SYDNEY:One sight which ceases to surprise after a point in different Australian cities is that of Asians. Of people from the subcontinent, to be precise. Immigrants to begin with and residents gradually, they are everywhere. Assimilated in the multi-ethnic demography, many of them occupy important positions, and their presence becomes evident whenever the cricket team tours.
Notably from the game’s point of view, reflection of this influx is becoming visible on the field. Gurinder Sandhu became the first cricketer of Indian origin to represent Australia, in the tri-series before the World Cup. Usman Khawaja of Pakistani lineage has already played Test cricket. Both represent New South Wales, where the presence of Asians is most prominent.
Given that playing for country is the tip of the pyramid, this number gets bigger going towards the base. Those associated with Cricket New South Wales (CNSW) reckon more players of Asian origin have become part of the system at various age group levels. “In recent years, the number of immigrants from South Asia has been more than the whole from Europe. Their love for cricket is what we see in the number of Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan players at different levels,” said Malcolm Conn, Senior Manager, External Communications, CNSW.
Manjot Singh was born in Australia. His parents migrated from Punjab 35 years ago. The off-spinner made first-class debut for New South Wales two years ago after playing for the U-17 and U-19 teams. “There are a few in the current junior teams and this number is increasing. At no stage did I experience any discrimination and acceptance was never an issue. These days, Sandhu and Khawaja have become role models of sorts as kids of Asian origin look up to them, thinking that one day, they too can play for Australia.”
England was the first country in international cricket to regularly field players with roots elsewhere. It started many years ago and from South African, Caribbean to Asian — different colours have become an integral part of their game. Eminent cricket journalist before joining the establishment, Conn points out a difference between the English and Australian systems.
“Unlike in England, who probably missed out on a lot of West Indian talent in 60s or 70s, there’s no ethnic exclusivity in Australian clubs. Here, you can see a mix instead of concentration of Asian players in certain pockets. Because of this, Cricket Australia is in a better position to capitalise on the influx,” said Conn. This phenomenon is more visible in Melbourne and Sydney.
When this happens, the presence of people from these communities can also be felt in the cricket system, not just in the number of players. Conn said there are three Development Officers of such origin with CNSW. Manjot informed Neil D’Costa, a coach with Indian roots, worked with Michael Clarke and Mitchell Starc during their junior days.
Craig McLean, Game Development Leader, Greater Western Sydney, said the number of coaches of Asian descent is also witnessing a surge. “Mosaic Cricket Association, an affiliate of CNSW, offers a range of opportunities to cricketers from diverse communities. They are supporting efforts at the grassroots and you can see a rise in the number of Asian coaches, including Indians.” So the next time you see Indians with Aussie accent bowling at Men in Blue at nets across Australia, you know why that’s happening.