July 3, 2013

Bopara and the cultural conundrum

Why does Britain still await its first batting star of Asian stock?
45

"Oh, Raa-vee Bow-pah-rah... Oh, Raa-vee Bow-pah-rah... " As the chant went up to the tune of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army", again and again and once more with feeling, it was possible to glimpse a brave new world. With all due respect to Nasser Hussain, who captured the nation's heart with splenetic disciplinarian leadership and spiky spunk rather than runs, was last Tuesday's frolic at The Oval going to go down as the night we finally acclaimed a British Asian batting hero?

It didn't quite turn out that way. First came the Champions Trophy final, then an even more agonising loss to New Zealand. For the second match running, Bopara took his team to the brink of victory and fluffed his lines. So much good came out of those two assertive, cold-eyed knocks, it would be heartless to harp on about their anti-climactic denouements, but the scoreboard is the most damning and ruthless of bottom lines.

We've been here before, of course, and not just with Bopara, who has defied those who contended that his fitful international career had ground to a permanent halt in Pallekele last October. In that same World Twenty20 fixture, while Samit Patel was battling Sri Lanka alone on that burning English deck, it was tempting to imagine, once more, that a corner had been turned. Here, after all, was a British batsman of Asian origin not simply capable enough to command regular selection but comfortable enough to be himself, to strut his stuff and dominate. Sadly, Patel's ensuing tribulations in India confirmed that the no-entry sign remained intact.

Call it the Shah Question: why does Britain still await its first batting star of Asian stock - or, rather, its first not called Sachin, Rahul, or Virender? Given that Owais Shah, one of about four and a half Englishmen to make even a small splash in the IPL, was overlooked for the last World Twenty20, a tournament that could and should have been the making of this most feckless yet dazzling of Anglo-Asian cricketers, the question of courage, of whether to fear failure or keep its extensive tentacles at bay, is not one that can be lightly dismissed.

But why? For all Monty Panesar's cult following, for all the progress made lately by Moeen Ali and Varun Chopra, for all Adil Rashid's nascent revival, for all the abundant promise of Azeem Rafiq, Shiv Thakor and Kishen Velani, it remains difficult to subdue the sense that the existing resources are not being tapped as well as they might. It would also be naïve to pretend that all cultural differences have been erased.

Unsurprisingly, being a Muslim may still be a major roadblock, as exemplified, perhaps, by the sad decline of Bilal Shafayat. We may never know how much his failure to live up to the predictions of some sage judges is traceable to the prayers he once shared with Pakistani opponents during an Under-19 tournament.

Better placed than most to comment is Wasim Khan, the first British-born son of Pakistani parents to play professional cricket, author of an award-winning autobiography, and now chief executive of Chance to Shine, for which he recently won a deserved gong. The way he sees it, Muslim cricketers have external pressures unfamiliar to the majority on the county circuit, such as being the breadwinner for an extended family or the perplexing duality of living a westernised life in the dressing room and a traditional one at home, even if county menus do now encompass halal meat.

For the best part of the previous decade, Dan Burdsey, my University of Brighton colleague, plunged into vexatious waters by examining the experiences of British Muslims in the sporting arena. Cricket, to him, is the "notable exception" to the general rule. "I guess I'm just a bit stronger," one interviewee, a professional who insisted on anonymity, said in reference to his faith. "Maybe if I become more successful," said another, "people will look at Muslims differently, and maybe it will change, you know, the stereotype and the perspective of how British Muslims are."

Cricket's first Anglo-Asian superstar, one strongly suspects, will need a spot of brashness to go with the thick skin

For all the priceless perspectives he gleaned, Burdsey was honest enough to acknowledge the shortcomings of his research: "There were occasions when participants seemed to be holding back from completely explicating their feelings around experiences of prejudice and some of the more problematic aspects of gaining inclusion in the sport." He attributed this, among other factors, to "a reluctance to talk openly to people who do not directly share their experiences; a belief that their position as professional sportsmen may be compromised through open dialogue on controversial topics; or a deliberate attempt to avoid being viewed as fulfilling dominant stereotypes of young Muslim men... and coming across as acrimonious about their engagement with predominantly white, British institutions."

Hussain, the most successful British Asian cricketer, if always a bit too grimly focused to be a batting hero per se, highlights the fear factor. "The Asian family's love of cricket means you get lots of opportunities but it also gives you a fear of failure," he told the Cricketer a few months back. The experience was personal as well as general: he often lied to his father, who ran a popular cricket school in the east London suburbia of Ilford, about how many he had scored. "If your father has driven six hours for an Under-11 game at Taunton and you nick a wide one, it can be a long journey home. It makes you intense and quite complicated."

Hussain believes Bopara, Patel, Shah and Mark Ramprakash were similarly cursed. "Ravi says he has changed, that cricket has become more of a hobby, but I suspect there's bluff in that. He would still love to be a superstar."

Though he has charmed us with his wickets and unbridled enthusiasm, Panesar doesn't quite qualify: superstars should only be conversant with ridicule on the way up or down. He is, rather, a folk hero, in large part because, being a fairly useless fielder and a bit of a dunce with the bat - and hence not at all like the ebullient Graeme Swann - he makes us giggle. As for those singularly joyous celebrations, they evoke empathy: not a superstar's due but an underdog's just desserts. Outbowling Swann in India merely served to amplify his misfortune in being the No. 2 spinner in what is habitually a one-twirler XI. In the Tendulkar Era, a batsman will have to break the mould.

Bopara and Shah have been the prime candidates. As batsmen they are more adventurous, more liable to reverse the course of a game with thrusts than parries, more bedroom-poster-friendly, more brittle. Duncan Fletcher may have cause to see Shah as one of his chief failures as England coach, but it is also entirely plausible that the most damaging hurdle was Shah's family baggage. Bopara has scarcely lacked chances, and if treating one's job as a hobby leads to profoundly injudicious shots in each innings of the first Test of a series, as happened against South Africa last summer, maybe it isn't quite the best policy. In fairness, at the time a crisis at home was looming far too large.

Which brings us to the f-word: flaky. Such would appear to be the polite epithet de jour. It's the catch-all, equally applicable to Bopara playing daft shots, Shah being a liability between the wickets, Monty shelling sitters, Patel being overweight or Rashid or Ajmal Shahzad asserting themselves too much for Yorkshire tastes. Then there's the masculinity thing.

Millwall FC are a south-east London working-class institution, long notorious for their violent and racist supporters (unofficial motto "No one likes us, we don't care"). Yet they embraced their own black players - a contradiction that Tony Witter, a decent central defender, explained to Arsenal's Ian Wright, English football's most celebrated black striker, now a voluble TV host. "Ian says to me: 'Witts, man, how can you play here, man?' I said to him: 'Ian, they're as good as gold to me.' That's the whole thing, I am playing for them."

What helped Witter and Wright find acceptance on opposing banks of the Thames was the fact that they played a masculine sport in a masculine manner, underpinned, respectively, by strength and speed. In their case, masculinity - aided by the We Syndrome - trumped race. Spinners may be deft, daring, and expert mind-readers, but beyond Shane Warne, who perceives them as macho?

Panesar's greatest achievement - a rather miraculous one - was to win over a nation at an extremely delicate time, a time when wearing a patka on the wrong high street could get you beaten up, as it still can. Cricket's first Anglo-Asian superstar, one strongly suspects, will need a spot of brashness to go with the thick skin, a Nasser or Wrighty sort of brashness: a projection of absolute inner certainty that fools most of the people pretty much all the time.

Is it too late for the more flamboyant but sometimes equally cocky Bopara? He certainly looks more focused since he took a furlough to deal with that discreetly reported domestic disturbance. In recent weeks we've seen a lightness of tread and an often gasp-worthy breadth of shot selection. He may still talk it marginally better than he walks it, but the balance, helped as much by those useful wobblers as by a capacity to compartmentalise, is shifting.

They couldn't quite exhort him over the line, but that uplifting chorus line at The Oval dropped a refreshingly heavy hint that Forest Gate's finest may yet win over minds as well as hearts. Anyone for the Bopara Bop?

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jay57870 on July 6, 2013, 17:34 GMT

    Rob - Good topic. Any sports journalist worth his salt knows of the great Ranjitsinhji, the first "batting star of Asian stock" in Britain! Not to mention Duleep & Pataudi Sr with their heroics for their adopted country! Even after scoring a century on his 1932 Ashes debut at SCG, Pataudi was sent home because he had challenged captain Douglas Jardine about his flaky Bodyline tactics! It's not kosher felt the Nawab. Like "civil disobedience" (1930 "Salt March"), it turned out to be a real "cultural conundrum" & tipping point: cricket hasn't been the same ever after, especially for the dueling Eng-Oz duopoly! Let's now turn to another intriguing sports story, it's not about cricket. Ever heard of Ranji's contemporary Norman Pritchard? Born in Calcutta in 1877 (possible Brit roots), he schooled & trained there to become (Believe it or not!) the first Indian athlete to participate in the 1900 Paris Olympics. Of the 5 track events, he won 2 silver medals (200m dash, 200m hurdles)!! TBC

  • jay57870 on July 6, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    Rob - Good topic. Any sports journalist worth his salt knows of the great Ranjitsinhji, the first "batting star of Asian stock" in Britain! Not to mention Duleep & Pataudi Sr with their heroics for their adopted country! Even after scoring a century on his 1932 Ashes debut at SCG, Pataudi was sent home because he had challenged captain Douglas Jardine about his flaky Bodyline tactics! It's not kosher felt the Nawab. Like "civil disobedience" (1930 "Salt March"), it turned out to be a real "cultural conundrum" & tipping point: cricket hasn't been the same ever after, especially for the dueling Eng-Oz duopoly! Let's now turn to another intriguing sports story, it's not about cricket: Ever heard of Ranji's contemporary Norman Pritchard? Born in Calcutta in 1877 (possible Brit roots), he schooled & trained there to become (Believe it or not!) the first Indian athlete to participate in the 1900 Paris Olympics. Of the 5 track events, he won 2 silver medals (200m dash, 200m hurdles)!! TBC

  • on July 6, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    Ravi Bopara is a curious case , in my mind. He seems to have to fight for his place constantly, somewhat like Laxman. A couple of failures and his place in the team is questioned. I am not sure if Bopara has done as well as Laxman so far, but he holds promise or once did. I am an Indian team fan, and when we play England, I have always felt that if Bopara comes in to bat, the match is in England's favor..for sure..He can score 30-40 runs often during the crucial closing stages especially while chasing... We had 2 such instances recently..against India at the Champions Trophy and versus NZ in a T20 match..Too bad for Bopara he could not take England over the finish line..Against NZ it was a bit hard since the asking rate was high..but against India, it was the good old choke..

