(I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled to be drawn into the cricket wars but it would be amiss of me to overlook it at this juncture, especially with the appointment of Lord Kamlesh Patel as the new chairman, following the resignation of Lord Hutton.)
Ah cricket.. I’m shocked, SHOCKED that it would become so mired in allegations of institutional racism this far down the line when it has been a racist colonial endeavour from its very conception. It’s a trigger for me, for sure. My granddad loved it, along with snooker and spaghetti westerns, which contrasted heavily with his white beard and kurta. I’m still trying to figure him out, 15 years after his death. He was glued to every tournament, from the Ashes to the Asia cup, it didn’t matter if Pakistan were playing, he loved the sport down to his very bones. That said, when Pakistan did play, the entire household got involved. Granddad promised us a Bounty chocolate each, and he was so happy I wanted it to go on forever, and so we prayed to God, let Pakistan win this time, just this once, please, oh God, oh God, OH GOD. When Pakistan beat England in the 1992 world cup we buzzed around the living room as if we’d invaded the grounds, pogoing in sheer rapture, a kind of psychotic break if I’m honest, we weren’t used to this much happiness, we weren’t allowed to lose ourselves in any given moment. “Don’t laugh so hard lest you cry” was the family motto so it was a rare treat to feel so intensely. True to his word, he went out and bought those Bounty bars. I had foolishly thought we could ride that wave of jubilation and let it pour into other areas of our lives but I was mistaken. There was a crash following the high and it left me utterly confused. Perhaps granddad had felt ashamed at letting himself get so carried away. Perhaps he had celebrated as if India hadn’t fallen in that last mutiny, and the comedown reminded him of the truth.
I’m pleased to have lived through Pakistan’s finest moment. In the 30 years since, I see it for the tiny speck of victory it was in a many hundreds years long battle for legitimacy from underneath the heel of our white supremacist colonial oppressors. Pakistan is a country that never wins, not in sport or any other area on the world stage. You can be racist to Pakistanis, you can be Islamophobic and for the most part the rest of the world allows it. When Pakistan loses, they are faced with death threats, leaving team members suicidal because this is not just a game but a battle for recognition. If you win, they’ll make you the prime minister. Imagine England doing the same? This is the legacy of the British empire, without which Pakistan wouldn’t even exist. Cricket is another way of reminding Pakistanis of their place in the world.
It is why the appointment of a British Indian, in response to allegations of racism, is particularly intriguing because England loves to divide Indian and Pakistanis and actively uses the former as a shield against allegations of racism “can’t be racist if you like some poc”. I’ve seen it so many times, actors and singers make a film with or even marry another kind of minority, perhaps one that follows the same religion, or drinks the same kind of whisky.. because racism isn’t just about the colour of your skin, but about how much of your own culture you hold on to. For some racists, they’re happy so long as you look, think and eat like them. They’ve evolved past the colour of our skin, because sometimes it’s pretty and they covet it. Racism is as much about the erasure of our cultures, and appropriation as it is the tone of our skin.
Right wing Indians believe in white supremacy. They drink alcohol, eat pork, and promote inequality as their religious right. I’m not sure which way Patel leans but I have to question the motivations of the selection committee. As I’ve said previously there are 3 kinds of white people. I don’t think the administration of a cricket club are the 1/3 I ally myself with, or the 1/3 vociferously acting out against foreigners, they are the remaining 1/3 who believe they are not racist but most definitely are. They can be manipulated by the likes of Nike into acting like they are anti racist but then their actions leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth because of the collage of other incidents reaching far back into history whereby the white administration uses Indians to subjugate the rest whilst appearing to do the right thing.
Only time will tell I guess.
(PS: Imagine if famous cricketers, and other personalities, had backed us up 10 years ago when we were being vilified by the mainstream press for calling racism out. You might erase me but I take full credit for this, for opening up that dialogue and making sure none of them were untouchable. Remember how upset they’d get when we’d just say ‘white people’? My job is done.)