The sterling performances by Monty Panesar and Sajid
Mahmood have brought the spotlight on to the role of
the Asian community in English cricket.
There is hardly a single county side in England today
that does not boast of a star cricketer with Asian
roots with the likes of Vikram Solanki, Ravinder
Bopara and Nayan Doshi all vying for higher honours.
Even Yorkshire, which has traditionally been accused
of being discriminatory against the Asian cricketers
within its boundaries today boasts of teenage leg
spinner Adil Rashid who has made a huge impact in his
first season. He also excelled as an all-rounder for
England Under-19 against the Indian tourists this year
and is already being talked of as a future Test
The Asian connection goes back more than a century
with the Indian prince KS Ranjitsinhji-one of
cricket's all-time legends--scoring a century on debut
against Australia in 1896.
He was followed in 1929 by his nephew KS Duleepsinhji
who also scored a century on his Ashes (thought not
Test) debut in 1931.
A year later another prince, Iftikhar Ali Khan, the
Nawab of Pataudi (father of Mansur Ali Khan) made it a
royal hat-trick when he hit 112 on his Test debut in
Sydney in the first Test of the notorious Bodyline
Pataudi (sr.) was dropped after just one more Test and
sent home before the end of the series for apparently
defying the controversial tactics of his captain
But it was not till 1999 that a cricketer with Asian
roots finally received the ultimate honour of being
appointed captain of England.
That was Madras-born Nasser Hussain who led England
with pride and distinction till 2003.
The fan base for English cricket also has a strong
Asian bias. The 1999 World Cup that was held in
England became known as the "Asian World Cup" due to
Mahmood is not the first fast bowler with Pakistan
roots to be blooded by England. That distinction fell
to Kabir Ali who has played a lone Test match against
South Africa in 2003 (taking five wickets) as well as
a handful of ODIs.
However, it has been Mahmood's winning spells against
Pakistan in the ongoing series that have led to
accusations of treachery from Britain's Pakistan
That is most unfortunate and unfair considering his
cousin Amir Khan is one of Britain's leading boxers
and a silver medallist from the 2004 Olympics.
Panesar meanwhile is enjoying cult status in England
and was hugely popular in India too last season when
he was picked for his first tour.
It was Roland Butcher in 1981 who became the first
cricketer of West Indian extraction to represent
England. Many others followed in the 80s and 90s
before the Asian community became the dominant force
from the late 90s onwards. Today there is barely any
cricketer of Caribbean extraction in a prominent
position in English cricket.
That era appears to have come to an end, even as
another has dawned on English cricket. Such a
development should be heartening to all Asian cricket
lovers and the likes of Panesar and Mahmood-both born
in England of Asian parents--should be lauded for
their feats rather than condemned.