  • jay57870 on July 5, 2013, 13:40 GMT

    Notably Pritchard was the first Asian to win an Olympic medal to boot! Yes, he was an avid football player. He was as an Indian Football Association official from 1900-02. He moved to Britain in 1905. Which brings us to Steen's "flaky" word: Britain claimed him as a Brit & his 2 medals because he had competed in the British AAA championship in 1900. But the IOC disagrees: it officially recognises Pritchard as an Indian athlete & credits the medals to India! A "flaky" cultural conundrum indeed! But the story doesn't end there. This remarkable man was multi-talented. He relocated to England to trade in jute. But soon turned to the theatre to become an instant hit in the 1907 play "The Stronger Sex"! Rest assured no "masculinity thing" here, as the amazing Pritchard soon moved to USA. In his new Norman Trevor avatar (Believe it or not!) he entered Broadway successfully & later became a Hollywood silent movie star!!! A multi-cultural conundrum for Steen to bite off & chew on without salt!

  • Shaynej on July 4, 2013, 17:17 GMT

    Some recent posters have forgotten the one colossus of English batting over the last 30 years - has everyone forgotten Gooch?

    Bowlers who had the misfortune to face him in the last 10 years of his Test career would never question his greatness and, to this day, still talk of how much he intimidated them, regardless of what they threw at him. If the measure of a batsman's greatness is the reluctance of bowlers to want to bowl to him, Gooch stands head and shoulders over every English batsman since the days of Hutton, Dexter and May. He's justifiably the finest batsman to have donned English colours since Lord Ted and May, and only never gets his just dues because he never made the media or fans feel warm and tingly during his playing days....or after.

  • on July 4, 2013, 17:10 GMT

    @Aditya that may be true but the aim should be to put a bat or ball in every child's hand and give them the chance and that means at all schools not just private schools (I guess you get what you pay for). We have to get away from the idea that a child should be inspired by someone only from their own heritage and that to achieve success we must a future star must be of a particular ethnic group. Ravi Bopara or whoever should inspire all children who want to become cricketers not just a section of the population.

  • liz1558 on July 4, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    @ Paul Rone-Clarke - Not sure the David Gower was a superstar, although he ought to have been. You missed out Hutton and May - I suppose Herbert Sutcliffe is just outside your 80 yr time frame, but then so is Hammond, whom you have mentioned. Since 1951, you're right, plenty of good, and one or two very good batsmen, but no really great player.

  • liz1558 on July 4, 2013, 12:34 GMT

    Has anyone else noted the British Indian chap who's just scored a triple hundred for Oxford in the Varsity match, Sam Agarwal? Top hull! By the looks of things he's born in Inja, but bally well qualified for Blighty! Could he be the one?

  • Shaynej on July 4, 2013, 0:52 GMT

    I think Steen is grasping at straws. Many of the Brit-Asian players mentioned weren't good enough to hold a place in the England XI. Nasser and, to a lesser extent, Panesar are the only ones who have really performed when given their England chances. It's got precious little to do with skin color.

    How can Owais Shah claim to be diddled when he got plenty of chances over a decade, and yet only scored 2 50s over 10 Test innings? That's hardly a Test-calibre record. Flashy county runs don't mean that you get to automatically demand a Test slot by right. International cricket is hard yakka, and you have to fight for your slot with runs and wickets, and lots of them, against world-class players on unfamiliar pitches - not a mid-week knockabout at Taunton. Bopara, for all his recent flash, falls into the same category because he's never scored the big runs to be taken seriously.

  • shillingsworth on July 3, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    Panesar didn't outbowl Swann in India. He's the no 2 spinner for a reason - Swann bats, bowls and fields better. Hussain was a better batsman than he's given credit for here - not many players scored a double hundred against Warne and McGrath. Disappointing that the questionable premise of this article rests upon such dubious claims.

