Inclusion of players of Asian origin brings sweeping change in English cricket

first_imgUsman AfzaalThe England cricket team’s tour of India is a tour of several firsts, not only because this is the first England tour to India in eight years but also because it is the first time England is travelling with three players for whom India is foreign yet somehow familiar.Captain,Usman AfzaalThe England cricket team’s tour of India is a tour of several firsts, not only because this is the first England tour to India in eight years but also because it is the first time England is travelling with three players for whom India is foreign yet somehow familiar.Captain Nasser Hussain and batsmen Mark Ramprakash and Usman Afzaal found themselves in the news when a row erupted over whether the tour should go on or not. All three are of Asian origin: Hussain was born in Chennai in 1968, Ramprakash’s father hails from’ Guyana in the West Indies, but the surname is a give away to his origins, and Afzaal is the most-recently arrived: born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, he moved to England at the age of five.When the question of whether England should tour India or not came up, these three became the object of all the attention. When they come to India, they will receive more of it than their peers because of their names, their histories and their public statements on the tour.Hussain, captain of the English team, was in the tightest of spots, having to counsel but not pressurise his teammates on what he sees as a landmark tour. He wrote in his newspaper column, “I am the England captain, it is the greatest honour and not something you pick and choose whether you take up or not. It is also the greatest ambition of my father, Joe, to watch me play and captain England in a Test match in the country of his birth. And third, and most important to me, India is the soul of world cricket.”This will not be Hussain or Ramprakash’s first trip to India, both men having toured separately – Hussain for a one-day tournament in 1989-90, and Ramprakash with the England-A team in 1994-95. Afzaal, 23, is a first-timer on tour for the senior England team, but the presence of the three together is being perceived as a shift in the kind of teams the Old Country will put out in the future.advertisementEngland has witnessed a rise in Asian players in county cricket as well as in its national team. Andrew Walpole, spokesperson of the England and Wales Cricket Board, says that the presence of many players of Asian origin in domestic cricket is “a testament of changing times. In the past couple of years, Essex has seen a major rise in the number of Asian youngsters in the under-15 groups. Under-16 players Nadeem Malik and Bilal Sahayal from Nottinghamshire are success stories.” Hussain is from Essex too where his father Joe (Jawad) Hussain runs the Ilford Cricket School.Nasser HussainHussain’s ascent to the England captaincy has been a watershed event in English cricket and Hussain Sr told INDIA TODAY, “It’s been huge.Of 50 kids who come to my school, 40 will be from an Asian background. It’s like cricket is in their blood.” In the past two seasons, players like Vikram Solanki and Owais Shah have been called up to play for England and the number, believes Hussain Sr, is going to increase. “The kids are so keen. An England team with one-third Asian boys is bound to take the field one day.” It is his son who has shown how it can be done: Hussain has led England teams right from his juniors, moving on to England-A (the second string developmental teams that tour every year) before turning into an aggressive England captain with four straight Test series victories, under his belt including on tour in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.New man Afzaal is naturally resolute, “If you are good enough and put in hard work you can break into the English team.” Already tagged the “only practising Muslim” on the England team, Afzaal is a left-hand bat and part-time left-arm spinner from Nottinghamshire, who made his debut in the Ashes series this summer.The only Nottinghamshire batsman to score 1,000 runs in the county summer last season, Afzaal averaged 44.26, and was a member of the England “A” tour to the West Indies before he made his debut for his adopted country, to whom he says he is “wholly committed”.Afzaal says he had little apprehensions about touring India and appears bursting with enthusiasm at the prospect. “I am looking forward to playing in India. The subcontinent has world class players. Sourav Ganguly is fantastic, Rahul Dravid is brilliant. It will be a challenge.The wickets will turn,” he says. He adds that he hopes to “entertain” something which few English cricket teams of the recent past can lay claim to. One writer summarised the contemporary image of English cricket on India, “The general feeling in the world’s most cricket-mad country is that the West Indies comes to party and play, the Australians extend the hand of friendship with visits to local schools and charities, and the other cricket-playing countries just get on with the job. advertisementMark RamprakashThe English, however, are aloof, arrogant and do nothing but complain when it comes to touring India.” When the England team lands in India this time, it will be difficult for them to shake off the impression that they are constantly looking over their shoulder. Hussain’s clear understanding of the situation may help: “One thing I would like to make clear is that the problems were to do with the world situation, not questioning India as a tour venue.”Ramprakash was among the first few on the current team to try and shrug off the security fears on the tour of India. His wife Vandana is expecting their second child, (they have a four-year-old daughter) but the Surrey batsman earned plenty of points for his common sense when he said his wife and he felt “being in London and England presents much more of a risk than being in India.There’s probably more danger going to Heathrow or in using the tube than in visiting Bangalore and Mumbai.” It is now obvious Ramprakash and Afzaal will not be reluctant tourists. Ramprakash, going on to 32 now, is still looking to cement his place in the England middle order. Afzaal, just starting out, knows that the best place to make an impression in this new England team is on tour, where the best of records and reputations can come horribly unstuck. Hussain has wisely stayed away from discussing his “Asian origin” or sense of ethnic identity. In India, he will be surrounded by it at a personal and a public level.”Nasser has had no conflict ever about who he is,” says Hussain Sr. “He is very proud to play for England and is proud to be from India.” Known as a hard-nosed and pragmatic individual as much as a batsman, Hussain will not be swept away. The cricket will be as tough as usual. But he will perhaps know a few fleeting moments on this tour which will blur the difference between going away and coming home.with Sharda Ugralast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *