This project set out to explore why cricket was so popular amongst the South Asian heritage countries and whether people from those countries coming to England had any impact on their participation. The project also wanted to examine whether those people of South Asian heritage born in England would continue to have the same interest in cricket or would their interests be shaped by living in England .
The results showed that popularity in cricket amongst people living in South Asian countries stemmed from a historical interest in the game. From the introduction of cricket in South Asia during the Raj, cricket was one of the sports that was encouraged and it took hold within the South Asian countries.
Subsequently, the sport became a national pastime and media coverage of cricket in South Asia could rival the coverage given to football in England . The cricket players in South Asia were celebrities and everyone who played the sport wanted to be like their hero’s.
The sport also offered people living in popular a chance to earn a good living and have the opportunity to travel the world.
From the 1950’s onwards, a number of people from South Asian countries came to England . Initially, conditions were harsh and people worked long hours to make ends meet. In their spare time, some of the people organised themselves and played cricket in local parks on an informal basis. After a while, they discovered that local leagues operated in the Parks and through enquiries, a group of friends formed teams and entered the local ‘Park’ cricket league.
The inclusive nature of Park leagues (no ground was required, as everyone played in the Park pitches) meant that a significant number of South Asians could continue playing cricket in a formal way, thus keeping their tradition of playing the sport going.
Cricket clubs which operated from their own grounds and often situated on the outskirts of the town did not attract many South Asians, due to Language, cultural and transport barriers.
The ‘Park’ leagues prospered in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as mostly first generation South Asians made up more and more teams in the league.
The children of those first generation South Asians were introduced to cricket as it was part of British Asian culture and many continued to play the sport.
During the 1990’s, as the first generation began to get older, fewer teams survived in the Park leagues, as the second and third generation British Asians either joined mainstream cricket clubs or played other sports or often just played in the streets and with friends on an informal basis.
The last ten years has also seen a shift from cricket being the most popular sport amongst British Asian males to football. This is clearly a reflection of British culture, where football is the most popular sport and coverage of it far exceeds any other sport.
When the interviews were undertaken with the second/third generation young people, this came out clearly.
However, cricket is still popular and whilst the Preston Park league has folded, the number of British Asians playing cricket in mainstream cricket clubs has increased and so too has the numbers playing for County and national sides.
Red Rose sports Club had three players who went to the Lancashire under 17s trials this year.
So the answer to the question, does the participation in cricket show the integration od south Asian people in England ?
According to this project it does. The second and third generation young Asians are following the patterns of the wider British young person, although with the influence of the first generation, their interest in cricket has remained. In years to come, it seems that participation in cricket will mirror that of the wider British population and once again show that whilst the first generation were South Asians the succeeding generations (whether they realise it or not) are becoming British with South Asian heritage.