Diversity drives England to World Cup glory

Diversity drives England to World Cup glory

FLAVOURS OF UNITY: (Clockwise from top left): England skipper Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy, Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Tom Curran and Jofra Archer hail from non-English backgrounds but have contributed to England’s success in world cricket. AFP/ reuters

When England won their last and only ICC event before their Sunday’s coronation as the 50-over World champions, Eoin Morgan was at the non-striker’s end with his skipper Paul Collingwood providing finishing touches to the chase against Australia in the 2010 World T20 final in Barbados.

In that moment of glory, it’s unlikely Morgan would have dreamed of a day when he would be leading England -- his adopted country -- to a World Cup triumph but that's exactly what has happened after nine years with the Dublin-born southpaw becoming the first England captain to lift the World Cup trophy.

There is also a distinct similarity to the two English victories. On both occasions, England’s team composition reflects the multiethnicity of the country. People from different backgrounds, language, culture and nationalities coming together to shape the team, just as they are helping drive the country forward.

In 2010, the top three batsmen – Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen – were all born in South Africa with Morgan having just migrated from Ireland. Ravi Bopara of Indian descent too was in the mix. Pietersen was the chief architect of England’s title win and was adjudged the player of the tournament while Kieswetter was the man of the final for his 49-ball-63 in a chase of 148. Morgan himself stood third in the top run-makers’ list behind Pietersen (248) and Kieswetter (222) for England. Lumb was the fourth highest run-getter with 137.

Cut to the present, the non-English presence has only increased, just as England’s stock in limited-overs cricket. Jason Roy and Tom Curran were born in South Africa, Ben Stokes in New Zealand, Jofra Archer in Barbados, Moeen Ali’s father migrated from what is now referred to as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Adil Rashid has Pakistani ancestry. Including Morgan, England has seven players who come from non-English backdrop, constituting almost 50 per cent of the current squad.

While Roy, Archer and Stokes had a major role to play in England’s maiden World Cup success, others too played their part at various stages of the tournament with Morgan helming the diverse team.

“We had Allah with us as well,” said Morgan when asked if an Irishman’s luck got England over the line. “I spoke to Adil, he said Allah was definitely with us. I said we had the rub of the green (smiling). It actually epitomises our team. Quite diverse backgrounds and cultures and guys grow up in different countries and to actually find humour in the situation we were in at times was pretty cool,” he remarked.

There are many reasons for England cricket team’s multi-culture look which you are unlikely to find in the country’s other team sports like football or rugby. Football has always been Englishmen’s foremost passion, attracting thousands of kids and youth alike towards it. Then there is rugby and other Olympic sports. Cricket isn’t among the top of favourites’ list though it has a history unrivalled by any other sport in England.

Even as less and less Englishmen are taking to the game, the presence of a large Asian community, across big cities, is helping England bridge that gap. Today, if you go to a park or a ground where cricket is being played, you will largely see Asian kids taking part in it – whether it’s a serious practice or just for recreational purpose.

The increasing South African presence is because of the lack of opportunities in that country due to the quota system. Each team sport has to have a certain number of coloured players in the mix to meet the country’s affirmative policy which is forcing the white talent to migrate to different countries, and cricketers generally look to England due to its less complicated assimilation process. England are indeed benefitting by these migrations, but at the same time, South Africa’s talent is draining which is reflected in the Proteas’ dwindling fortunes in cricket. 

While that’s a topic for another day, England cricket authorities are now hoping Sunday’s historic triumph will help improve the profile of the game in the country. And a humdinger of a final will certainly go a long way towards that cause.

“I certainly hope participation levels go up or continue to rise. I think the nature in which the game was played today was absolutely outstanding,” Morgan said.