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England cricket

September 10, 2014

Cricket brings out raw emotions

Akshay Loomba


An excitable crowd was heavily in favour of India, England v India, only Twenty20, Edgbaston, September 7, 2014
The majority of the crowd at Edgbaston was behind India © Getty Images
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Many Indian fans have had bad press and the finger pointed at them for booing Moeen Ali. It has brought to the fore a range of issues and strong emotions.

Firstly, I truly believe the booing of Moeen cannot be and is not religiously directed. The Indian crowd cheer with passion for players such as Mohammed Shami, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan and Mohammad Kaif all of who are Muslim. In the stands supporting India are Muslim Indians and in fact India has one of the highest Muslim populations in the world.

When South Africa were playing India in the Champions Trophy last year, when the stands were full of Indian fans and Bharat Army members, there were no boos whatsoever for Hashim Amla who is of Muslim descent so I think the issue is more of the fact Moeen is playing for England which is a big grey area for British-born Asians rather than of his religion.

A lot of fans were upset with Moeen's recent comments challenging the allegiance of British Indians, suggesting British-born Indians should be supporting England. He also unexpectedly went through the Indian batting order in the Test series so was already under the skin of many Indian fans which probably acted as a catalyst in the booing saga.

However, I would be ignorant to say a minority of fans weren't booing purely because he is of Pakistani descent. This should not be condoned in anyway. The reason would stem from the Indo-Pak rivalry in cricket and politics which is a lot more complex and hostile than most people are aware of, although that is no justification and an individual shouldn't be targeted for where they come from regardless of the extent of the rivalry.

Reasoning aside, cheering and booing is part of all sports - what about when Andy Murray was booed by English fans because he is Scottish? - but it should not turn into personal verbal abuse. Bringing it back to Moeen I feel claiming 'racial booing' is jumping to big conclusions for the thousands of non-racists booing last Sunday.

As you are aware the booing wasn't just at Moeen but at Ravi Bopara too, being British Asians we want them to do well against other nations but some fans felt betrayed and made them aware of it, similar to the South Africans booing Kevin Pietersen in 2009.

Indian fans have booed and given stick to Samit Patel in the past about "eating all the Ladoos" (an Indian sweet dish), and although that was unsettling to him and isn't a nice thing to say, he took it well and played along with the crowd.

I remember the Bharat Army crowd in the past singing the song: If you all love India clap your hands and somebody shouted 'Samit clap your hands' and so he clapped his hands and the crowd was more accepting to him after that. I feel the hostility shown in the stands to the players is due to a feeling of betrayal, although I'm sure every single one of them would play for England if they got the call up.

In regards to recent articles of why British born Indians support India over England, most are actually big England fans in all sports and I myself represent England in Kabaddi as well as run the Bharat Army.

Despite this, the vast majority do not support England in cricket because of the general over-reaction to English success and with the big rivalry between England and India in cricket. Many of us see it as our chance to remember our roots and give something back.

India is a place of rich culture and history and many British-born Indians are proud to show this off. Cricket gives them an opportunity to demonstrate through colour, song and dance in the stands. The cricket is a time we can show some patriotism for our ancestral roots and cheer along with the whole family. Whether you are a British-born Indian who has been to India or not, the average Joe in the street would still classify you as an Indian as that is still your identity at face value.

There are a growing number of British-born Indians supporting England and there is a lot of banter in the stands between the two. I feel with future generations there will be more and more English fans who are of Indian descent.

We are in a generation now where our parents or grandparents were born in India and we are born in England so it is a choice many have to make. Growing up I had the choice of Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly or Hussain, Stewart and Caddick: Bharat Army or Barmy Army.

The Bharat Army cannot speak for every single person in the stands last Sunday but some people have pointed the finger at us. The Bharat Army take up half a stand and not all India fans represent the Bharat Army. We are a supporter's organisation that encourages families to join us for a cultured sing and dance in the stands to get behind our team and we have always had a great competitive rivalry with Pakistan and Pakistani fans in the past and we hope to continue this.

