September 13, 2009, 10:01 GMT

    A miserable article. Firstly, Dunga stated that only "true blue" Aussies are represented in the Australian team. What a nonsense! Ricky Pontings ancestry is Chinese. Phil Hughes mother is Italian. Shane Warnes mother was born in Germany. Hilfenhaus, Hauritz, Bichel, Rackermann, Muller etc all are of German ancestry, Katich is of Croatian ancestry, Lenny Pascoe Macedonian ancestry, Kasporwicz is of Polish ancestry, Jason Gillespie has Chinese, Greek and Aboriginal ancestry, Andrew Symonds is of Jamaican ancestry, Mitchell Johnson clearly has something other than pure Anglo-Saxon blood in him...in short, if you are good, you get picked. As for Strauss being an Englishman based on his family moving to England when he was six years old, Strauss actually played his first games of cricket here in Melbourne for Caulfield Grammar as a twelve year old - can we claim him as an Aussie under your logic?

  • Mohit Suryawanshi on September 12, 2009, 2:25 GMT

    Wonderful piece of writing. I must say most of the commenters made very good points as well. The discussions on cricket should be limited to the game, Roebuck's article, if not racist, was at least very condescending. I really wonder if he thinks particular sports are reserved for particular races, it goes against the very nature of competitive sport i.e. to compete against the best and prevail.Imran, please do keep writing, you expressed a lot of my thoughts in a much more composed and articulate manner than I would have. About the point on Aussie immigrants,I think everybody knows there's a definite difference in the way that the white and the non-white immigrants are treated, which is reflected in the selection of sporting teams.

  • Jeremy on September 9, 2009, 6:36 GMT

    I was brought up in Somerset, have supported them throughout, am a rough contemporary of Peter Roebuck, and I now live in Hong Kong. In my opinion, Roebuck is the most gifted cricket writer of his generation. But I have to say Imran, that yours is the best piece of writing I've ever read on Cricinfo. Thank you for sharing your art.

  • Matthew Baden on September 25, 2009, 4:25 GMT

    Great article Imran.

    I wouldn't worry so much about Roebuck though, no one listens to him in Australia, and as far as i know, no one listens to him anywhere else. He is another psuedo intellectual of the game with no real knowledge of the game at the highest level. He enjoys using hindsight to back many of his views and rarely does he speak any sense.

  • CriNaut on September 23, 2009, 15:11 GMT

    Excellent piece! Cricinfo should consider using your services regularly.

  • Peter on September 23, 2009, 10:00 GMT

    I nice response Imran. I have had the pleasure of watching Aman Shinwari play his cricket for various youth levels at Surrey CCC, he is an amazing talent and widely thought to be the best fast bowler of his age in England and he bats in a Bothamesque style too. The great shame is that under current rules he can't qualify for England which is as you state his dream and ambition, but he's very focused young man so don't be surprised in a few years time to see a dvd gracing the shelves, "Shinwari's Ashes". I should also point out that at the same age group (u15) Surrey's keeper is the England keeper.

  • Jim Cooper on September 22, 2009, 12:40 GMT

    Mohit Suryawanshi - your comments on immigrants to Australia and sporting teams are clearly made from a position of ignorance. Immigrants are treated roughly the same, no matter where they are from (we give Poms as hard a time as anybody), although it has historically been difficult for non-English speaking groups. But ask an Italian immigrant from the 50s or 60s and a Vietnamese immigrant from the 70s or 80s about their experiences, and they will be very similar.

    Your opinion on the makeup of sporting teams is also incorrect. We have plenty of "non-white" immigrants from SE Asia, and we have plenty of Olympians in many sports from those communities. Not many Australians are from the major cricketing Asian nations, but sooner or later, someone will be good enough to make the team.

    Australia is a nation of immigrants, and all our sporting teams reflect that.

    Our real representational problem is not with immigrants, but that too few Aborigines play at the top levels of sport.

  • StaalBurgher on September 15, 2009, 13:59 GMT

    You people have completely missed his point. Typical though as for some reason it is unexceptable for him to wish that people that share his heritage excel - while in the same breath we are suppose to be ecstatic that Asian players are doing well in England. Admittedly he confuses it with his Asian rant - but that does tie into it. If you go and consider the percentages the Asian community is over represented in cricket. This in itself is not a problem, but you have to consider why the Anglo-Saxon part of the country has rejected cricket to a large extent. The fact that two South African created players are in the team indicates the struggle cricket in England faces. Football is poaching almost all of the elite sporting youth - for a vast number of people in England even playing cricket is anathema. If Pietersen had grown up in England he would unlikely be playing cricket.

