The perspicacious George Orwell, who foresaw what the world would become, did not think of sport in romantic terms. He famously dubbed sport as "war minus the shooting" because he believed serious sport has nothing to do with fair play and that "it is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence".
India-Pakistan cricket does not necessarily fit Orwell’s description even if it rouses a certain frisson that has been hyped up considerably to market these games as gladiatorial contests. It is a pity then that the passions flowing out of high-pressure matches between the great Asian rivals in Dubai should generate such tensions as to lead to communalism striking Leicester in England where the communities have been living in peace, if not total harmony, for decades.
The 18 per cent Muslim population and 13 per cent Hindu population seem to have ruffled the peace of the other two-thirds of the people. The villain of the piece as communal tensions rocked the central England city were the usual suspects in the form of the social media that spread rumours faster than Asia’s quick bowlers. Fuelled by false posts of mosques overrun by hordes, a temple was vandalised and official India had to register its protest with the British foreign office.
The UK police seem to have handled the simmering situation with tact since the troubles began after India beat Pakistan in a close game on August 28 in the Asia Cup, before Pakistan returned the compliment by beating India in the Super league. Neither team is a world beater that they may have been in past years, but the players participated without any rancour in the two encounters.
The arrests of almost 50 troublemakers from both communities in Leicester suggests an even-handed management of the situation. Cricket might have been the trigger but not quite the culprit here. The fear is what the canker of communalism can do to a diverse society in which the common grouse of migrants had so far had more to do with the racism they encounter. Religious differences usually bring the worst out of the men on either side of the divide and the right thinking always pray that the combatants see reason.