The political journalist Peter Oborne recently published an article entitled England’s South Africans are on a sticky wicket (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/9477566/Englands-South-Africans-are-on-a-sticky-wicket.html). In it he addressed the question of whether South Africans playing for England could be anything other than self-serving mercenaries. Here are the most pertinent quotes from the article:
“Pietersen is the latest white South African to use his selection for the England cricket team to promote his personal ambitions. In particular, his behaviour is startlingly similar to the conduct of Tony Greig, who came to England to play cricket in the Seventies, a time when South Africa was banned from world sport because of apartheid. Like Pietersen, Greig was a model English cricketer for as long as it suited him.
“Like Pietersen, Greig was a mercenary. But Greig’s conduct was worse than Pietersen’s because, for a long time, he enjoyed the greatest accolade an English cricketer can receive – the national captaincy. He then used that position to become the recruiting sergeant for Kerry Packer’s international circus, the Seventies version of the Indian Premier League, for which Kevin Pietersen has already played.
“The conduct of Greig, Pietersen and (to a less egregious extent) Lamb raises an urgent question: is it possible to be born and brought up as a South African and give your full loyalty to England? I believe not. Nationality is not just a matter of convenience. It is a matter of identity. Kevin Pietersen may have chosen to come to Britain. But his attitudes and his cast of mind were formed in South Africa. Ultimately, Pietersen has not much idea of what it means to be British.
“Playing for England at any sport is not just about professionalism, it is about national pride. All great England cricketers – from Len Hutton to Andrew Strauss, who notably moved from South Africa to England aged six – have known that deep down they are also ambassadors for their country. This idea seems to baffle Pietersen, as it did Greig.”
Oborne’s article was prompted by the behaviour of a South African Kevin Pietersen who has thrown in his lot with England for whom he has played for many years. This season England are playing South Africa in England. It is alleged that Pietersen sent texts to the South African team being abusive about the England captain Andrew Strauss and suggesting ways of dismissing Strauss when he is batting. Pietersen was dropped for the Test match which followed the allegations and has refused to reveal content of the suspect texts.
England’s South Africans are on a sticky wicket and the response of the media, politicians and the cricketing world to it are of particular interest to me. In 1995 a well known mainstream sports magazine Wisden Cricket Monthly (WCM)published an article of mine entitled Is it in the blood? This dealt with precisely the same question Oborne addressed, namely, exactly what can it mean to a player who is of one nationality to play in a national sporting side of another country? A copy of the article as I submitted it to WCM is below this article. The editor made some alterations and chose the title Is it in the blood?
The response of the mainstream media, cricket players and hierarchy and politicians to my article was very different to the treatment Oborne’s piece engendered. He has received virtually no censure from media, players and politicians, while I became the subject of a sustained hate campaign by the press and broadcast media, politicians and cricketers both past and present. Tens of thousands of words and hours of broadcasting were devoted to abusing me to which I was denied any opportunity to reply, even by WCM, whose then editor David Frith got in a panic after his management had forbidden the publication of anything else by me. To add insult to injury, Frith published pages of criticism of me in the WCM edition following my article and put the cherry on the cake by denying in that issue of the magazine that he shared my view that foreigners should not be employed by the England side, despite having written to me expressing his agreement with what I had written before the publication of Is it in the blood?
To add to the contemptible nature of my treatment, none of the considerable number of cricketing journalists who had written to me supporting my views after I circulated the article in manuscript form before WCM published it came out in my support. One, Matthew Engel, then editor of the Wisden Crcketer’s Almanack, wrote a Guardian column in which he denied having ever having heard of me despite having written to me a few months before its publication congratulating me on my article. Further details of the affair and some of the letters I received from Frith and various journalists are at http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/is-it-in-the-blood-and-the-hypocrisy-of-the-media/.
After publication several England cricketers of West Indian ancestry – Devon Malcom, Philip DeFreitus and Chris Lewis – raised writs for libel against WCM relating to the article. This was despite being told by counsel employed by the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) that there was no libel in the article. Remarkably for a libel suit, they did not sue me, the author. This though strange was perhaps unsurprising, because I had made it clear to WCM that if I was sued I would take the case to the floor of a court. Put that fact together with the opinion of the PCA counsel that no libel had been committed and it is plausible that the plaintiffs left me out of the libel suits because they did not want their case tested in court. Why did they issue writs if that was the case? The most obvious explanation is they believed WCM would admit the libel for reasons of political correctness – the owner of the the magazine was Jean-Paul Getty who was energetically trying to ingratiate himself with the British great and the good – and settle out of court. If that was their reasoning, it was correct. WCM settled all cases before they came to court.