  • SKANDA......SriLanka on September 14, 2009, 5:49 GMT

    A most intelligent analysis Imran...Excellently worded... I will however be surprised if there is'nt a rational explanation. I am sure that Peter is merely bemoaning the decline in the talent emerging from what was once considered Britain's traditional sources(outdated though this may be) rather than belittle the entry of the alternatives... Congratulations on your thought provoking piece...

  • Skanda....Sri Lanka on September 14, 2009, 4:38 GMT

    An intelligent analysis Imran...Excellently worded..and yet knowing Peter as I do,I will indeed be surprised if there is'nt a rational explanation for what has been conveyed.

  • Vic Nicholas on September 13, 2009, 10:01 GMT

    A miserable article. Firstly, Dunga stated that only "true blue" Aussies are represented in the Australian team. What a nonsense! Ricky Pontings ancestry is Chinese. Phil Hughes mother is Italian. Shane Warnes mother was born in Germany. Hilfenhaus, Hauritz, Bichel, Rackermann, Muller etc all are of German ancestry, Katich is of Croatian ancestry, Lenny Pascoe Macedonian ancestry, Kasporwicz is of Polish ancestry, Jason Gillespie has Chinese, Greek and Aboriginal ancestry, Andrew Symonds is of Jamaican ancestry, Mitchell Johnson clearly has something other than pure Anglo-Saxon blood in him...in short, if you are good, you get picked. As for Strauss being an Englishman based on his family moving to England when he was six years old, Strauss actually played his first games of cricket here in Melbourne for Caulfield Grammar as a twelve year old - can we claim him as an Aussie under your logic?

  • Mohit Suryawanshi on September 12, 2009, 2:25 GMT

    Wonderful piece of writing. I must say most of the commenters made very good points as well. The discussions on cricket should be limited to the game, Roebuck's article, if not racist, was at least very condescending. I really wonder if he thinks particular sports are reserved for particular races, it goes against the very nature of competitive sport i.e. to compete against the best and prevail.Imran, please do keep writing, you expressed a lot of my thoughts in a much more composed and articulate manner than I would have. About the point on Aussie immigrants,I think everybody knows there's a definite difference in the way that the white and the non-white immigrants are treated, which is reflected in the selection of sporting teams.

  • Jeremy on September 9, 2009, 6:36 GMT

    I was brought up in Somerset, have supported them throughout, am a rough contemporary of Peter Roebuck, and I now live in Hong Kong. In my opinion, Roebuck is the most gifted cricket writer of his generation. But I have to say Imran, that yours is the best piece of writing I've ever read on Cricinfo. Thank you for sharing your art.

  • Nicholas Hughes on September 8, 2009, 12:16 GMT

    Just to clarify two errors Neil has made: Both Liverpool and Glasgow have been European cities of culture and for Ibrox and Anfield, substitute the Hill at the SCG and you get the same loutishness. No, there is no national malaise in either country but there are different emphasis.

  • saroj on September 8, 2009, 10:31 GMT

    Roebuck's piece on national identity to a game is a misfit in the modern way of thinking and playing sports. If national identity was considered essential, we would not have a English Premier League, F1 Grand Prix, Daytona, etc. All these events are participated by citizens of various nations and polity but are show cased to the taste & culture of a particular society.

    The latest entrant is the IPL where you have sworn international foes playing in the same side in an atmosphere that is sub-continental. This is not to say that IPL is a success because of its regional flavor or the skills of the players. Its more than that - the sense of camaraderie, the belonginness of talent, display of excellence in a cultural milieu, etc. I think this was missed out by Roebuck in saying that English players are not English-enough. But pray, how much English is English ?

  • Theena on September 8, 2009, 6:02 GMT

    I consider Roebuck to be a fine writer, but lately his pieces have been heavy on prose gymnastics as opposed to analysis. One such article is the piece in question here. I stopped myself from reading it in entirety because it appeared more lazy than racist.

    Kudos to you, Imran. Lovely work.

  • Ketan on September 8, 2009, 4:39 GMT

    One of the best blogs on Cricinfo...EVER!!! As pointed out earlier, very well-balanced, orderly and honest writing...

  • Chris on September 8, 2009, 1:35 GMT

    I believe you have simply, fundamentally, missed the basic thrust of Roebuck's observations on Asian British cricketers. To state that they are a category independent of the wider British whole is, for the purposes of his analysis, correct, due to the dominance of cricket in ex-colonial Asian societies. What Roebuck bemoaned was the decline in both the quality and quantity of players produced by the traditional sources of English cricketers, to which end he is correct to consider Asian cricketers as an independent group. Cricket, in the UK at large, remains in a decline, relative to the commonwealth, that began in the 1960's; neither the mass popularity nor quality of old has survived it. Since cricket remains the most prominent sport in migrant Asian sub-cultures, Roebuck is correct to treat such cricketers separately from other, equally "British", cricketers.

