I play cricket when I can in the summer. I play in the third division. The third division of three that is, which should give you some indication of my prowess with leather and willow. This kind of cricket is mercurial- sometime we win easily, at other times we are brushed aside. One good performance is often enough to make the difference.
We played yesterday away to a team in Glasgow- mostly young kids, on a capricious artificial surface and we lost badly, unable to cope with accurate bowling and horribly uneven bounce. I say all this by way of context, because I wanted to write about something else…
The team we played yesterday were all from an Asian background. They were a lovely bunch of folks, and we ended up playing two matches, as our first left time and energy for more. The start of the second match was staggered as half the opposing team were at prayer.
One of the things that is quite unavoidable if you spend any time around the sometimes excessively laddish culture of West of Scotland cricket clubs is something that shocked me the first time I came across it- naked overt, sometimes aggressive racism. The league has clamped down hard on this, but it remains, although I am proud to say that this is something we would not tolerate in the club I play for. But you hear it shadows all the time; “They’ are taking over.” “Tell them to speak English.” “There is not one white person on this team.” “Tell them to get back to where they came from.”
There are lots of reasons why some otherwise decent people see the cricket world through these kind of goggles but it is pretty unpleasant. I usually try to remind people that without the passion and commitment of Asian players, grass roots cricket in Scotland and perhaps the UK would be really struggling. I suggest that of course people like to play in teams with their mates, people who quite literally ‘speak their language’. However, this casual racism has little to do with cricket. The attitudes forced out in to the open by pressure of competition and club rivalry are ones that have been fostered within our wider culture, fed by Facebook memes and Daily Mail headlines.
Us and Them.
What is Mine, taken by them.
They get an easy ride because of Political Correctness. Houses, benefits, the NHS.
They smell different, think differently to us.
They are less than we, and should know their place.
The corrosive nature of this kind of thinking is so hard to shift. I often feel inadequate, as if I am complicit in something that diminishes me- it diminishes us all. I abhor a world in which Trump can build walls, but there are other walls that may be harder to knock down much closer to home.
I was reminded of this by listening to a song by one of my favourite bands- Lau. The song is one called Ghosts. It reminds us that we are all immigrants. We all came from somewhere. Where we are is a place of meeting, not one of ownership.
Ghosts, playing cricket. There is a thought… Some Ghosts play better than others.
Here is the song.