Why the difference in response to Osborne and me? The obvious explanation is that Oborne comes from within the magic circle of the mainstream media and is protected by that, while I was outside it and unprotected. But there are other possible reasons. As is the universal fashion these days with mainstream media types, Oborne attempted to wrap his political incorrectness in a politically correct covering. To this end he came up with the curious idea that white South Africans who have thrown in their lot with England in the post-apartheid era are betraying their country, viz:
“But we should not be surprised that Pietersen has let England down. Arguably, he did the same to South Africa, the country where he was born and brought up. Pietersen is privileged to be among the first generation of sportsmen to come from the new, multi-racial South Africa created by Nelson Mandela. The South African cricketers on the field at Lord’s today, whether black or coloured or white, have been loyal to Mandela’s South Africa. They have done their best to make Mandela’s vision work. Pietersen chose to walk away.”
I say a curious idea, because in an act reeking excruciatingly of irony post-Apartheid South African cricket introduced racial quotas. These required a number of non-white cricketers to be in teams in South African domestic first class competitions and in the South African national side. The consequence was the sidelining of white South Africa cricketers. It was this enforced lack of opportunity which was the reason given by Pietersen when he left South Africa and threw his lot in with England. Presumably Oborne thinks that a white South African cricketer’s loyalty would have been shown by meekly accepting the racially dictated discrimination against him.
To the politically correct wrapping can be added the fact that Oborne does not extend his doubts about how foreigners can be assimilated into an England side beyond South Africans and white South Africans only at that. What could be more exciting for the modern British liberal than the idea of white South African mercenaries – a phrase guaranteed to set liberal hearts into overdrive – betraying the man they worship as Saint Mandela?
The restriction of Oborne’s comments top South Africans would be absurd. If a born and bred South African cannot understand English culture or be in any meaningful sense English, the same must logically apply to any player of any nationality who has come to England once their childhood is either over or largely spent. Moreover, if cultural imprinting is what is all important in Oborne’s eyes, then even players born here but raised in ethnic minority communities which deliberately keep themselves separate from the English mainstream are placed in much the same position as the foreigner who arrives here as an adult.
At the least, by questioning the position of various white South Africans Oborne has implicitly questioned the position of any other foreign player employed by England who came to England with their childhood almost or wholly spent. Is it in the blood? did not shirk the broader questions as Oborne has done. It raised the question of national identity regardless of where an immigrant came from and considered the position of ethnic minorities growing up in Britain. My article asked people to address the general question of national identity directly: Oborne’s tried to evade the general issue, albeit unsuccessfully, because cricket or sport generally cannot be divorced from society at large.
It is also true that politics moves on. Political correctness may be more pervasive and ruthlessly enforced in Britain now than in 1995, but it has also become more nuanced. In 1995 political correctness as it related to race had no shades of grey. Blacks and Asians from wherever they came were given blanket protection by the politically correct and even immigrant whites had a large degree of protection because by the 1990s racism had been extended to include differences in ethnicity and nationality as well as race.
By the time Is it in the blood? was published discussion of English national identity was effectively excluded from public debate. These days the liberal elite have cottoned onto the need to provide some outlet for English tribal feelings – vide the bogus British patriotism of the Olympics and elite attempts to control and redefine Englishness to fit the multicultural template, for example, Tony Blair’s English Icons project. This involved the selection of a series of supposedly English Icons by a politically correct panel with the public invited to vote on which should become an official English Icon. However, even the manipulation of the choice of prospective Icons through their selection by a politically biased panel proved insufficient for the politically correct ends of the project and the politically correct choices of the Notting Hill Carnival and Brick Lane were chosen as official English Icons even though they garnered very few votes. This was done to ensure that blacks (Notting Hill Carnival) and Asians (Brick Lane) were represented amongst the Icons. (http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/english-icons-an-exercise-in-anglophobic-nulabour-propaganda/)
This shift to a politically correct version of Englishness means that the subject of English identity, however fraudulently, is in play so Oborne’s comments about South Africans can be accommodated by liberals comfortably in a way that they could not be in the 1990s.
