Asian Cricket Awards 2014: Moeen Ali award makes British Asian cricket right at home

Ali was named the Asian Cricketer of the Year

Click to follow
The Independent Online

English cricket enjoyed some reprieve from the storm of the Kevin Pietersen affair and celebrated something positive this week when the inaugural Asian Cricket Awards took place at Lord’s.

After the Pietersen revelations, some of English cricket’s leading administrators and players temporarily put their troubles behind them to recognise the contribution British Asians have made to the game.

Worcestershire’s Moeen Ali was named the Asian Cricketer of the Year while 10 others were rewarded for their hard work and commitment to developing the game within the British Asian and wider community.

Moeen said: “Asians throughout the UK make an enormous contribution to all aspects of the game. It’s great to see their input celebrated in such a positive way at the home of cricket.”

The awards are backed by the England and Wales Cricket Board, which is keen to show that British Asian cricket is prospering and is now part of the game’s mainstream. According to some reports, Asians make up almost 40 per cent of players and officials at grassroots level, making cricket the country’s most ethnically diverse sport.

When it comes to support for the England team, however, the picture is not as rosy. During the summer’s one-day international at Edgbaston in September Moeen was booed by sections of India fans. While his family claimed that it was because of his Pakistani heritage, it prompted debate once again about why British Asians back their country of ancestry rather than England when it comes to cricket.

Other notable British Asian players who have been abused over the years include the former England captain Nasser Hussain, who received a lifetime achievement award at Tuesday’s ceremony, Essex batsman Ravi Bopara and bowler Sajid Mahmood.

Ironically, Lord Tebbit, the architect of the “cricket test” when he questioned the loyalty of British Asian cricket fans to the country 24 years ago, has emerged as one of the most high-profile supporters of the awards, claiming times have changed.

The former Conservative Party chairman said: “In recent years, British Asian players have again given us some of that swashbuckling style of play which the crowds are willing to pay to watch. Not only that, but it encourages the generations of British-born Asians to feel part of the nation.”

One of the most noticeable features of this summer’s India tour was the number of young British Asians who supported England. Even at that Edgbaston one-day match, there was a considerable number of them backing Alastair Cook’s team, with the Birmingham contingent applauding Moeen, who was born in the city.

Within many British Asian families, there is a significant generational shift as youngsters unscarred by 1970s and 1980s racism and free of cricket’s colonial baggage throw their lot in with England.

Baljit Rihal, co-organiser of the Asian Cricket Awards, said: “The ECB have been doing some fantastic work within Asian communities and, with cricketers like Moeen Ali breaking into the England team, you are already getting more Asian youngsters who are proud to support England.”