  • jay57870 on July 6, 2013, 17:34 GMT

    Rob - Good topic. Any sports journalist worth his salt knows of the great Ranjitsinhji, the first "batting star of Asian stock" in Britain! Not to mention Duleep & Pataudi Sr with their heroics for their adopted country! Even after scoring a century on his 1932 Ashes debut at SCG, Pataudi was sent home because he had challenged captain Douglas Jardine about his flaky Bodyline tactics! It's not kosher felt the Nawab. Like "civil disobedience" (1930 "Salt March"), it turned out to be a real "cultural conundrum" & tipping point: cricket hasn't been the same ever after, especially for the dueling Eng-Oz duopoly! Let's now turn to another intriguing sports story, it's not about cricket. Ever heard of Ranji's contemporary Norman Pritchard? Born in Calcutta in 1877 (possible Brit roots), he schooled & trained there to become (Believe it or not!) the first Indian athlete to participate in the 1900 Paris Olympics. Of the 5 track events, he won 2 silver medals (200m dash, 200m hurdles)!! TBC

  • jay57870 on July 6, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    Rob - Good topic. Any sports journalist worth his salt knows of the great Ranjitsinhji, the first "batting star of Asian stock" in Britain! Not to mention Duleep & Pataudi Sr with their heroics for their adopted country! Even after scoring a century on his 1932 Ashes debut at SCG, Pataudi was sent home because he had challenged captain Douglas Jardine about his flaky Bodyline tactics! It's not kosher felt the Nawab. Like "civil disobedience" (1930 "Salt March"), it turned out to be a real "cultural conundrum" & tipping point: cricket hasn't been the same ever after, especially for the dueling Eng-Oz duopoly! Let's now turn to another intriguing sports story, it's not about cricket: Ever heard of Ranji's contemporary Norman Pritchard? Born in Calcutta in 1877 (possible Brit roots), he schooled & trained there to become (Believe it or not!) the first Indian athlete to participate in the 1900 Paris Olympics. Of the 5 track events, he won 2 silver medals (200m dash, 200m hurdles)!! TBC

  • on July 6, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    Ravi Bopara is a curious case , in my mind. He seems to have to fight for his place constantly, somewhat like Laxman. A couple of failures and his place in the team is questioned. I am not sure if Bopara has done as well as Laxman so far, but he holds promise or once did. I am an Indian team fan, and when we play England, I have always felt that if Bopara comes in to bat, the match is in England's favor..for sure..He can score 30-40 runs often during the crucial closing stages especially while chasing... We had 2 such instances recently..against India at the Champions Trophy and versus NZ in a T20 match..Too bad for Bopara he could not take England over the finish line..Against NZ it was a bit hard since the asking rate was high..but against India, it was the good old choke..

  • jay57870 on July 5, 2013, 13:40 GMT

    Notably Pritchard was the first Asian to win an Olympic medal to boot! Yes, he was an avid football player. He was as an Indian Football Association official from 1900-02. He moved to Britain in 1905. Which brings us to Steen's "flaky" word: Britain claimed him as a Brit & his 2 medals because he had competed in the British AAA championship in 1900. But the IOC disagrees: it officially recognises Pritchard as an Indian athlete & credits the medals to India! A "flaky" cultural conundrum indeed! But the story doesn't end there. This remarkable man was multi-talented. He relocated to England to trade in jute. But soon turned to the theatre to become an instant hit in the 1907 play "The Stronger Sex"! Rest assured no "masculinity thing" here, as the amazing Pritchard soon moved to USA. In his new Norman Trevor avatar (Believe it or not!) he entered Broadway successfully & later became a Hollywood silent movie star!!! A multi-cultural conundrum for Steen to bite off & chew on without salt!

  • Shaynej on July 4, 2013, 17:17 GMT

    Some recent posters have forgotten the one colossus of English batting over the last 30 years - has everyone forgotten Gooch?

    Bowlers who had the misfortune to face him in the last 10 years of his Test career would never question his greatness and, to this day, still talk of how much he intimidated them, regardless of what they threw at him. If the measure of a batsman's greatness is the reluctance of bowlers to want to bowl to him, Gooch stands head and shoulders over every English batsman since the days of Hutton, Dexter and May. He's justifiably the finest batsman to have donned English colours since Lord Ted and May, and only never gets his just dues because he never made the media or fans feel warm and tingly during his playing days....or after.

  • on July 4, 2013, 17:10 GMT

    @Aditya that may be true but the aim should be to put a bat or ball in every child's hand and give them the chance and that means at all schools not just private schools (I guess you get what you pay for). We have to get away from the idea that a child should be inspired by someone only from their own heritage and that to achieve success we must a future star must be of a particular ethnic group. Ravi Bopara or whoever should inspire all children who want to become cricketers not just a section of the population.

  • liz1558 on July 4, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    @ Paul Rone-Clarke - Not sure the David Gower was a superstar, although he ought to have been. You missed out Hutton and May - I suppose Herbert Sutcliffe is just outside your 80 yr time frame, but then so is Hammond, whom you have mentioned. Since 1951, you're right, plenty of good, and one or two very good batsmen, but no really great player.

  • liz1558 on July 4, 2013, 12:34 GMT

    Has anyone else noted the British Indian chap who's just scored a triple hundred for Oxford in the Varsity match, Sam Agarwal? Top hull! By the looks of things he's born in Inja, but bally well qualified for Blighty! Could he be the one?

  • Shaynej on July 4, 2013, 0:52 GMT

    I think Steen is grasping at straws. Many of the Brit-Asian players mentioned weren't good enough to hold a place in the England XI. Nasser and, to a lesser extent, Panesar are the only ones who have really performed when given their England chances. It's got precious little to do with skin color.

