England’s cricketers are well-known for their spinelessness on the field. Now they have gained the same reputation for their actions off it.
After getting drubbed five-nil by their Indian hosts in the recent one-day series, the Englishmen returned home early from their tour, following last week’s terror attack on Mumbai. What wonderful guests! They are now apparently awaiting the conclusions of a security report before deciding whether to return for the scheduled two Test matches.
Do England’s cricketers, and their management, really need reminding that it was only three years ago that bombs were going off on London‘s Underground and buses? Islamic terrorism is not a problem affecting only India. The Englishmen should have shown solidarity with their hosts, rather than acting as if what happened had nothing to do with them.
The cancer of Islamic extremism is not going to go away any time soon. It will affect the lives of the children and grandchildren of Kevin Pietersen, England’s cricket captain, no less than those of our own. This cowardly retreat sends out all the wrong messages, not in cricketing terms, but in human ones.
Australia’s cricketers continued with their Ashes tour, in the summer of 2005, after 52 people – as a proportion of the UK population, a far higher number than last week’s fatalities – had been murdered, by four British Muslims, on London’s transport system.
I don’t put this difference down to some brave streak in the Australian national character, but rather to the patronising attitude towards “the Subcontinent”. If such a terror attack had occurred during a tour of Australia or New Zealand, the Englishmen would still be out there. And, if it had happened during an Aussie tour of India, they would have acted no differently than the Poms.
The discomfort of the white “Anglo” on “the Subcontinent” was perhaps best illustrated by English cricket great, Ian Botham, who, after returning home early from a 1984 tour of Pakistan, said it was “the kind of place to send your mother-in-law for a month, all expenses paid”.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be at all surprised by the actions of professional sportsmen, the prime motivation of whom, these days, would appear to be the next fat pay cheque.
It would be so wonderful however if, just for once, they showed the public – the ones who, ultimately, pay their obscene salaries – that they are not completely disconnected from the rest of us mere mortals. England’s cricketers, by staying put and doing what they are being paid so (ridiculously) well to do, would then have been sending a message to the Godless murderers that they, like us, will not cower in the face of Evil.
But, following the spineless retreat of the England cricketers in their hosts’ hours of need, many Indians – even cricket fans – might not welcome them back. And Israelis – knowing better than most the value of moral support at such times (and, also, more than their fair share of tour cancellations) – would understand them.