A major discipline of the Commonwealth, cricket is a real religion in Pakistan. In France, this batting sport, which has approximately 950 licensees and 38 affiliated clubs, remains largely unknown. Despite the lack of infrastructure and notoriety, the Pakistani community has retained the passion for this sport. Whether they are members of the first generation of immigrants, French people from the second generation or new migrants who have just arrived, the “Pakistanis” have cricket deeply in their bodies.
THE COMMUNITY IN BLOSSOM
Born in France, Sheraz Araf is a 20-year-old student in preparation for HEC in Paris. His parents settled in 1989 in Saint-Denis, coming from Lahore, in the province of Punjab. The young man has “bathed” from an early age in the world of cricket. An occasional player, he expresses an overflowing enthusiasm when it comes to talking about the sport. “In France, we have the vision of a very complicated sport. But even if the rules are more complex than those of football, cricket is very affordable and deserves recognition”, he ignites. And Sheraz to evoke with passion the last Twenty20 World Cup won by Pakistan in June 2009 in England. “At first, no one believed in it. The team had been playing less for a year and a half because it could no longer host international matches for security reasons. As the victories progressed, the community began to erupt The evening of the victorious semi-final against South Africa, the text messages circulated and the restaurants were packed rue Jarry in the 10e district in particular (a district where the community from the Indian subcontinent is strongly established)“he recalls.
A UNITING FACTOR
Reza Abbas, 22 and former captain of the France team, wanted to experience the event on site: “With my father, we attended the final in London. He spent almost 2,000 euros for it. Tickets were selling between 500 and 900 pounds (550 to 1,000 euros). When you know that many Pakistanis in London are workers…” And the anecdotes abound. “During the World Cup in Australia in 2007, my father stayed up from 3 a.m. until 8 a.m. to follow the matches and before going to work”, proudly evokes Reza. For the student of visual neuroscience, cricket is a real “religion” in Pakistan. “It is above all. Cricket unites all the people of Pakistan beyond different ethnicities and languages. It transcends regional identities as only religion does”, says Reza. It is even possible to detect the origin of the players by physical and technical characteristics, according to the former resident of the Parisian club PUC. “For example, Punjabis are famous for being great fast bowlers. Wasim Akram, one of the greatest bowlers in history, is from Punjab as is 17-year-old new star Mohammed Aamer.”
If the cricket virus has been transmitted to generations born in France, the attributes are necessarily modified. “We learned about cricket mainly on TV. It’s not a sport that you play easily on the street. My parents played cricket in Pakistan like we play football here”, describes Sheraz. As a result, young French people have a different technique. “We tend to use rationality too much in our game. When I play, I have a more English technique”, explains Sheraz. He specifies : “As a batsman, I use ‘feet movement’, meaning I follow the ball and move my supporting leg forward before impact. The later immigrants brought with them the culture of They practice ‘eye contact’, which is a more instinctive and relaxed way of hitting the ball. As a result, these players hit the ball very easily at very long distances.”he marvels.
Finally, the practice of cricket in France, outside or inside official structures, is a fairly effective factor in the cohesion of the various communities from the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc.). “We have something in common which makes it possible to forget the rivalries that may exist on the spot and which are politically manipulated”analyzes Sheraz. “When I was still playing at the PUC, the team included Pakistanis, Sri Lankans but also a player from Zimbabwe, English, an Australian and a few French”, confirms Reza Abbas. And on weekends, it is not uncommon for Sunday players to meet on the lawns of the Bois de Boulogne, Vincennes or in the Parc de La Courneuve. “It’s an opportunity to talk, meet and eat together. In short, cricket offers real moments of solidarity”concludes the former French international.