  • Andre Nash on September 7, 2009, 20:41 GMT

    If England provides opportunities to these communities and brings these players through their national cricket system, why should it not be allowed to harness the benefits from its diversity? Society evolves- as you wrote, Roebuck advocates the sustenance of backward stereotypes rather than wishing to eradicate them.

    I actually feel the success of players like Strauss and Trott is testament to the success of the English system, rather than evidence that it is flawed. A structure that permits a world-class player like Pietersen to flourish, when he was being shut out back in SA by an outdated method of team selection, is one that should be commended, not necessarily criticized.

    What a superb, well-structured piece - you dissect and counter his arguments professionally. Hope to see your work amongst the likes of Dileep P and Mukul K very soon!

  • Said Chaudhry on September 7, 2009, 20:02 GMT

    Great piece Imran. I was waiting for someone to give a fitting response to Roebucks article. Tremendous job here. Roebucks article seemed like it had nothing to do with cricket but more to do with the evolution of English society, and he is glad to be no longer a part of it yet still bitter enough to post articles for the world wide audience. People like him should just stick to their job. Whats more surprising is how cricinfo allows articles such as Roebucks to be published. Good luck & keep writing.

    Said Chaudhry Lahore, Pakistan

  • Henry on September 7, 2009, 16:51 GMT

    An excellent article, but I have to agree with Roebuck, at least for raising some of the points he does rather than the manner in which he did. Of course, there is no absolutely question that non-Caucasians are good at cricket, and should represent England. The question is actually whether white, working/middle class England actually still interested in competing too. We are happy enough to host the games and enjoy congratulating ourselves on producing a winning team, but fewer and fewer of us seem to put in the hard yards necessary to succeed at the top level. Boycott is the quintessential example of how dedication (almost) alone can lead to a successful test career. Fewer and fewer show that dedication now.

  • Neil on September 7, 2009, 15:00 GMT

    To Nicholas, As someone who has lived in Australia for 45 years and the UK for 2 I can assure you that Australians only play cricket from October to March (that's 6 months) and that the majority of Australians like those in the UK "don't define our self worth through sporting achievement alone". The majority of Australians (like the English) are too fat to participate in competitive sport once they're past the age of 25 but (at least the males) do enjoy watching it live or on TV. As for that glorious diversified nation that,"rates achievement in business, academia, art and culture alongside sport" then might I suggest a trip to Anfield or Ibrox Park on a Saturday afternoon. I'm afraid that there aint much "art and academia" on display, just a whole lot of ordinary folk whose culture IS football. I certainly don't think less of them for it. I admire their enthusiasm. At least they're excited about something. I'm afraid I agree with Peter. There is a malaise. It's called "denial".

  • Sriram Dayanand on September 7, 2009, 14:32 GMT

    Eloquently and insightfully written. Terrific piece Imran.

    My thoughts are exactly along the lines of whet Stephen Gelb articulated above. Once again, thanks for this excellent analysis of some certifiable twaddle of the disturbing kind from Roebuck.

  • Nicholas Hughes on September 7, 2009, 9:23 GMT

    Imran, a fine analysis and eloquently put. You should have a column instead of Peter Roebuck. Serioulsy, I've always disliked Mr. Roebuck's vitriol against his native land. He has this half baked theory about the British and Australian cultures but omits two telling points: 1, that Australia is blessed with weather that enables youngsters to play 9 months of the year and 2, that for the majority of the British, we don't define our self worth through sporting achievement alone. As someone who has lived in Australia for 8 years, I experienced first hand the ruthless drive there to succeed in sport. Returning to Britain, I found a diversified nation that rates achievement in business, academia, art and culture alongside sport. There isn't the big national malaise in the UK that Roebuck thinks there is. Australia do well in cricket, rugby and swimming because they put those things high on their list of national priorities as it defines their culture to a large extent.

  • Des Platt on September 7, 2009, 9:10 GMT

    As said by Sir Francis, you are an excellent writer. It is most magnanimous of you to say that Roebuck is a good writer as you are far better.