In the case of Pietersen we do not need to guess at how he views himself when playing for England. The Australian opener Ed Cowan in his book In the Firing Line recounts how during the lunch interval of a match in which both Pietersen and Cowan were playing Pietersen looked at the lunch deserts and ‘asked with expletive inserted, what one of them was. Cowan told him that, as it was the very English bread and butter pudding, he should really know. “I’m not ——- English, Eddie,” replied Pietersen. “I am South African, I just work here.”’ (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/counties/8874839/Tasmania-batsman-Ed-Cowan-eloquently-expresses-the-average-cricketers-lot-in-his-brave-new-book.html). So there you have it.
It is difficult to see how anyone brought up in a foreign country can think of themselves as anything other than a member of that society or, at least, as belonging to an ethnic or racial group within that society. To suggest anyone can feel patriotism for another country is nonsensical because patriotism is engendered through the cultural imprinting in childhood, imprinting which includes being unquestioningly accepted as a member of the national tribe. Anyone employed by a national team other than his own may give their conscious best, but he (or she) can never have the additional goad to excellence and effort of patriotic feeling.
The difficulty of assimilation is illustrated by the black England footballer John Barnes who came to England at the age of 15 (http://www.football-england.com/john_barnes.html). Here are a few quotes from his autobiography:
I am fortunate my England career is now complete so I don’t have to sound patriotic any more.(P69)
I loathe the fact that the England team embody and foster nationalism. I feel both Jamaican and English. I’ve lived in England longer than I spent in Kingston but my roots are all Jamaican. I feel more Jamaican than English because I’m black. A lot of black people born in England feel more Jamaican than English because they are not accepted in the land of their birth on account of their colour, but they are not approved of in Jamaica because they speak with a funny accent. I am accepted in Jamaica because I was raised there and my father is respected across the island. (P 71)
Was I more patriotic for England than I would have been for Scotland? No. To keep everyone happy throughout my international career, I always said that my only choice was England because England is where I settled, but that wasn’t true. (p72)
When I played for England, I could never declare that nationalism is loathsome and illogical. I couldn’t say that if I played for France, I would try just as hard, which I would. I tried hard for England out of professional pride not patriotism – because I never felt any. (P72)
Barnes was undoubtedly a very talented player at club level but he rarely played as well for England. Judged by the comments quoted above that may have been because he did not feel part of the team in the same way he would have felt when playing for a club side. Indeed, it would not be unreasonable to ask why he played for England if he felt that way about England in particular or nationalism in general. The obvious venal answer is it enhanced his career and earning capacity.
There is also the effect that Barnes had on his England teammates. Again his autobiography is very revealing:
“None of my England team-mates ever questioned patriotism as I did. Overtly patriotic players would talk about how much they wanted to play in Italy or Spain. Now the Premiership has metamorphosed into the ‘in’ place, the same players are probably happy to stay at home. I didn’t mind them talking about patriotism~in terms of wanting to win matches, to be proud of playing for England. But when we sat around talking on England trips, l stirred up arguments by saying, ‘It’s impossible to be prouder of being English than French. England as a country is not better than France. England’s sense of superiority is irrational.’ I don’t know how that went down with Terry Butcher or Stuart Pearce. (P72)
Scarcely team building.
Why do national teams matter?
Why does this this matter? There are two reasons. The first is the national sporting side as a focus of national feeling, something of especial importance to England which, unlike the other parts of the UK or many undevolved foreign states, has no Parliament or Government of her own to provide a focus of national feeling and expression. In societies where politically correct elites attempt to dilute national homogeneity support for national sides is often the only avenue left to express national feeling, although even here the elites’ attempt to control and manipulate this by re-defining nationality in multicultural terms and going into paroxysms of delight when a national side becomes filled with ethnic minorities and immigrants.
The second reason is as fundamental as it is possible to be. What applies to national sporting sides applies with knobs on to the general state of a society. In England barely a week goes by without the mainstream media pushing a story about ethnic minority complaints alleging that the English are racist and the institutions of the country institutionally racist. The most serious riots in England in the past 35 years have had their roots in black and Asian antagonism towards English society, most recently the August 2011 riots which anyone with functioning eyes could see from the very extensive media coverage and private YouTube recordings were black instigated and dominated.
