Article yehhaicricket.com

British Asians make their mark 
Cricket mad communities
By Garnett Racheal

Yes, its true English cricket has finally started to tap into one of its high potential cricket-mad minority communities.

Would you believe it ? There are now 30 British-born Asian players in county cricket - and that too, a number of high-profile role models on the scene expect that number to rise rapidly in the next few years. For starters, there is England captain, Nasser Hussain.

Add to that, overseas stars like Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and Saqlain Mushtaq. More to the list are home grown up-and-coming players like Worcestershire's Vikram Solanki and Leicestershire's Aftab Habib. Half of the Asian Brit pack hail from the West Midlands. Worcestershire ofcourse boasts of the largest share. It sure is an appreciable piece of statistics. Six of their 23 staff are of Asian descent, including Solanki, and England Under-19 cousins, Kabir and Kadeer Ali.

In an attempt to defend, "We don't specifically look for Asian players, we're just looking for good cricketers", insists Worcestershire coach Damian D'Olivera. "If that means we spot Asian guys, and they come through quicker, so be it."

Both Worcestershire and neighbours Warwickshire have built up links with the region's Asian community but the Bears have the more extensive network. The fact is they only have three senior Asian players in their current squad. But half of some of the county's youth development sides are Asian.

The cricket fever is hot. "These people are cricket mad", says Warwickshire's director of coaching Richard Cox. "It is not unusual to see Asian children in some parts of this city playing cricket when there's snow on the ground." That is something we Indians can well imagine.

While opportunities look good for talented British-born Asian cricketers in the West Midlands, elsewhere the picture is patchy. Yet, many counties, including Yorkshire, which has a number of substantial Asian communities, do not have any Asian players on their books. Also, in many urban areas there is a real problem with a lack of facilities.

So, to solve the problem, the England and Wales Cricket Board have launched four inner-city projects this summer - in Newcastle, Bristol, Nottingham and Essex.

"Although it isn't targeting ethnic communities directly this sort of scheme must inevitably help," says ECB coach Terry Bates. The number of British Asians coming into the game has now eclipsed the Afro-Caribbeans.

As one would imagine, on the contrary, soccer is not likely to be a distraction. Despite its often under estimated popularity among the community, there is not a single British Asian player in league football.

"Statistically itís nonsense," says sociologist Jaz Bains, author of Cornershops and Cornerposts.

"This community has been in this country for more than 30 years and nobody can tell there hasn't been one player with the talent to make the grade. That's not the case with cricket."

What's interesting here is that, football's loss is cricket's gain. "We've now got to turn more of these young players in first class cricket into first class cricketers - and that's a big difference," says Cox.

But there will be no positive discrimination at Worcestershire.The only special treatment the club's Asian players get is dietary says the coach." When we play away sometimes I have to make sure they know we've got maybe four or five vegetarians in our side - that's all."


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