  • Daniel on September 7, 2009, 8:16 GMT

    Great Article Imran, a suitable reposte to Roebucks rather poorly phrased piece. You have suitably answered almost all of the questions raised by mr Roebuck. I do however wish to comment on the percieved racism. I do not think mr Roebuck has any problem with asians, or south africans, nor is he saying they can't be "English" - what he trying to ask (very badly of course) is why are the majority of talented players coming from the minorities? Where are the Bothams, Gowers, Goochs, Athertons and Stewarts? He is NOT saying that asians etc should be kept out of the team if they are good enough, rather asking whether or why their backgrounds, be is foreign upbringing, or religious/cultural differences has better prepared them for taking their sporting chances than people from more traditionally cricket producing areas? To be fair he has gone about it awfully badly...but it looks to me that he has a point...

  • Srikanth Venkateswaran on September 7, 2009, 5:44 GMT

    Your name is Imran Coomaraswamy from UK? That in itself a confluence of 2 distant cultures at a 3rd place. Dunno what Roebuck would have made out of your origin.

  • BALU RAO on September 7, 2009, 5:05 GMT

    Having read Roebuck regularly for the last 15 years i am convinced that he is not a racist. However, his remarks are extremely out dated.The UK to its credit has made great advances in including players of East Indian and West Indian origin in the county setups for nearly two generations now.If you look at the way Panesar and Saaj Mahmood and Ravi Bopara have exerted themselves for England, the Tebbit test as applied to supporters certainly does not apply to players of non- English origin who have played for England and acquitted themselves well. What Roebuck ought to realise is that the UK and English cricket are changing for the better. In a hundred years time writers will be talking about the 'ENGLISHNESS' of these players in the same way as Ranjitsinghi and his nephew Duleepsinghi have been indelibly etched within the English cricketing landscape.

  • Paul on September 7, 2009, 2:57 GMT

    Roebuck's main problem has always been that he jumps to a quick (and usualy pompous) conclusion based on a small fraction of the facts available and then alters or ignores the rest of the facts in supporting it. Please don't regard anything he says as being representative of the Australian Cricketing public. We dismissed his toadying drivel about the Australian competitive culture years ago. He responded by jumping to racist conclusions about our cricketers and prematurely calling for Ponting's resignation, once again with only partial facts at his disposal, and found himself trying to defend the indefensible and seriously short on friends in his adopted homeland.

  • Yuppie on September 7, 2009, 0:19 GMT

    An excellent article Imran, this needed to be said, and you have said it so well. Roebuck would do well to read this article.

  • Kris on September 6, 2009, 23:51 GMT

    Well said. Great article. You've bought a nice bit of balance to the topic at hand, and avoided some of the sentimentalist potholes that Roebuck has tripped up on of late.

    I agree that Peter Roebuck is anything but a racist, but the article you critique really did exhibit some unthinking twaddle.

  • Jamie Dowling on September 6, 2009, 19:20 GMT

    Top stuff Imran. Looking forward to seeing more of your writings!

  • Tim on September 6, 2009, 13:40 GMT

    Great article (and great comments too). As has been pointed out here, Roebuck writes sentimentalist drivel and reacted in ridiculous fashion to India 2008, but I don't think he particularly likes Australia either. He certainly hasn't thought much of the character of recent Australian sides. It is encouraging to see that his writing is at least being considered critically.

  • Sir Francis on September 6, 2009, 11:51 GMT

    Imran are you a professional writer? If not, you should be. Very well written and argued. Personally I don't consider Roebuck eloquent, merely pompous and he provokes certain things in me but thought isn't one of them. And Jason Smith, not sure you are aware but Australia is an immigrant country. According to the ABS 24% of australian residents were born OS (including my parents). Over 1 million from the UK. And if you go back about 200 years it's around 99%

  • hyder sultan on September 6, 2009, 10:23 GMT

    Imran, you should take up conspiracy theorist as your full time vocation. Seriously, trying to find things which are not there in the article. What a waste of your time and energies. Did all these "friends" of yours promise you favourable comments if you wrote in?

  • Moin on September 6, 2009, 8:16 GMT

    Spot on!

  • Who on September 6, 2009, 7:40 GMT

    To roebuck, one word: Meritocracy, look it up

  • al from rsa on September 6, 2009, 6:38 GMT

    The worst kind of racism is unconscious, and Roebucks article smacks of that. But hardly surprising, considering that Australia is one of the most racist countries on earth right now.