The idea that ethnic and racial minorities in England are as imprinted with English culture and mores as the native white population strains credulity a long way past breaking point. A strong sense of victimhood exists naturally amongst those who feel outside the societal mainstream and this is fed incessantly by the politically correct elite of the country who pass laws enshrining political correctness in matters of race and ethnicity. In addition, the elite ever more ruthlessly suppress native English dissent. All of this widens the natural divide between the native English and ethnic and racial minorities in England.
The British elite have created a fractured England with their incontinent encouragement and permitting of mass immigration. The extent to which an article in a specialist cricketing magazine about the selection of the England cricket team could cause rage and panic amongst them demonstrates exactly how fearful the British elite are when it comes to someone challenging the received politically correct opinion on race, ethnicity, immigration and Englishness. They know that if there was ever honest and regular public debate about these subjects they would be held responsible for the most fundamental act of treason any person can commit: the permitting of mass immigration of those who cannot or will not assimilate.
I sent this letter for publication to the Telegraph in response to Oborne’s article but it was not published:
In his England’s South Africans are on a sticky wicket Peter Oborne asks this question about Kevin Pietersen: “is it possible to be born and brought up as a South African and give your full loyalty to England? I believe not. Nationality is not just a matter of convenience. It is a matter of identity. Kevin Pietersen may have chosen to come to Britain. But his attitudes and his cast of mind were formed in South Africa. Ultimately, Pietersen has not much idea of what it means to be British. ”
This is precisely the point I made in my July 1995 Wisden Cricket Monthly (WCM) article Is it in the blood? That article produced a media hate campaign against me to which I was allowed no reply, not even by WCM. Mr Oborne’s strictures about born and bred South Africans apply equally to any other nationality . By definition you cannot feel patriotism for that which is foreign to you. The only way to become imbued with patriotism is to grow up in a society in which you are accepted unreservedly as a member of that society.
England’s constant employment of foreigners in national sides makes a mockery of national representation. It is high time it was stopped.
Below is the unedited version of an article published in edited form as “Is it in the blood?” in Wisden Cricket Monthly in July 1995. The title was the editor’s. I submitted it under the title of “Racism and national identity.”
Two letters in the May WCM touched felicitously (because both subjects are long overdue for honest discussion) upon the related topics of racism and national identity in cricket.
James Singh raised the question of discrimination by West Indian negroes against Asians and whites while Chanaka Wijeratne queried my point in ‘Bad selection – a case study’ (WCM April) that the employment of foreigners in the England team is detrimental per se because such players cannot have the same commitment as native born and bred players.
Mr Singh asks ‘…why is the Nelsonian eye adopted where the policy of the West Indies Cricket Board has been blacks only for 15-17 years?’ The answer is twofold. Firstly, those who control the first class cricket of the white Test playing nations are drawn from the liberal elites which dominate public life in England, Australia and New Zealand (or are people who pay lip service to the liberal elites’ ideology for reasons of expediency), with the result that only one public line on racism in cricket is tolerated, namely that only whites may be racist. Secondly, none of the non-white Test playing nations has clean hands in this matter and, consequently, each has every reason to remain silent. In matters of race, cricketing politics exactly mirrors that of mainstream politics, both national and international.
How justified is Mr Singh’s particular complaint against the West Indies? Well, since the appointment of the first negro, Frank Worrell, to the (regular) captaincy in 1960, the participation of white and Asian players has steadily diminished – in the case of whites it might be truer to say definitely ended. Geoffrey Greenidge was the last white player to represent the West Indies (in 1972) and, until the recent employment of Chanderpaul and Dhanraj, no player with Asian connections played after Larry Gomes’ final appearance in 1986. Nor is this decline simply at Test level. The current Wisden shows no white and only two players of Asian descent (Chanderpaul and Dhanraj) in the Red Stripe averages for the 1993-94 season. (It would be most interesting to know when the last white man played in the Red Stripe). The explanation commonly given by apologists for the lack of white and Asian players in the West Indies – that economic circumstances have changed forcing Asian and white cricketers to concentrate on their careers rather than cricket – is very implausible. Are we to believe that there are no gifted white and few gifted Asian cricketers from wealthy West Indian homes? Is it to be assumed that every talented white cricketer and most Asian cricketers in the West Indies finds a worthwhile career outside cricket? Frankly, it beggars belief.