    How can Owais Shah claim to be diddled when he got plenty of chances over a decade, and yet only scored 2 50s over 10 Test innings? That's hardly a Test-calibre record. Flashy county runs don't mean that you get to automatically demand a Test slot by right. International cricket is hard yakka, and you have to fight for your slot with runs and wickets, and lots of them, against world-class players on unfamiliar pitches - not a mid-week knockabout at Taunton. Bopara, for all his recent flash, falls into the same category because he's never scored the big runs to be taken seriously.

  • shillingsworth on July 3, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    Panesar didn't outbowl Swann in India. He's the no 2 spinner for a reason - Swann bats, bowls and fields better. Hussain was a better batsman than he's given credit for here - not many players scored a double hundred against Warne and McGrath. Disappointing that the questionable premise of this article rests upon such dubious claims.

  • on July 3, 2013, 22:01 GMT

    @ Michael Counsell: The reason there are no batting heroes from state schools apart from the Asians is that cricket in England is not played much by the white working class anymore. Which is why I've always believed that cricket has very little future in the UK (I hope I'm wrong). In the subcontinent, the story is totally different -- cricket shows no sign of abating in popularity among younger people. Hence, it has a bright future in Asia.

  • SDHM on July 3, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    I'm not going to wade into arguments on race and education, but I do think that both the Asian communities and the clubs and counties could all do more in terms of inclusiveness and diversity. And, in fairness, that IS being done - one glance at the county rosters shows that a more consistent amount of Asian talent is coming through, and no doubt more will in years to come. In terms of a hero? Thakor is the obvious choice, and I still like to think Moeen Ali will properly come good - his batting would elevate him to hero status quickly if he could add consistency to talent, which he's beginning to do. If anything, of more concern is the Caribbean community, which seems to have been lost to English cricket entirely. The futures of the likes of Jordan and Hughes are just as important as those of Thakor and Rafiq if you ask me.

  • on July 3, 2013, 21:44 GMT

    Ok, since David Gower, when was the last UK white batting superstar? And who before Gower but after Dennis Compton...and before that... Wally Hammond? Have there been more than 3 In total in the last 80 years? Hardly surprising there hasn't been a asain batting superstar in the UK...theres only been one English one in the last 50 years. As a Worcestershire supporter I've got to tell you that Asians are represented in first class cricket around here at a massively higher percentage than their overall population percentage in the uk would amount to. Worcestershire often fielding five Asian players when as a percentage of the uk population one or two at the very most would be more representative.

  • on July 3, 2013, 21:13 GMT

    I am an Indian who has spent a considerable time in the west. In my opinion, this article is (my apologies) an example of political correctness gone wild. I have never experienced any racial prejudice in my extensive professional dealings, nor do I think there is any evidence of English selectors having any racist bias. So there is no Asian cricketing superstar yet in the English team, that is a fact. But Steen's argument that this is because of some bias is outrageous. I repeat, it is political correctness gone absolutely wild.

  • debatable on July 3, 2013, 21:10 GMT

    I take your point, but I think Hussain should be counted for his runs here; I well remember that double hundred against Australia, and he had a good record for the time over nearly 100 Tests.

    But the first came some years before: Ranjitsinhji!

  • gimme-a-greentop on July 3, 2013, 19:58 GMT

    Before the champions trophy, I only ever really saw Bopara bat against SA and Aus in test cricket, during which time he was mostly horrible. You could see he had no confidence. I was therefore pleasantly suprised to see what he can really do with a bit of confidence. A couple of those innings in CT where brilliant to watch. Plus his bowling is tricksy in ODI format. Hope he can roll on from there.

  • ARad on July 3, 2013, 18:23 GMT

    I don't think Ravi Bopara (or Monty Panesar) considers himself as part of a STOCK when he walks to the crease or when the captain throws the ball to him. I can understand why there should be a drive to recruit more people from certain communities regardless of their color and creed to enhance English (and other nations') sporting success but that can mean even recruiting from a particular small town full of the Anglo-Saxon STOCK, for example. It is unfair to talk about any individual as part of a STOCK. That gives too much importance to an individual's background and thus it plays a part in encouraging STEREOTYPES. We need to move forward from this kind of thinking.

  • on July 3, 2013, 17:43 GMT

    Scyld Berry's article about Ravi Bopara last year was probably more insightful. We lack batting heroes from state schools.

    Ravi is one of the few batsmen in the current England set up who went to one and as a result I root for him more than I root for say... Joe Root (yet another privately educated batsman who everyone in the game seems to know and want to do well)

  • Shaynej on July 3, 2013, 15:26 GMT

    @ Paul Rone-Clarke, who is the sole Englishman expat to have played for an Indian FC side? I can't remember anyone who did that after Independence.

    Anyway, I think you're confusing the issue here. Steen's article is about British citizens of Asian origin who are legally entitled to play for England's national team, if good enough. That's hardly the same thing as saying that expats should be allowed in FC cricket, whether it be a county, Sheffield Shield or Ranji side - it's up to team management to make that call.