  • Edward Smythe on September 6, 2009, 3:06 GMT

    Very well written, Imran, but I think you miss Peter's point. Peter is belaboring the decline of 'English' society and its reflection in its sporting teams. We can see the same malaise in the council estates and the drunk yobs that stagger down every English street, with even SW1 not being immune to their debilitating effect. Perhaps the only redeeming feature of modern England is that's decline is masked by the contributions of immigrants and their children. While they are as much a part of modern England as the chavs and yobs, they are not 'English' in the sense that they reflect traditions and values that are not native to England, and are in many cases, superior. So what's wrong is toasting the contributions of these people to the game in England, and English society in general? There is, as you mention, a risk of painting them as the 'others', but frankly, why would people who are demonstrably superior want to become part of the herd?

  • Akbar on September 6, 2009, 2:56 GMT

    well said mate, spot on most of the points if not all of them. Roebuck, himself being an occassional columnist on Cicinfo, i would have thought would acknowledge his short comings in regards with the 'referred article' which you have responded to with great clarity.

  • Tommy P on September 6, 2009, 2:06 GMT

    Superb article, Imran. I was recently debating with my father the relative merits of Roebuck's position, as I was particularly taken aback by his refusal to look beyond ethnicity, class and colour. Your critique beautifully articulates the numerous concerns that many readers had with Roebuck's article, without seeking to diminish his significant contribution to cricket journalism. Thanks for producing such a polished response!

  • Patrick on September 6, 2009, 0:04 GMT

    Re Stephen Gelb's comment: You say Roebuck understands the world "if not exclusively, in racial/culturalist terms". It is difficult to consider international cricket outwith such parameters. Essentially a sport of colonialism that never proved the superiority of the colonising race, nor proved the purity of the coloniser, cricket is a sport in the minds of the rest of the world, and a luxury in the minds of the English.

    Name me one team in the history of the game who has gone to another country with four of the six top batsmen having been born in said country and claiming such a team were truly "visiting"? Name me the country which have fielded a team with up to 60% of its lineup born outwith its shores, its backroom staff more familiar with the Mashonaland and Barbados than England's green and pleasant land?

    England as a team functions on its own colonial terms. That such terms have never led to sustained success tells you everything you need to know about the English

  • Adam on September 5, 2009, 23:40 GMT

    I think everyone has read the piece wrong.

    Roebuck is championing the immigrants (wherever they are from) and the effect they have on their children (like Bopara). Roebuck continually takes any opportunity he can ger to take a shot at the "English" and their uselessness. If anything he is attempting to be racist against the Anglo Saxons. He even trys to claim that the only decent "traditional English" are decent because of their Celtic blood.

    I'm an Australian living in Sydney so have been reading him in our Hearald for a very long time now and listening to his radio commentary. Maybe some peolpe now reading him are a bit new to his style and are taking it wrong.

    Also Australia has had completley different immigration patterns to England. Apart from the UK/Ireland and NZ most immigrants have been from China, Vietnam, Middle East, Italy, Greece etc. Not from countries with great cricketing traditions.

  • Martin Atkin on September 5, 2009, 19:26 GMT

    What a superb article. Many congratulations for it's construction. As regards Roebuck, he has always struck me as being a man with a great many chips on his shoulder. My opinion is that, in his mind, life in England offered too many knocks and he just couldn't handle them. Allegations about his private life, never being selected for his country and never really gaining the respect of the English sporting public seem to have turned him against his country of birth. Bigger men would rise above it, not Roebuck.

  • Tim Reston on September 5, 2009, 19:05 GMT

    Excellent piece. Does Roebuck have the b*lls to admit that he made a lot of mistakes and apologise? If not, I will continue to belive that he is indeed a mean-spirited and racist idiot.

  • Kunal Talgeri on September 5, 2009, 18:31 GMT

    Peter Roebuck's analysis was perhaps a contrived way of echoing a concern voiced by Ian Chappell in his column some weeks ago. Chappelli posed a question: "what has happened to the very English art of batting to survive difficult periods?" He cited Ken Barrington, Geoff Boycott and John Edrich in his piece. In my humble opinion, that style of batsmanship exemplified the times in the post-world war II era. And this English team reflects a more global era. Chappell recalled: "In the era of Ken Barrington, Geoff Boycott and John Edrich, survival wasn't a problem." Maybe, Roebuck misses that very trait of English cricket (survival) -- which is fair coming from a former cricketer and current writer who grew in an era post-WW II.

    But Imran, your writing is superb, and the substance very reassuring in this heterogeneous world. Keep writing!

  • Pochard on September 5, 2009, 16:16 GMT

    One of the best Cricinfo blogs I have read to date. Roebuck is probably not a racist, but his article was certainly racially offensive, and very poorly informed regarding modern British culture.

