I take back all the criticism I had of the England cricket team having so many ‘overseas players’. Whilst I have never liked the qualification rules that enable people who aren’t English to play cricket for England, the penny has finally dropped. More than any other current sporting team, our cricketers better reflect our society than almost any other sport.
Why was I so stupid? There I have been, celebrating the diversity of our great country in the face of increasing racism and xenophobia following the EU referendum vote of 2016 and there, right in front of me, was a perfect illustration of it.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the hard right anti-Europe politician, tweeted that the England cricket team didn’t need Europe to win the trophy. Why on earth he thought it mattered, I will never know, yet he was wrong about that, too. England’s captain Eoin Morgan is a Dubliner, something which the MP for the 19th century should surely have known. As the comedian Jimmy Cricket (one for the kids, there) might have said, there’s more.
England’s star batsman Jason Roy comes from South Africa. Star all rounder Ben Stokes came from New Zealand. Star fast bowler Jofra Archer comes from Barbados. Star spin bowler Adil Rashid is the son of a Pakistani migrant. Did anyone at Lords look like they cared too much about this? This is how Britain looks and, if the truth be known, it is how it has always looked.
I am from Norwegian and Dutch stock. I’m more ‘foreign’ than English. I am proud of my ancestry at the same time as being unequivocally English. The realisation has come rather late to me that our cricketers are English, too.
I’m genuinely sorry for the nonsense I have come out with over the years, doubting the ‘English credentials’ of some sportsmen and women. That, I now understand, was the little Englander in me, that touch of Farage that infected me without me even noticing.
Farage was at Lords yesterday, cheering on the efforts of our diverse England cricket team. I am sure the irony was entirely lost on him, as he strives to turn the country into the white man’s paradise the hard right always dream about. When he reflects, he will probably be devastated.
The diversity of the England cricket team reflects the country we live in, with everyone working together to make it better. Their world cup victory showed what we can do when we set aside hate and loathing. And, after three miserable years, we now have something positive about our country to celebrate. At least for a short while.