No Asian influence at Headingley

A thought-provoking letter at The Times giving a possible explanation to the lack of Pakistanis at Headingley (indeed, at each three grounds roughout this series). I’m pasting it here in full for posterity. In full at the paper’s website – thoughts very welcome.

Sir, Your article “Yorkshire upset as the Asian invasion fails to materialise” (Aug 5) attempted to explain the poor turnout of “Asian” cricket fans at the first day of the Headingley Test. The usual arguments were rehearsed — the problems of racism in sport, particularly in Yorkshire, and the apparent preference for one-day contests among those of South Asian heritage.
Having endured the second day of the Test in the West Stand on Saturday, another obvious explanation sprung to mind. Within about 30 minutes of the Pakistan batting session, a large proportion of those around us had obviously lost interest in the cricket and seemed more amused by tearing up sections of tabloid papers and flinging them on to the pitch during Mexican waves. Just in front of us, heavily built, alcohol-fuelled, shaven-headed men hurled abuse and expletives at the stewards. Although the usual costumed posses of young men were a spectacle, the overall impression was one of Grange Hill on a Friday afternoon. The only difference was that most secondary school children tend to have a more developed attention span.

The childlike behaviour of the crowd may or may not have explained the glaring lack of interest in Pakistan’s brilliant batting in the afternoon. It certainly made concentration on the game well nigh impossible. More seriously, it was a situation that would probably be very intimidating and discouraging for those who do not drink alcohol.

The cult status of Monty Panesar might seem to be a mark of how British society is now comfortable with its diversity, but English, Welsh and Scottish sport continues to expose pugnacious and belligerent tendencies reminiscent of earlier eras. One day, perhaps we will be rid of them.

Lecturer in Indian History
University of Leeds

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