The thousands of cricket fans who have travelled from India and members of the Indian diaspora across the UK who had already bought the bulk of the tickets for the ICC Cricket World Cup final on Sunday are widely expected to cheer on the England team. Lord Tebbit, a former Conservative Party chairman, had devised his infamous Cricket Test concept in the 1990s as a sign of dubious loyalties displayed by immigrants because they failed to back England in a cricket game. He had recently claimed that the test was "far from outdated".
Indian-origin peer Lord Jitesh Gadhia questioned the continuing relevance of the test famously set by Tebbit, which required immigrants to show loyalty to the English team over teams from their countries of origin. The Indian-origin peer who has clashed with Tebbit over his so-called "Cricket Test" of immigrant loyalty towards Britain over their countries of origin said the England versus New Zealand match at Lord's Cricket Ground in London will put the debate to rest once and for all when the Indian diaspora turns out in swathes in favour of England.
"The vast majority of Indian fans, together with the diaspora community, will be cheering on England to beat New Zealand. It will also provide just deserts for India's semi-final loss against the Kiwis at Old Trafford," said Gadhia, who believes the official Team India supporters' group of Bharat Army will also take on shades of multiple identities. "The impromptu 'Bharat Blighty Army' will put to bed the outdated Tebbit Cricket Test once and for all, showing that it is possible to have multiple identities and still be patriotic to your home country," Gadhia said.
Bharat Army, the official Indian team fan club, itself is marking its 20th anniversary this year and has been organising a series of events to celebrate the World Cup in England. While India's loss in the semi-finals to New Zealand was described as "heart-breaking", their enthusiasm for the game remains strong. "With the Bharat Army starting during the 1999 World Cup in England, it has come round a full circle 20 years later now that the World Cup is back in the UK," a Bharat Army spokesperson said.
According to the International Cricket Council (ICC), around 135,000 people have bought tickets for the World Cup. While nearly 50 per cent is supporters of the host nation England, 37 per cent have declared themselves fans of one of the five Asian nations in the tournament – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. "During summer, we see a much bigger number coming in due to the seasonal increase in travel, and this certainly appears to be even higher due to the cricket this year. An average is hard to say, but during peak (eg April-July) it is usually 100-150 per cent higher than off-peak (eg November-January)," a spokesperson for the British High Commission (BHC) in New Delhi said.
Georgina Warren, Head of City Events and Experience at London & Partners, the Mayor's official promotional agency for London, said that the British capital playing host to many of the matches and the World Cup finals has been a great boost for the city this year. "The feel-good atmosphere of the tournament can be felt throughout the city, as once again London has shown the world how it stages outstanding sporting events that are exciting, inclusive and world-class," said Warren.
The entire area of St. John's Wood around Lord's Cricket Ground in north-west London has been attracting swathes of Indian tourists and cricket fans throughout the tournament. "Given that we are a stone's throw away from Lord's Cricket Ground, this is a great way to celebrate the summer season and we've been delighted to host those popping in either before or after the cricket," said Beth Harding, General Manager of The Ivy restaurant at St John's Wood.
"This summer we've been serving up a limited edition, cricket-inspired menu, including, our 'LBW' dessert," he said.
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