  • Sriram Dayanand on September 5, 2009, 13:07 GMT

    Eloquent and incisive. Great article, Imran. My thoughts on Roebuck have always been exactly what Stephen Gelb mentioned in his comments. Once again, superb piece.

  • RM on September 5, 2009, 12:39 GMT

    Wow! Really terrific.

  • Nick on September 5, 2009, 11:47 GMT

    You have to remember when reading Peter Roebuck's writing about England that he's still obsessed with his conviction for assaulting children in his charge in Somerset - in a devastating judgement, he was described as having assaulted them to satisfy his needs. To him, it seems that it must be the case that either he is an extremely unpleasant individual, or everything to do with England, including its judiciary, is rotten and broken. Given his level of self-regard, that's no choice at all.

  • David on September 5, 2009, 11:08 GMT

    Absolutely spot on. Roebuck used to be a great writer on cricket but he is becoming more florid and purple in his prose as time goes on. Saying that, I don't believe he is a racist, but he is rather patronising at times.

    I am an Australian born English supporter and I think England's ethnic diversity in its team is a sign of strength, not weakness, and is the way things should be, and should be celebrated. I am looking forward to seeing at least one more *Englishman* (who cares where his family come from) adding to Australia's woes next Ashes and showing which nation is more vibrant...Rashid!

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan on September 5, 2009, 9:52 GMT

    Great piece Imran. You've articulated yourself beautifully.

    That aside, the uniqueness of your name must mean that you are the same Imran I met in SL circa 2003/4.

  • Stephen Gelb on September 5, 2009, 8:20 GMT

    Great piece, Imran. Roebuck may not be a racist in the sense of thinking people of colour are inferior. But he understands the world predominantly, if not exclusively, in racial/culturalist terms, and sees race as the only marker of identity - read his pieces on South Africa.

  • anil on September 5, 2009, 7:08 GMT

    Very well articulated, Imran! I mostly enjoy Roebuck's writing, even when he puts out sentimentalist drivel and displays distinct foot-in-the-mouth tendencies (not that he or anyone should care about what I think :)). You seem to have the gift of conveying your opinions without sounding opinionated. Like Roebuck, you love your cricket. Hope you both continue writing!

  • Dunga on September 5, 2009, 6:43 GMT

    Amazingly written piece, Imran. I go through it and I feel mad at Roebuck, I mean if they're English citizens they are English after all! Living in australia, I take a look at my class and there are around 8 chinese people, a vietnamese person, a filipino, two indians, four sri lankans, a greek, someone who I'm sure is hawaiian, a Dutch person and someone who was born in Britain, yet we are all Aussie. But looking at the team, every member seems to fit the whole 'true blue' thing, but would it be a good thing for australian cricket not to select someone of a different ethnicity regardless of playing ability? and wouldn't it be a success of their system if someone comes through and is able to adapt to english conditions, I mean they'll have to be living there for a while. Roebuck's writing has been declining recently, and the ashes piece is a terrific example of that.

  • Gizza on September 5, 2009, 6:29 GMT

    Imran, I understand where you're coming from but I think you misunderstand Peter Roebuck's article. He was attacking (racially or otherwise) South Asian or black cricketers who have played for England. He was only criticising his own ethnic group, the Anglo-Saxons. It is great that the immigrant English are rising through the ranks. But Roebuck also argued that talent among the non-immigrant Poms is diminishing slowly.

    For example, Adil Rashid may be England's first great legspinner. But can u ever imagine a white Pom becoming even a tenth of what Warne was? That would be much more remarkable because Asians (whether in their homeland or away) have a leg-spin culture, which is not present among the Anglos.

    As an Aussie of Indian origin, I can easily tell you that Roebuck is the least racist writer in Australia. Also you missed his more valid point about the Kolpaks. Sorry but Trott and KP aren't English. They are players afraid of being stuck in SA's 2nd XI so they moved to England.

  • warren on September 5, 2009, 5:22 GMT

    Well written! I was considering writing something myself, but now there is no need. I hope Peter Roebuck reads this and takes a pause for introspection.

  • Owen Edwards on September 5, 2009, 3:26 GMT

    Bravo! For all we all might respect the Roe in some respects, that article suggested some sort of temporary possession event by the Chair of the Monday Club.

  • ram on September 5, 2009, 2:43 GMT

    You have all missed the point... The article is not racist or something all of you need to be disconcerted about. what I understood...England as of now have all kinds of ethnicity.. that include first or second asians like Panesar. Their cultural make up makes them really passionate about cricket. That makes them really take up cricket very seriously and try to achieve success at the highest level...

