<<Still an Indian at heart and proud of it>> 

That's the spirit rather than pretend. It would be sheer hypocrisy or diplomacy if one pretends. Didn't we witness the hysteria and drum beat at Lords during the recent India/England final at Lords when Kaif and Yuvraj steered India to victory? Even an elephant was brought at the Oval in 1971 when Bhagvat Chandrashekhar earned India that memorable victory against England. Mihir Bose in his 'A History of Indian Cricket' portrays it vividly in its very first chapter (it is a must read for Indian fans).

Somebody very rightly stated that the local Asians openly supported India and Pakistan in their matches against Kenya during the 'Mini World Cup' played in Nairobi a few years back. Why? Because we are not indigenous but immigrants. Religious and communalistic sentiment is more instinctive and derivative than nationalistic leaning. Wherever we may be, Africa, America or Europe, evolving nationalism is hard to come by.  As East Africans you all must have experienced and felt the intensity in the local inter communal games, be it cricket or volleyball. The rivalry displayed by Hindus and various Muslim communities at times is abhorrent. Some Muslims (of Indian ancestry as there was no Pakistan pre 1947) fanatically support Pakistan when they have neither seen Pakistan nor India. It is the religious dogma that is responsible for such human behaviour. 

And yes, had India been in the reckoning at football the UK Indians would definitely have supported India rather than England or Scotland. 

 <<I'm not sure about striking similarity, apart from their skin color but you can tell a Nigerian from a West Indian by the way they talk. I used to play cricket with Jamaicans/Barbadians/Trinidadians and other few islands. I couldn't exactly tell what island they came from by their account because to me, their accents sounded the same but they could tell the difference.>> 

The striking similarity between the Africans and the West Indians is their cheerfulness, optimism, fondness for music, ngoma(drumming), dancing and booze, happy go lucky behaviour and their attitude to lfe. I'd not meant the outside differentiation, definitely they look the same (skin color). Also it is easy to identify West Indians by the way they speak, their English accent is peculiar unlike Africans. 

I'd implied differentiatiating the two on the basis of their behaviourial pattern. Personally I found the West Indians loud, boisterous and aggressive while Africans in the UK seemed mild and better behaved. I could be wrong. This pattern can also vary, Jamaicans are said to be rough and more agressive than the Trinidadians and those from other smaller islands. 

It was interesting to know that the West Indians among themselves can identify one another through their dialect, wheteher Jamaican, Barbadian or Trinidadian. Similarly the Africans can easily detect the respective tribe when they talk Kiswahili among themselves, for every tribe(Wahaya, Wachaga, Wasukuma etc) has its own Kiswahili dialect which differs from the other.  

Here is a funny tale. After the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution a couple of my cousins went to London to complete their schooling. There in the school they came across certain West Indian students, and mistaking them for East Africans they tried to befriend them by greeting them in the courteous Zanzibari Kiswahili, "Msalkher...waonaje hali yahe...khabari gani yahe...". They were taken aback and felt really embarrassed when the West Indians snubbed and glared fixedly at them. 

<< An old codger who knew everything about cricket and always had some comments to make, watching this had stopped lighting his pipe. I also seem to recall that Sobers had taken a wicket of Stewart (?) in his first over with his medium paced chinaman .The pipe had fallen out of the old codger's mouth.  I also recall a Daily Mirror headline making a play with his name. Sober Sobers. Charlie Griffith was suspected of being a chucker. I seem to recall that he was the one who had felled Nari Contractor in the West Indies. It was a near fatal blow on the head >>   

Yes, Charlie Griffith was suspected of being a chucker. The English and the Australians were severe on him. Some like Ken Barrington and Norman Oneil took a vow not to play against him. It was one of cricket's major controversies of the sixties. It generated adverse publicity for Griffith who was a gentleman off the field. The West Indians defended him saying that Griffith's suspected delivery was a genuine yorker which the batsmen failed to read. 

The Nari Contractor incident occurred in 1962 when India on their tour of West Indies were playing Barbados. As usual Contractor opened the innings and had to play a lifting delivery from Griffith. It hit him above his right ear and he had to be rushed to the hospital where he was operated and an iron plate inserted in his skull. Griffith was at the hospital and in tears, Sir Frank Worrell donated blood. Sadly that was the end of Contractor's test career and it paved the way for the Nawab of Pataudi (junior) to take over India's captaincy. 

Your narrative of the old codger was amusing;  he must have been a West Indian, typical of them. The West Indians are interesting characters. With their drums and calypsos the going at the ground gets livelier. It is an experience to take a seat by their side at the Oval or Lords, in particular when West Indies are playing. They are noisy and at times can be even rowdy but overall they are fun to be with. 

There is an interesting incident relating to umpire Dicki Bird. After West Indies had won the 1975 World Cup at Lords spectators invaded the pitch and Bird who was umpiring the game lost his hat which was snatched by a spectator. The next day Bird was travelling by bus and happened to sit beside a West Indian passenger wearing the same hat. When Bird enquired of the hat the passenger replied (he seemed not familiar with the umpires), "Man, I snatched it from the umpire at Lords Yesterday." What a coincidence! 

There is this striking similarity between the West Indians and local Africans. There can be even a marked contrast between the two. I suppose West Indians like Afro Americans are of West African descent. Pravin, having stayed all these years in the UK, can you differentiate between the two, ie a West Indian and say a Nigerian? 

Back to Sobers - you quote the Daily Mirror headline 'Sober Sobers' which reminds me of Norman Yardley's eulogy to Sobers in his column for the Telegraph or some other paper 'When Sobers goes to bat the bars and restaurants go empty' (can't recall the exact phrasing). Such was the Sobers impact, otherwise it was 1966 and the UK hosting the World Cup Football was gripped by football fever. 

<<At lunch I offered them my chicken sandwiches which my sister had prepared for me along with parathas and one of those chilli omelettes, which they cheerfully accepted.....What a great day it was. I often go to 'Lords' and the 'Oval' but never ever have I enjoyed a day of cricket as I did that day. There is hope.>> 

That's the spirit. It was a wonderful gesture on your part. 

It's not that Lords or the Oval captivate any less. I'd experienced a full day's play at both the venues when England were battling against Australia and West Indies. At lunch and tea spectators feast off food and drinks and it is as good as picnicking, in particular our Muhindis who come in with their lunch boxes and flasks. But as you've rightly put it watching cricket in the Subcontinent is 'mazahi aur hai'. 

Whilst in Pakistan it was thrilling to see Majid Khan score a scintillating century in the pre lunch session against New Zeland at the National Stadium, Karachi (1976). What a contrast when earlier at the same venue i'd seen Hanif Mohamed take almost 2 days to score a century for PIA against Pakistan Blues. My favourite was Brebourne Stadium which commanded spectacular view. The crowd was enchanting. If an innings got bogged down the transistors would be switched on loudly and the entire stadium resounded with the chants of Indian songs. The crowd could be even nasty. The seemingly doubtful dismissal of Venkatraghavan (now an internationally acclaimed umpire) had the crowd set fire to its East Stand which started burning and eventually the play for the day against the Australians was called off. We were seated in the West Stand and had to rush out amidst the stampede that followed (1969).

No more matches are played at Brebourne Stadium. It has been replaced by Wenkhede Stadium where in 1984 I happened to see the Faroukh Engineer Benefit match. The Indian side played the Rest led by my favourite, Gary Sobers. The crowd went ecstatic as he came in to bat. What an ovation! But the occasion was tinged with sadness too, the king was limping and the phenomenon was history.



Last updated November 2007 Copyright Abdulrazak Fazal 2007 - All Rights Reserved