In truth racial and cultural discrimination by coloured peoples has been the racism which dare not speak its name for rather longer than Mr Singh imagines. It has also stretched far beyond the West Indies. How many non-Muslims have played for Pakistan or Tamils for Sri Lanka? Precious few in either case. How many untouchables have played for India? Why do Indians and Pakistanis of mixed white/Asian ancestry find it so difficult to succeed? Nor can the white Test playing nations be wholly exonerated of the charge of racism for Australia has no ASian players in its Test side despite a generation of heavy Asian settlement (or, indeed, any Aborigines), while Maori involvement in the New Zealand first class game has been sparse until very recently.
Doubtless in each case there are good sociological reasons for the failure of these various ethnic groups to participate largely or at all in first class cricket. But equally, the old, white dominated South Africa could claim good sociological reasons for the exclusion of non-whites, indeed perhaps better, for there the power holders were a minority who felt threatened by a majority (in all the other instances cited above, the reverse is the case).
The question the cricketing world should answer, but almost certainly will not, is brutally simple. If South Africa was wrong to discriminate on grounds of race and culture, why should matches be tolerated between other cricketing nations which do not have clean racial hands? Frankly, I do not think that there is any reasonable, practical or unhypocritical answer which would permit most international cricket to continue so widespread is the practice of racially or culturally determined selection. Nor can I see things changing radically in the future because the importance of the composition of national sporting sides in mixed societies – particularly in the Third World – reaches far beyond the games themselves, going as it does to the very root of racial divisions and hatreds. However, the cricketing world should at least acknowledge the existence of double standards in this matter. Mr Wijeratne’s complaint concerned my querying of the instinctive patriotism (and its concomitant visceral commitment) of the ex-patriot West Indians, Australians and Southern Africans employed in the recent Ashes touring party. He admits that the white immigrants might fall into my category ‘of those not culturally English’, but then goes on to claim that ‘such criticism must be hurtful to the likes of DeFreitas and Ramprakash.’ Interestingly, he does not mention Malcolm who came to England at roughly the same age as Smith and Hick.
If I were to take the coward’s way, I could point out that DeFreitas came to England at quite an advanced age (I think twelve or thirteen) and consequently does not fall into the category of those born and bred here. I could say of course I was not referring to Ramprakash (as I did not in the article) because he was born and bred here. But those ould be weasel words.
To reinforce my point about those players aspiring to play for England who were raised wholly or in large part outside Britain, let me simply quote Mathew Engel in the 1995 Wisden: “It cannot be irrelevant to England’s long term failures that so many of their recent Test players were either born overseas and/or spent their formative years as citizens of other countries. In the heat of Test cricket, there is a difference between a cohesive team with a common goal, and a coalition of individuals whose major ambitions are for themselves…There is a vast difference between wanting to play Test cricket and wanting to play Test cricket for England.”
But what of those players raised solely or largely in England? Well, liberals tell us this should not matter one whit. An Asian or negro raised in England will, according to the liberal, feel exactly the same pride and identification with the place as a white man. The reality is somewhat different. Consider the case of Nasser Hussain . In an interview with Rob Steen published in the Daily Telegraph 1 he said ‘If anyone asks about my nationality, I’m proud to say ‘Indian’, but I’ve never given any thought to playing for India. In cricketing terms I’m English.’ Mr Hussain has an English mother. He has lived in this country since he was six. He attended an English public school and an English university. Of all the England qualified players with negro or Asian blood currently playing county cricket, he might be thought to have had the best chance of a full integration into English life. Yet here we have him saying that he is proud to describe himself as Indian. I do not criticise Mr Hussain or any other player of foreign ancestry for feeling this way. It is an entirely natural thing to wish to retain one’s racial/cultural identity. Moreover, the energetic public promotion of “multiculturalism” in England has actively encouraged such expressions of independence.