    As far as Africans, basically south African..there are quite a few type... recent, first or second generation. The recent are players like Pietersen. The others include Strauss , Prior, Lamb,Smith etc...Their cultural and mental make up very competitive and hunger for success is very great.. if you put it in simple words.. Players from other parts of UK or world( non test playing) also tend to move to England with th dream to play the game at the highest level... The point Roebuck was making is in all the success of England in the future there wont be much contribution from "English"

  • Russell on September 5, 2009, 0:51 GMT

    First, well written Imran. While Peter Roebuck has some good things to say occasionally he appears to lose the plot.

    Secondly to Jason, what planet do you come from? Australia is and was built on immigrants. How can you suggest we are not used to immigrants when approximately 1.5% of our population every year will be admitted as immigrants. And as for dumping Peter Roebuck in with us he has (I believe) Australian citizneship but he is English born and bred and captained Somerset.

    There is plenty of ethnic talent in Australia and over time it will come through, you have named Khawaja, but there is Moises Henriques, and if you think of the Ashes touring pary there was plenty of non Anglo-Saxon surnames there. Hauritz, Hilfenhaus anyone? While we may not have any ethnically South Asians in our team it will only be a matter of time and is a consequence of patterns of immigration not a pattern of exclusion. One thing Australians like is winning. If you are the best you will be picked

  • Neil on September 4, 2009, 23:49 GMT

    Imran, this is a tremendous piece.I was wondering how long it would take for someone to provide a balanced view of the English scene as I am far away and really have no insight myself. Peter has long championed the idea that the national identity shapes the way a country performs on the cricket field. It permeates quite a bit of his work. I think he drastically overcomplicates the issue although the opposite can be true ie. the way a team performs can impact on its national identity. Cricket is still about 11 individuals performing their allotted tasks ie. fast bowlers bowling at the top of off stump and batsmen choosing the right ball to hit. How else does one explain things like Pakistan being 20-20 champions despite what was happening at home.Peter thinks cricket is far more important than it really is.I'm afraid that I lost faith in his analytical skills after his hysterical response to "the Sydney test" in '08 but his writing is so beautifully worded that he gets away with murder.

  • Anonymous on September 4, 2009, 23:21 GMT

    Wonderful response Imran bhai!i appreciate your thinking and i agree with you on most of the points..

  • Baseer on September 4, 2009, 21:21 GMT

    Wonderful piece, Imran. Kudos mate. What a fitting reply to Roebuck! It seems to me that Roebuck was nothing but upset at Australia losing and trying to find ways to belittle England's win.

    I recall him writing about how England had "no chance of winning" after Headingley. So it was probably a case of expressing frustration after being proved wrong.

    Seems a quintessential trait of all Pommie-bashers. When England lose, its because we are a mediocre bunch but when we win its because our team is made up of 'foreign players'!

  • Rob Steen on September 4, 2009, 17:33 GMT

    Terrific piece Imran. Your points all seem extremely valid to me. The England team reflects the nation, if not necessarily proportionately in terms of strict demographics, then certainly in terms of a multicultural, multi-ethnic state of which I am proud to be a member, for all its downsides. How wonderful it would be were Adil Rashid to become the best-known cricketer in the land. Besides, the only "true Brits" are the Welsh.

  • HChow on September 4, 2009, 16:08 GMT

    Nice little analysis, Mr. Coomaraswamy.

  • Jason Smith on September 4, 2009, 15:44 GMT

    Bravo Imran! Wonderfully written, i was attempting to respond to his article as well, but you put me to shame, and i need not write anything! Roebuck really went down an awful path here. I do not blame him so much, because unlike England, Australians as a majority are not used to immigrants. I am not saying they dont like immigrants, all i am saying is to them anything not anglo-saxan, cannot be English. Too bad Monty and Ravi are as English as anyone. Same with Sajid Mahmood, and many U 19 England Asian players. You just have to go to Australia and see how immensely difficult it is for an ethnic to make their team. Of course they will argue that theres not that much ethnic talent in Australia, but Usman Khawaja is a talent to me. I am sure there are others like him in Grade cricket.

    Only time will tell if Roebucks words come back to bite him. If a player like Khawaja is eventually picked into the National team, perhaps he will feel Australia has lost its "National Unity"

  • Deepak Nair on September 4, 2009, 15:30 GMT

    Really good.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Deepak Nair on September 4, 2009, 15:30 GMT

    Really good.

