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Indian cricket and it's minorites
by Gulu Ezekiel
Dec 07, 2006
Our politicians may not have anything better to do with their time these days and so cricket-bashing is the flavour of the month currently in Parliament.

The Indian team touring South Africa is the target of the nation's ire. But it took a phone-call from an Urdu newspaper in Mumbai in the middle of last week's "Debacle at Durban" to open my eyes to an aspect of Indian cricket that needs to be universally applauded.

"Is it the first time there are four Muslims in the team?" was the question. To which my answer was: "Please check the score-card of the very first Test match played by India at Lord's in 1932".

Mohammed Kaif, Munaf Patel, Wasim Jaffer and Zaheer Khan (Durban 2006) -Irfan Pathan had been dropped from the playing XI--are the spiritual heirs to the legacy laid down by S. Wazir Ali, S. Nazir Ali, Mohammad Nissar and Jahangir Khan (Lord's 1932). And four years later at the Oval in 1936 six of the Indian playing XI were Muslim.

The newspaper's headline the day after the Durban ODI: "Hindustan one-day team mein pehlee baar chaar Musalmaan ek saath."

Yes, there is much wrong with India cricket. But while I have not done the necessary research in other sports, there is no doubt that cricket stands tall in India when it comes to treating our minorities in a fair and just manner.

Indeed that famous first Test team, captained by the legendary CK Nayudu, also had in the playing XI two Parsees and a Sikh.

Thirty-two out of 256 players who have represented India in Test cricket are from the Muslim community and four of those have been captain - Iftikhar Ali Khan (the Nawab of Pataudi Sr.), Ghulam Ahmed, Mansur Ali Khan (the Nawab of Pataudi Jr.) and Mohammad Azharuddin. The percentage break-up is just about the same as the official figures for the community as a whole in India.

In addition, two Christians (Vijay Samuel Hazare and Chandu Borde), a Sikh (Bishan Singh Bedi) and two Parsees (Polly Umrigar and Nari Contractor) have also captained in Test matches.

More than 30 years after his retirement 'Tiger' Pataudi remains the most charismatic, idolized and romantic of our cricketers. He led without a break for an amazing nine years and then came back for one final glorious series four years after he had been sacked as captain.

Pataudi was the first captain to do away with the bane of regionalism in team selection. For Indian cricket's greatest weakness has not been religious discrimination but instead selectors chosen on a zonal basis who invariably back players from their own states.

As captain Pataudi always insisted on merit being the lone criteria for selection and Indian cricket under his leadership forged a united identity and character for the first time.
 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
  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
  Sachin Tendulkar was the one great unifier that brought the nation together
  The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India
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