    Secondly, British-Asian cricketers have got nothing to do with India or BCCI. I suspect that the BCCI has never lost any sleep over whether Owais Shah or Panesar has ever made the England team, and never will!

  • on July 3, 2013, 14:54 GMT

    ...Give it time, maybe Adil Rashid's re-emergence this season might herald a potential fulfilling new dawn for him; and accept that despite his fielding and batting most international sides would kill for a spinner of Panesar's quality. It is merely his misfortune that Swann is even better! It's also worth noting that Asian players have been openly embraced by the fans. I've heard many an English grumble about the South African contingent in England's teams over the years on the grounds of nationality but never about a Bopara or a Patel on the grounds of race. In fact, admittedly on anecdotal evidence, I'd suggest that Nasser Hussein is probably England's most respected captain of the modern era.

  • on July 3, 2013, 14:52 GMT

    I think the reason is very simple. Cricket is hard, like really, really hard. Most people who play international cricket ultimately 'fail' insomuch as for every Ponting, Kallis or Tendulkar there are 50 others who never truly or even partly succeed (make your own list of promising cricketers with 10 or so tests under their belts harbouring a disappointing average). Plenty of Asian cricketers have been given the opportunity in England and as it stands I would suggest that Asian players are very successful and well represented in the domestic game, something that is not celebrated enough. It is just that out of 400+ professional cricketers in England and Wales there is only ever room for a handful to play for their country...

  • Longhairrocks on July 3, 2013, 13:31 GMT

    Perhaps the influence of the pernicious multicultural doctrine has had an impact too? Thus many potential players of Asian origin, born in the UK, feel no particular affinity for the UK, as they have been encouraged to remain separate by state imposed multiculturalism.

    How many of those Indian fans attending the Champions Trophy final were actually born in the UK?

  • mrpfister on July 3, 2013, 13:28 GMT

    There you go Rob, Sam Aggarwal has just scored a triple century for Oxford University. You've got your British-Asian batting hero.

  • anshu.s on July 3, 2013, 13:10 GMT

    Is it only me who feels Rob Steen looks like actor James Gandolfini !!!

  • mrpfister on July 3, 2013, 12:14 GMT

    Absolutely spot on Cyril Knight. At club level, asians separate themselves from the system. There are no 'whites only' clubs or leagues, but there are plenty of 'asians only'. I also agree with the comments about Nasser Hussain. A man born in India to an Indian father, who went on to play 96 Test matches for England and as captain, helped turn the England team around from being a joke, to being tough and competitive. So what if he wasn't a Lara or a Pietersen? He's still one of the most significant England cricketers of the last 20 years.

  • mrpfister on July 3, 2013, 12:03 GMT

    Because there hasn't been one good enough.

  • bennybow on July 3, 2013, 11:51 GMT

    Maybe cricinfo might like to give a mention to Sam Agarwal, currently on 263 not out in the university match.

    I believe the biggest problem is England's blinkered selection policy with Miller's low effort "same as last time" approach. Strauss and Collingwood would still be there (and not scoring runs) if they hadn't retired. At Sussex, we're delighted to hang on to Monty but there's no reason England shouldn't have both him and Swann bowling together - just that Miller doesn't have the imagination.

  • RichardG on July 3, 2013, 11:43 GMT

    IndiaNumeroUno - Greame Swann's Test bowling average is 28.5, his batting average is 23, he's an excellent fielder and effective in all forms of the game. Monty's bowling average is almost 34, his batting average is just over 5, and despite having the largest hands of anyone since Pat Jennings, he is still a liability in the field. Swann is a better bowler than Monty, and until Monty puts together a strong of impressive performances in the way that Swann has, such feats will rightly be viewed as an aberration and Swann will remain England's number one. Seeking racism where none exists does no one any favours.

    With others in the comments, I think this article is a bit unfair on Nasser. He may not quite be a batting hero, but to most England cricket fans, Nasser is a hero, as his captaincy turned England around from the shambles we'd been in the late 1980s and 1990s.

  • tusharkardile on July 3, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    @IndiaNumeroUno - very correct observation about Monty-Swann.

  • Cyril_Knight on July 3, 2013, 9:56 GMT

    There is a massive problem in English club cricket, which th0mascricket mentions. The Asian boys don't want to play with white cricketers. They form their own clubs and their own leagues. Club cricket is divided along racial lines, though it has very little to do with racism.

    Club cricket has a drinking, lads culture that, I assume, a lot of Asian cricketers do not want to be associated with or feel comfortable with.

    If you watch cricket in parks in any big English city the teams are very rarely multicultural. There is no way of fixing this, it will always be like it.

    Anyway the amount of Asian players in County cricket is of a far greater proportion than their representation in the whole population. So the path is hardly blocked.

  • on July 3, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    Given the criticism that England has received over the years for fielding players not born in England, I think this article is something of an overreaction. If a player is qualified to play for the Test country concerned and is consistent then the likelihood is that he will be noticed by the selectors. England has been blessed with several very fine cricketers of Asian and Caribbean ancestry - it would have been more had certain players not been so inconsistent - and I am delighted that that is the case. But you must pick a side on performance, not on personality nor on racial origin... One of the reasons that several white South African players have represented England and New Zealand is because of imposed quotas based on colour... The better way would be to ensure that opportunities are created and maintained to nurture and develop talent, regardless of race and/or culture in SA and elsewhere...

  • on July 3, 2013, 9:37 GMT

    On the one hand we have the likes of Jonesy2 and his cronies saying that England players should all be able to blood type themselves back to the Domesday book, calling the England team "England's International XI" this being an oft repeated CRITICISM. Then on the other hand accusations of racism for not including enough Asian players. There are over 1 million English ex pats in Asia - none of them has ever played (never mind starred) in an Asian international cricket side. Despite over 35,000 of them being regular cricketers only 1 has ever even managed to play in Indias FC system.. ONE!! Why's that then? India.. look at the "Amazonian rain forest" in your own eye before whining about the splinter in someone elses. India is the powerhouse and law making centre of cricket The BCCI the most powerful national body by a long long way. India is the cricket power - India should set the prescident. Authority comes with responsibility. Seems like India want the former without the latter.

  • Bhrams on July 3, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    Rob, slightly off topic - with respect to the 2nd paragraph, not sure how losing a meaningless T20 can be "even more agonising" than losing the final of a ICC ODI trophy - something that England have never won. Need some perspective here.

  • on July 3, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    Nice theorising but it isn't the cricket system at fault. England has for a long time selected anyone who can consistently perform, wherever they originate, as long as they qualify although this was not always true of all the counties. I think the article does a huge disservice to Nasser Hussain's career and his contribution to English cricket but, as usual with journos, who would want a few facts to get in the way of an invented 'story'. Monty did take more wickets than Swanny in India but one swallow doesn't make a summer: Swann is the better bowler, batsman and fielder and that's how cricket teams, with the exception of South Africa, for obvious perfectly valid reasons, select their players.

  • Big_Chikka on July 3, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    ps.....heroes are "outliers" in the statistical sense, they think differently and are for the most part unconstrained. another reason why there are no batting heroes in the uk, county cricket coaching for the most part takes all the natural talent and "systemize's" it to 2/3 shots and percentages. look at trott V bopara. Bopara is the more heroic batsman every time...flintoff v cook, botham v cook.

  • Baundele on July 3, 2013, 8:22 GMT

    IndiaNumeroUno is probably right. Ravi Bopara denied to join the IPL for his British test place. But he was replaced by Eoin Morgan, credit to only a single innings. I think, it is not only Asian, but each and every player with foreign origin must perform much better than the British ones to be in the team. It applies to even KP and Trott.

  • on July 3, 2013, 8:21 GMT

    Ranjitsinhji, Duleepshi, Nawab of Pataudi Sr, Raman Subba Row and Nasser Hussain...all Asian originated English batsmen who went out there and scored big runs. The precedence is there (and I will take issue with Steen about Nasser not being a batting hero); the prize is for the taking.

  • Big_Chikka on July 3, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    cricket is still the hardest game to be judged on, selection is political (regional..financial..etc etc). seldom a level playing field for batters to be judged on...... and for most, the statistics prove most asians never get past various perceptional barriers at the county level. factor in the schools most of the successful Asian players went to, might be surprised to see a correlation between public v private / and success at county cricket level...... don't jump up and point to the exceptions we're not talking about those......STILL A LONG LONG WAY to go in england to bring parity of opportunities across the economic spectrum of cricket loving people.......unlike boxing, in cricket it's very difficult to take the decisions out of the judges hands....so upshot is england isn't SEEING the best of the Asian cricketers. that is reflected in the national team. one's making it to national level have no excuses, all play under pressure, perform and enjoy it for the most part.

  • liz1558 on July 3, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    @Preshant Sekar - excellent observation - especially Ranji. I thought we were still awaiting a home grown batting superstar of any racial origin? According to Richie Benaud, England hasn't produced a great batsman since Peter May, who debuted in 1951! As good as Barrington, Dexter, Gower, Gooch, Cook, Thorpe, have been, there hasn't been a batsman as good as Lara, Tendulkar, Sobers, Ponting, Gavaskar, to hail from these shores since the era of Hutton, Compton (Dennis, that is) and May. The wait goes on.

  • Buvank on July 3, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    Does Mark Ramprakash fall into this category..??

  • th0mascricket on July 3, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    There's two issues in play - stock and flow. The stock issue is why current Asian players who seem to have the requisite talent, don't fulfill their potential. The flow issue is why there aren't enough Asian players making it to the professional level in the first place - there is very likely lots of talent going unrecognised, although recently Yorks have done much in this regard.The existence of almost exclusively Asian leagues like Quaid E Azam in West Yorks mean that good young Asian players may go unnoticed for much longer than if they were playing in the mixed Bradford League. It's likely two way street - almost certainly Asian players were made to feel unwelcome in what were originally white dominated leagues, but also there is a preception that Asian players wanted to do their own thing. This virtual apartheid does nothing to help breed a culture of openness and understanding that would make it much easier, on both sides, for Asian talent to flourish and suceed.