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Akshay Loomba is one of the organisers of the Bharat Army in the UK and also represents England in Kabaddi

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Posted by raj on (September 15, 2014, 2:38 GMT)

Well, I can understand 'British Asians' swearing alliagence to their ancestral grass roots. Their title 'British Asians' and not simply British says it all?!! In a way, we can go back to the times of British emperialism in India - I'm sure those British soldiers, diplomats and their kids (even ones born in India) did not consider themselves 'Indian' or did they? Sure, they may have loved the country (even that is doubtful for some) BUT they were still British in blood and mind. If India had been taken cover completely and the British out-numbered the Indians, only then would they have accepted to support India over England - Much in the way that Aus and NZ support their own! When the Indians outnumber all others in England and when they start dominating the ministerial cabinet only then will 'British Indians' form a new identity of their own - Until then, they are still Indians living in England. The writers assessment is absolutely correct, religion has nothing to do with it.

Posted by Kundal on (September 14, 2014, 11:52 GMT)

This person is giving some bizarre justification. Feeling betrayed! For what? Representing your country? Moeen and Bopara are English citizens and are representing their country. These people are doing disservice to British Asian cricketers who are representing and those who dream of representing their country. Such so called cricket lovers should have been thrown out of the ground.

Posted by Adhitya on (September 14, 2014, 9:22 GMT)

The writer started by saying something and completely moved away from it. He still hasn't given a reason as to why they were booing Moeen.

A chance to connect to their roots etc. all seems fine but being a British Asian themselves, they should be able to connect to Moeen & Bops better as they are one amongst them. Moeen & Bops would have had similar emotions too. They should be able to connect to them and back them. Booing them was absolutely unacceptable and no excuse shall be accepted.

Posted by Dummy4 on (September 13, 2014, 8:43 GMT)

'Moeen is playing for England which is a big grey area for British-born Asians rather than of his religion'.

Thus spake Akshay Loomba. Surely British born Asians should surely be cheering on the England cricket team Ashkay, as it is the country of their birth especially as a lot of them may be second or third generation English. Moeen Ali is English therefore he plays for England. End of.

Posted by Lourens on (September 12, 2014, 21:24 GMT)

If you want to support India then encourage their players. There is a huge difference between supporting India as team and booing an opposition player. Booing is just a form of bullying someone who cant hit back. It is about the character of the person watching and supporting the game. And I am a South African who have always been proud of KP, even when performing against South Africa. So no double standards here.

Posted by xxxxxxxx on (September 12, 2014, 9:37 GMT)

"Cricket brings out raw emotions". True, but more to the point ....... mobs bring out the most base behaviour. Anyone who has witnessed rioting (e.g. the London riots of 2011) may well agree.

Posted by Zain on (September 12, 2014, 9:04 GMT)

The comparisons to South Africans booing Kevin Pietersen are specious.

KP was born in South Africa. Played franchise cricket in South Africa. Moved to England when he was in his twenties and then played international cricket there. Moeen Ali was born in England. Schooled in England. Learnt how to play cricket in England. Then played cricket for England, his country. Who did he betray?

Note: I'm NOT condoning the booing of KP - that was also wrong because he should be allowed to play for whomever he pleases (if they want him). I'm just pointing out that the two cases are quite different.

Posted by chris on (September 12, 2014, 1:24 GMT)

how can you feel betrayed when Moeen is born and raised in England and is English? that is the worst argument i have heard to play down the disgraceful behaviour of these Fans. Credit to Moeen for not making a big deal of this and i wish him all the success as and english bowler.

Posted by Stuart on (September 11, 2014, 21:00 GMT)

'Felt betrayed' by Bopara and Mooen? Absolutely ludicrous and pathetic to claim that as some sort of defence. How were tgey betrayed? By two people who were born in England, grew up in England and played for their country? What nonsense.

Posted by haris on (September 11, 2014, 16:26 GMT)

Racism and disrepute to a sportsmen due to it is never encouraged by anyone. There is no justification to it as it remains intentional whenever performed either by fans from anywhere around the world. Those who think there is a justification should play a match in a crowded ground and listen to the echos that reverberate around the ground knowing that its against them and then play according to the plan they've been assigned.

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