Why I choose to fail the ‘Tebbit test’: Sunni Upal

Why do so many British-born Asians choose to follow the country of their roots rather than the country of their birth? Why do these Asians choose to fail the so-called ‘Tebbit test’?

I’m a Brit, with a British passport, who speaks English, follows football passionately, enjoys England winning in any sport, and watching darts. But allow me to try to explain why I support India.

Unlike former England bowler Min Patel, who was born in India and supported India before playing for England, I support India even though I was born in England. It has to be said, though, that I’m also a fan of British sport, which means I cheer for Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in Formula One and hope that Andy Murray wins Wimbledon.

Passion for cricket in India, however, is unrivalled. Fans flock in to see their heroes play a sport which is like a religion. The last day of the opening Test between England and India at Lord’s was a case in point: despite England being in the ascendancy the majority of the spectators who flocked to the ground to take up the ECB’s offer of adult tickets at just £20 each were Indian.

This passion was also evident in the Indian version of Sports Illustrated earlier this year. The March edition was a special World Cup preview issue, and its cover had a picture of MS Dhoni in a suit frowning at the camera. The text was emotional in tone: ‘One Team, One Dream, One India’; ‘Destiny’s Child – Showtime For Dhoni’s India’.

This World Cup issue had 160 pages of dedicated coverage. Some double-page spreads had no more than a few stats on one of India’s players with wonderful images of locals playing cricket in the village or town that the particular player featured comes from.

I feel quite privileged that I can understand and follow both English and Indian cricket. I suppose the best possible explanation for supporting India is because they’re not very good at anything else. I’m used to seeing England have success in world sport which I enjoy because I’m English. But when I see India play cricket, I see passionate fans of the same religion as me and the same skin colour and so I just engage better than I do with English cricket.

In truth, moreover, it’s hard to engage with English cricket because most spectators go to cricket for a day out with quite a few beers. But I’m a fan of sport. Even when darts is on, I enjoy the contest whereas the crowd seem to enjoy the bar. When it comes to football, English fans follow it like Indians follow cricket, like a religion. Which means, I have to reluctantly admit, that I would probably support England if there was ever a football match between the two. Thankfully, India aren’t any good!

For me, England v India is the best cricketing experience there is. Sourav Ganguly’s shirt-flinging on the Lord’s balcony in 2002, Yuvraj’s six sixes in the first World Twenty20, Robin Uthappa’s nerves of steel at The Oval in 2007 and, most recently, England scrambling a single from the last ball of a group match to earn a World Cup tie. As we have already witnessed at both the Lord’s and Trent Bridge Tests, this current series was bound to provide more wonderful England-India moments.

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One Response to Why I choose to fail the ‘Tebbit test’: Sunni Upal

  1. Craig Burley says:

    No one needs any reason at all to choose to support any cricketers they like, be they a club or a national side. None. Any reason and no reason are all perfectly sane and acceptable. Anyone pretending otherwise simply doesn’t understand what it is to be a fan of sport.

    So while I am happy for Sunni (or any other Englishman) to support India, I wish no one felt the need to ask people to explain themselves.

    As for the odious ‘Tebbit Test’ I’d like to echo what I heard the other day that resonated with me. It’s a test we ask West Indians and East Indians to pass. We don’t ask Aussies, Kiwis or South Africans to do the same.

    I find that telling.