The fact that five of the 14 West Indian players named
for the first Test match against India beginning on
Friday are of Indian descent is the culmination of a
remarkable trend that first began over 50 years back.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dinesh
Ramdhin, Dave Mohammed and Daren Ganga are keeping up
a glorious tradition started by left arm spinner Sonny
Ramadhin in 1950.
Ramadhin with fellow-spinner Alf Valentine bowled the
West Indies to their first series victory in England.
He was also the first cricketer of Indian
descent, locally known as East Indians, to represent the
Their ancestors had been shipped to the Caribbean from
villages in India, mostly from Bihar and Uttar
Pradesh, by the British as indentured labourers.
This was really a euphemism for slavery which by then
had been legally abolished. But they were forced to
work in the sugarcane fields of Guyana Trinidad and
Tobago in the most oppressive of conditions. Treated
like second-class citizens at best, these East
Indians, who never forgot their roots back home worked
their way to the top of society by sheer dint of hard
work and sacrifice.
The most famous of their ilk is of course Nobel Prize
winning novelist Sir Vidia (VS) Naipul from Trinidad
while many others have risen to positions of eminence
in politics, even leading their adopted countries.
It was the first visit of the Indian team to the West
Indies in 1953 that electrified the East Indian
community across the island nations and inspired many
to take to cricket. The East Indians found in
cricket a means to make a name for themselves
The team, led by Vijay Hazare
surprised one and all by losing just one of the five
Test matches. Further, they were widely considered as
the finest fielding side to visit the shores.
Ivan Madray, Joe Solomon and Rohan Kanhai followed
Ramadhin into the West Indian team and it was finally
in 1973 that Kanhai became the first from his
community to lead the side. He was followed five years
later by Alvin Kallicharan. Before Brian Lara took
over the captaincy for the third time last month,
Chanderpaul was the captain.
Once Viv Richards assumed the captaincy from Clive
Lloyd in 1985 he publicly stated that the West Indian
team was a symbol of the Afro-Caribbean people. True
to his word, not a single East Indian could get a
place in sides led by Sir Viv.
It is indeed an ironical twist of fate that if cricket
is still alive in the West Indies today, it is largely
due to the interest among the East Indian community.
The Afro-Caribbean people have developed other more
lucrative interests that have lured them away from
cricket and this is evident in the decline of the West
Indies as a world cricket power over the last 10
In approximately the same period, nearly half of the
total number of East Indian players (10 out of 24) to
play Test cricket over the last 56 years, had made
their appearances, plus two who have played ODIs
only--fast bowler Ravi Rampaul and Sewnarine
Sadly, famed West Indian cricket historians such as
CLR James and Michael Manley simply failed to
acknowledge the role of the East Indian community.
Now in the midst of another series against the land of
their forefathers, it is perhaps the right time to pay
tribute to one of the Indian Diaspora's greatest