England’s cricket World Cup win is for everyone, regardless of skin colour or sports kit

England cricketers embrace as they celebrate winning the ICC World Cup 2019
Yesterday’s historic World Cup win for England was a watershed moment in how Britain’s diverse communities will relate (Picture: Nick Potts/PA)

Sports and philanthropy are natural partners, especially at the national level. When a country does well at a sporting event, it can lead to positive social change, and even open up a new conversation about what it means to belong to that nation.

I feel like yesterday’s historic World Cup win for England was a watershed moment in how Britain’s diverse communities will relate not only to cricket, but to each other.

The team was a picture of modern Britain: the World Cup went to England, but the talent had heritage from around the world. The England cricket team, then, is a lot like Britain itself: a global enterprise under a national flag.

As Brexit forces us to constantly ask ourselves what it will mean to be British (and particularly English) in the future, it’s an image that will join Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding as an inspiring ideal of what the future may hold.

Cricket has been a focal point for questions of national loyalty since I was a schoolboy. In 1990, Conservative MP Norman Tebbit coined the ‘cricket test’: the idea that the children of Caribbean and South Asian immigrants were not sufficiently British if they supported the countries of their heritage, rather than England, in Cricket matches.

Fast forward a generation, and the world has been turned upside down. England has achieved unprecedented national glory precisely because those children of Caribbean and South Asian immigrants have excelled in the national cricket team.

It seems that it is not the immigrants that have been failing the cricket test, but parts of Middle England.

England cricketers Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler about to embrace
I have many friends who, like some of the fans on our TV screens yesterday, own the national colours of more than one country. (Picture: Stu Forster-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Many of those ethnic minority fans cheering the national team in England kits yesterday were, just weeks ago, wearing the shirts of India or Pakistan.

The charity I’ve founded has toured the UK with the Pakistan cricket team and I’ve seen how much support they have here. But what if national pride, just like citizenship, is not a case of either/or? I have many friends who, like some of the fans on our TV screens yesterday, own the national colours of more than one country. This isn’t strange; this is the new normal.

Dare I say that many of the approximately 60,000 UK-resident Kiwis would have experienced a mix of happiness and disappointment whatever the result yesterday.

To question their national loyalty would be bizarre – perhaps because they are mostly white, perhaps because New Zealand is seen as Britain’s cousin, not its little helper.

It is precisely because sport is something that ignites such deep passions that we need to make it as inclusive as possible. Sport and the social good go hand in hand.

Women’s football has in recent years done so much to inspire women and girls around the world, but especially in the UK and the USA.

The Williams sisters have changed tennis for good, ushering in a new generation of assertive and unapologetic female players. Mo Salah has single-handedly led to a reduction in Islamophobia, that is even backed up by evidence: Stanford University found an 18.9 per cent drop in anti-Muslim hate crimes in Merseyside in the period since Salah signed for Liverpool in June 2017.

So the England cricket team’s multiculturalism is just the latest in the new trend of sports activism that is sweeping the country and the world.

I hope that the millions of kids growing up in a Britain that is experiencing record levels of hate crime will have watched the celebrations yesterday and felt as much a part of it as their white school friends.

Sporting success is great, but the biggest prize for any society is making everyone feel at home, whatever the colours on their sports kit – or their skin.

MORE: England’s cricket team celebrate in style after their dramatic World Cup final win over New Zealand

MORE: Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss explain why England picked Jofra Archer for World Cup final super over

MORE: Cricket legends react to England becoming World Cup champions

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