India Uncut

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The chosen outsider?

Mike Brearley examines England's love for their newest folk hero, Monty Panesar:
Monty and Manuel [the waiter in Fawlty Towers] are both from cultures that are foreign to the majority, yet both are cult heroes. In feeling so affectionate towards them, are we also compensating for our prejudices? In falling in love with the chosen outsider, do we thus make a convenient exception? I've heard people say if all blacks/foreigners/ East Europeans/Indians, etc were like 'him' there'd be no problem.

So the racism or xenophobia stays intact, while the person chosen as the exception becomes a more than honorary Englishman, whose name is turned from Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, to dear old Monty (with the Panesar pronunciation anglicised). But this may be cynical and pessimistic; perhaps the popular attitude to Panesar humanises and moderates other more paranoid feelings. I'm not sure.
I'm not sure either. Maybe we just like Monty because he's likable. Or maybe it's because he's damn good at his primary job -- bowling left-arm spin -- and as inept as us at others (like fielding and batting; Cricinfo's Andrew Miller made a similar suggestion in an audio feature I did with him here). Whatever the case may be, he's endearing across countries, and I'd taken to him (1, 2, 3) before I'd even seen him bowl. Long may he thrive, and misfield.

(Link via email from Manish.)
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