  • IndiaNumeroUno on July 3, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    Typical.. if Monty out-bowls Swann then it is ignored as an aberration. Fact is, British Asians need to be ten times better than their white counterparts to be even considered for limelight.. not only in cricket but in all walks of life. Try getting a promotion at work above a certain level!

  • on July 3, 2013, 7:03 GMT

    Fantastic article..pleased to read it. Wonder why it is not followed by long comments. May be, most are convinced and don't want to add a thing. Keep coming though!

  • landl47 on July 3, 2013, 6:19 GMT

    When I was a lad, Raman Subba Row was opening for England. Not a superstar, perhaps, but a very good and respected cricketer and later an administrator.

    The one with the best chance of becoming a genuine star among the young players is Shiv Thakor, who has made an impressive start to his first-class career while still in his teens. If he makes enough runs, he'll be welcomed and appreciated just as much as any other England player.

  • on July 3, 2013, 5:36 GMT

    Ok weren't the greatest South Asians to play for England go by the names of Ranji, Duleep and Nawab of Pataudi?

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  • on July 3, 2013, 5:36 GMT

    Ok weren't the greatest South Asians to play for England go by the names of Ranji, Duleep and Nawab of Pataudi?

  • landl47 on July 3, 2013, 6:19 GMT

    When I was a lad, Raman Subba Row was opening for England. Not a superstar, perhaps, but a very good and respected cricketer and later an administrator.

    The one with the best chance of becoming a genuine star among the young players is Shiv Thakor, who has made an impressive start to his first-class career while still in his teens. If he makes enough runs, he'll be welcomed and appreciated just as much as any other England player.

  • on July 3, 2013, 7:03 GMT

    Fantastic article..pleased to read it. Wonder why it is not followed by long comments. May be, most are convinced and don't want to add a thing. Keep coming though!

  • IndiaNumeroUno on July 3, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    Typical.. if Monty out-bowls Swann then it is ignored as an aberration. Fact is, British Asians need to be ten times better than their white counterparts to be even considered for limelight.. not only in cricket but in all walks of life. Try getting a promotion at work above a certain level!

  • th0mascricket on July 3, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    There's two issues in play - stock and flow. The stock issue is why current Asian players who seem to have the requisite talent, don't fulfill their potential. The flow issue is why there aren't enough Asian players making it to the professional level in the first place - there is very likely lots of talent going unrecognised, although recently Yorks have done much in this regard.The existence of almost exclusively Asian leagues like Quaid E Azam in West Yorks mean that good young Asian players may go unnoticed for much longer than if they were playing in the mixed Bradford League. It's likely two way street - almost certainly Asian players were made to feel unwelcome in what were originally white dominated leagues, but also there is a preception that Asian players wanted to do their own thing. This virtual apartheid does nothing to help breed a culture of openness and understanding that would make it much easier, on both sides, for Asian talent to flourish and suceed.

  • Buvank on July 3, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    Does Mark Ramprakash fall into this category..??

  • liz1558 on July 3, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    @Preshant Sekar - excellent observation - especially Ranji. I thought we were still awaiting a home grown batting superstar of any racial origin? According to Richie Benaud, England hasn't produced a great batsman since Peter May, who debuted in 1951! As good as Barrington, Dexter, Gower, Gooch, Cook, Thorpe, have been, there hasn't been a batsman as good as Lara, Tendulkar, Sobers, Ponting, Gavaskar, to hail from these shores since the era of Hutton, Compton (Dennis, that is) and May. The wait goes on.

  • Big_Chikka on July 3, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    cricket is still the hardest game to be judged on, selection is political (regional..financial..etc etc). seldom a level playing field for batters to be judged on...... and for most, the statistics prove most asians never get past various perceptional barriers at the county level. factor in the schools most of the successful Asian players went to, might be surprised to see a correlation between public v private / and success at county cricket level...... don't jump up and point to the exceptions we're not talking about those......STILL A LONG LONG WAY to go in england to bring parity of opportunities across the economic spectrum of cricket loving people.......unlike boxing, in cricket it's very difficult to take the decisions out of the judges hands....so upshot is england isn't SEEING the best of the Asian cricketers. that is reflected in the national team. one's making it to national level have no excuses, all play under pressure, perform and enjoy it for the most part.

  • on July 3, 2013, 8:21 GMT

    Ranjitsinhji, Duleepshi, Nawab of Pataudi Sr, Raman Subba Row and Nasser Hussain...all Asian originated English batsmen who went out there and scored big runs. The precedence is there (and I will take issue with Steen about Nasser not being a batting hero); the prize is for the taking.

  • Baundele on July 3, 2013, 8:22 GMT

    IndiaNumeroUno is probably right. Ravi Bopara denied to join the IPL for his British test place. But he was replaced by Eoin Morgan, credit to only a single innings. I think, it is not only Asian, but each and every player with foreign origin must perform much better than the British ones to be in the team. It applies to even KP and Trott.