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Asian Connection
by Gulu Ezekiel
Aug 20, 2006
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 prospect.

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 series.

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 Douglas Jardine.

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 this phenomenon.

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 community.

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.
 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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  Pankaj: Bengal's Forgotten Cricket Legend
  Book Review - My Journey to the World Cup: The Sky is the Limit
  When Pietersen played in Duleep Trophy
  Foul language on the field of play
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