Diverse and talented, England cricket champs come from afar
LONDON (AP) — The captain of the team was born on the outskirts of Dublin.
The man of the match in the final was born and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The guy entrusted to bowl the most crucial over of a spine-tingling day at Lord's? He was born in Barbados.
And the player whose pinpoint throw helped get the team over the line in perhaps the most dramatic one-day game of cricket ever was born in South Africa.
And then there was the sight of two players with Pakistani heritage, jumping about together on the winner's rostrum.
England won the Cricket World Cup on Sunday with a team rich in talent but also cultural diversity, at a time when the country is facing socio-political challenges as it tries to leave the European Union.
It was something England captain Eoin Morgan, the Irishman who was first to get his hands on the sport's most prized trophy, alluded to when discussing how his side had finally won the World Cup for the first time.
Asked if England enjoyed the so-called "luck of the Irish" on its way to beating New Zealand at Lord's, Morgan said: "We had Allah with us, as well."
He was referring to a post-match conversation he had with Adil Rashid, England's Muslim legspin bowler.
"I spoke to Adil. He said Allah was definitely with us," Morgan said. "It actually epitomizes our team. Quite diverse backgrounds and cultures and guys growing up in different countries."
Moeen Ali, also a spinner, is the other England player with Pakistani ancestry. He said England's players made "adjustments" to make sure the team felt like a family.
"It doesn't matter where you come from or what you believe in," Moeen said in his column in the Guardian newspaper, "if you can come together with a common purpose — in our case winning the World Cup — and you show courage, unity and respect (our team mantra) you can achieve anything.
"Respect is having respect for the people you play with and against, and respect for the shirt. Unity is about sticking together but also uniting the country. That was always the bigger cause for us, not just the cricket."
England's World Cup win — broadcast on free-to-air television in Britain and watched by a peak audience of 8.3 million people — was savored by the country at large, making the front-page headlines in the newspapers and dominating the TV news channels on Monday. Queen Elizabeth II sent a congratulatory message.
Next-day celebrations were focused on the next generation, with hundreds of fans and schoolchildren greeting the England players at a celebratory reception at The Oval, a cricket ground across London from Lord's. Youngsters swarmed around Morgan, New Zealand-born Ben Stokes — the man of the match in the final — and Barbados-born Jofra Archer, wanting to touch the World Cup trophy.
The team then traveled to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street.
In an address to fans when opening the Cricket World Cup, Prince Harry gave a ringing endorsement of Britain's diversity, saying the 10 competing nations "will feel as though they are competing in front of a home crowd every time they take to the field."
Fans from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, in particular, came out in force for their teams, making for a wonderful atmosphere at many matches around the country.
The tournament had a fitting final, won by a team admired for cricketing and cultural reasons.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80