  • Jason Smith on September 4, 2009, 15:44 GMT

    Bravo Imran! Wonderfully written, i was attempting to respond to his article as well, but you put me to shame, and i need not write anything! Roebuck really went down an awful path here. I do not blame him so much, because unlike England, Australians as a majority are not used to immigrants. I am not saying they dont like immigrants, all i am saying is to them anything not anglo-saxan, cannot be English. Too bad Monty and Ravi are as English as anyone. Same with Sajid Mahmood, and many U 19 England Asian players. You just have to go to Australia and see how immensely difficult it is for an ethnic to make their team. Of course they will argue that theres not that much ethnic talent in Australia, but Usman Khawaja is a talent to me. I am sure there are others like him in Grade cricket.

    Only time will tell if Roebucks words come back to bite him. If a player like Khawaja is eventually picked into the National team, perhaps he will feel Australia has lost its "National Unity"

  • HChow on September 4, 2009, 16:08 GMT

    Nice little analysis, Mr. Coomaraswamy.

  • Rob Steen on September 4, 2009, 17:33 GMT

    Terrific piece Imran. Your points all seem extremely valid to me. The England team reflects the nation, if not necessarily proportionately in terms of strict demographics, then certainly in terms of a multicultural, multi-ethnic state of which I am proud to be a member, for all its downsides. How wonderful it would be were Adil Rashid to become the best-known cricketer in the land. Besides, the only "true Brits" are the Welsh.

  • Baseer on September 4, 2009, 21:21 GMT

    Wonderful piece, Imran. Kudos mate. What a fitting reply to Roebuck! It seems to me that Roebuck was nothing but upset at Australia losing and trying to find ways to belittle England's win.

    I recall him writing about how England had "no chance of winning" after Headingley. So it was probably a case of expressing frustration after being proved wrong.

    Seems a quintessential trait of all Pommie-bashers. When England lose, its because we are a mediocre bunch but when we win its because our team is made up of 'foreign players'!

  • Anonymous on September 4, 2009, 23:21 GMT

    Wonderful response Imran bhai!i appreciate your thinking and i agree with you on most of the points..

  • Neil on September 4, 2009, 23:49 GMT

    Imran, this is a tremendous piece.I was wondering how long it would take for someone to provide a balanced view of the English scene as I am far away and really have no insight myself. Peter has long championed the idea that the national identity shapes the way a country performs on the cricket field. It permeates quite a bit of his work. I think he drastically overcomplicates the issue although the opposite can be true ie. the way a team performs can impact on its national identity. Cricket is still about 11 individuals performing their allotted tasks ie. fast bowlers bowling at the top of off stump and batsmen choosing the right ball to hit. How else does one explain things like Pakistan being 20-20 champions despite what was happening at home.Peter thinks cricket is far more important than it really is.I'm afraid that I lost faith in his analytical skills after his hysterical response to "the Sydney test" in '08 but his writing is so beautifully worded that he gets away with murder.

  • Russell on September 5, 2009, 0:51 GMT

    First, well written Imran. While Peter Roebuck has some good things to say occasionally he appears to lose the plot.

    Secondly to Jason, what planet do you come from? Australia is and was built on immigrants. How can you suggest we are not used to immigrants when approximately 1.5% of our population every year will be admitted as immigrants. And as for dumping Peter Roebuck in with us he has (I believe) Australian citizneship but he is English born and bred and captained Somerset.

    There is plenty of ethnic talent in Australia and over time it will come through, you have named Khawaja, but there is Moises Henriques, and if you think of the Ashes touring pary there was plenty of non Anglo-Saxon surnames there. Hauritz, Hilfenhaus anyone? While we may not have any ethnically South Asians in our team it will only be a matter of time and is a consequence of patterns of immigration not a pattern of exclusion. One thing Australians like is winning. If you are the best you will be picked

  • ram on September 5, 2009, 2:43 GMT

    You have all missed the point... The article is not racist or something all of you need to be disconcerted about. what I understood...England as of now have all kinds of ethnicity.. that include first or second asians like Panesar. Their cultural make up makes them really passionate about cricket. That makes them really take up cricket very seriously and try to achieve success at the highest level...

    As far as Africans, basically south African..there are quite a few type... recent, first or second generation. The recent are players like Pietersen. The others include Strauss , Prior, Lamb,Smith etc...Their cultural and mental make up very competitive and hunger for success is very great.. if you put it in simple words.. Players from other parts of UK or world( non test playing) also tend to move to England with th dream to play the game at the highest level... The point Roebuck was making is in all the success of England in the future there wont be much contribution from "English"

  • Owen Edwards on September 5, 2009, 3:26 GMT

    Bravo! For all we all might respect the Roe in some respects, that article suggested some sort of temporary possession event by the Chair of the Monday Club.