However, with such an attitude, and whatever his professional pride as a cricketer, it is difficult to believe that Mr Hussain has any sense of wanting to play above himself simply because he is playing for England. From what, after all, could such a feeling derive? If Mr Hussain has such a lack of sentimental regard for the country which nurtured him, how much less reason have those without even one English parent or any of his educational advantages to feel a deep, unquestioning commitment to England. Norman Tebbit’s cricket test is as pertinent for players as it is for spectators.
It is even possible that part of a coloured England qualified player rejoices in seeing England humiliated, perhaps subconsciously, because of post imperial myths of oppression and exploitation. An article in the August 1991 edition of WCM entitled ‘England’s Caribbean Heritage’ by Clayton Goodwin, a white English journalist with particularly pronounced Caribbean sympathies, lends credence to such a view. Mr Goodwin argues that children born in this country of West Indian parents do not feel part of English society and, consequently, tend to identify only with sporting heroes who share their own physical race – significantly, no white or Asian sporting figure supported by this group is mentioned in the article, although many negroes are. A few quotes will give the flavour:-
“Naturally those West Indians who came as immigrants have a nostalgic respect for their ‘home’ region – longing for the lost ‘good old days’ is not solely the white man’s preserve. Their children, humiliated and made to feel inferior in every aspect of their day-to-day life, will relish the chance of using the success of others sharing the same physical attribute [blackness] for which they are downgraded to show, however vicariously, that they do have worth.”
“You can’t blame the put-upon black people of Britain for feeling similar justifiable pride when Viv Richards and his team, who in other circumstances might be regarded as ‘second class citizens’ like themselves, have put one over their detractors.”
“The youth of Peckham, Brixton, Pitsmoor and the Broadwater Farm would want any of Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Michael Watson or Herol Graham, black Britons who have grown up among them and shared their social experience, to beat the Jamaican middleweight boxer Malcolm MaCallum if the opportunity should arise.”
“The ethnic majority [the white population] are not aware of how isolated and shut out from the national cricket game the black population is made to feel. That is not solely to question why Surrey have included only one regular black player, Monte Lynch…” [In fact, England qualified players of West Indian parentage are well represented in County cricket having more than 6% of places on County staffs, a percentage well above their share of the national population].
Having, I think, accurately described the generally resentful and separatist mentality of the West Indian descended population in England – doubters should cast their minds back to the riots of the eighties, take a stroll around Brixton, Deptford, Hackney, Moss Side, St Pauls et al and think of Haringey cricket college which has had few if any white members – Mr Goodwin goes on to claim that “…surely nobody would doubt that the players [England caps of West Indian ancestry] are proud to represent England.” Exactly why he is so confident of their pride is unclear. There would seem to be no obvious reason why players such as DeFreitas and Lewis should not share the mentality he ascribes to the general West Indian derived population. At the very least, it is difficult to see how playing for England could be anything more (as Mathew Engel claims) than a means of personal advancement and achievement for players of West Indian ancestry. Of what else could they logically be proud if, as Mr Goodwin claims, they feel excluded from and humiliated by English society?
The obverse of the commitment coin is the effect the interlopers have on the unequivocally English players and consequently on team spirit. The common experience of mixed groups makes it immensely difficult to accept that a changing room comprised of say six Englishmen, two West Indians, two Southern Africans and a New Zealander is going to develop the same camaraderie as eleven unequivocal Englishmen.
The problem for the England selectors is perhaps that of England as a nation. For thirty years or more those with authority in education, assisted by politicians and those in the mass media, have conspired, in the sociological sense of creating a climate of opinion, to produce a public ideology designed to remove any sense of pride or sense of place in the hearts of those who are unequivocally English. This propaganda has not been entirely successful, but it has had a profound effect on the national self-confidence of many Englishmen. Indeed, perhaps even some of the unequivocally English players lack a sufficient sense of pride in playing for England. (All the more reason to ensure that the team is unequivocally English so that the majority can infect any fainthearts with their pride.)
In summary, the essence of my case against Mr Wijeratne is that for a man to feel the pull of ‘cricketing patriotism’ he must be so imbued with a sense of cultural belonging, that it is second nature to go beyond the call of duty, to give that little bit extra. All the England players whom I would describe as foreigners, may well be trying at a conscious level, but is that desire to succeed instinctive, a matter of biology? There lies the heart of the matter.