By Prabhjot Singh*
Migrants from South Asia are known to carry with them their culture, their heritage, and their sports to the alien lands of their abode.
In the early 20th century when Sikh migrants from Punjab moved in big numbers to British Columbia in Canada, they brought with them not only the great institution of Gurdwara but also sports like field hockey and their mother sport Kabaddi.
In 1906, the Khalsa Diwan Society — Canada’s first Sikh organization — was formed. Two years later, on Jan. 19, 1908, Vancouver became home to North America’s first gurdwara, or Sikh temple. The Second Avenue Gurdwara operated out of a stately two-story building in Kitsilano, serving a community that numbered around 2,000 its first year. The Society later oversaw the construction of gurdwaras in Victoria, Abbotsford and New Westminster.
Similar stories were scripted wherever Sikh migrants moved early in the 20th century, including Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) besides the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
They also brought with them their sports. Kabaddi, as their mother sport, and field hockey as their adopted sport, travelled with them to their new countries of abode.
For more than 10 countries, including Canada, Kenya, Uganda and England, Sikhs played in prestigious events like Olympics and World Cups. Monty Panesar of England became the first turbaned Sikh outside India to play Test cricket. Besides Monty there have been several Punjabi cricketers who have played for England, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Kenya and UAE in different formats of the game.
In 2016 I had an opportunity to meet Sao Paulo based Sarabjeet Singh Bedi who represented Brazil in cricket.
Sarabjeet Bedi, Monty Panesar
Ish Sodhi, New Zealand spinner was born in Ludhiana, Punjab. At the age of four, Sodhi moved to Auckland, New Zealand along with his family. Sodhi has played 17 Tests taking 41 wickets and 33 ODIs with 43 wickets to his name.
Ravi Bopara, England star all-rounder was born into a Sikh family of Indian origin. Bopara was born in London and played 120 ODIs scoring 2,695 runs and scalped 40 wickets. He also played 13 Tests with 575 runs and bagged a solitary wicket.
As Tanveer Sanga makes his international debut for Australia, we give you a list of cricketers of Indian origin who played for other nations. Here’s a look at some of those cricketers
Last year, Team Australia included in its squad for the T20I series against New Zealand 19-year-old Tanveer Sangha of Indian-origin in the squad. The cricketer entered the record books as he became only the fourth cricketer of Indian origin to represent Australia.
Yuvraj Singh and Manpreet Gony have played cricket in Canada. Manpreet Gony also played for the Canadian team.
Cricket in North America is essentially a summer game as Winters are too hostile to leave any possibility of any outdoor sporting activity.
Last week I had an opportunity to watch a T20 cricket tournament being staged in Brampton. The event, with a prize money of $20,000, had attracted 16 teams.
Organized by My Indians in Canada Association (MICA), it had the backing of not only the Indian Consulate-General in Toronto, Apoorva Srivastav, but also the Mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown, besides a couple of Canadian MPs of Indian origin, including Sonia Sidhu, besides several MLAs of Ontario like Prabhmeet Sarkaria, Deepak Anand, Sara Singh and Amarjot Sandhu.
The Unity Cup, as it has been named, is also to commemorate 75th anniversary of Indian independence.
“We had a tough job in selecting teams on merit,” said Ashwini Aggarwal of MICA maintaining that total number of teams in Greater Toronto Area was more than 100.
Manish, the Chief technical Organizer of the tournament, said that three grounds were used to conduct the matches.
Both Ashwini Aggarwal and Manish are hopeful that going by growing popularity of cricket in Greater Toronto Area, Brampton has the strongest possibility of becoming cricket capital of Canada.
The teams that featured in the final – Brampton Pacers and Brampton Royals –
Have players of Punjabi descent as their mainstay. The winners – Royal Pacers – will now head to British Columbia and Alberta to play in other prize money tournaments.
In Ottawa, one of the cricket Clubs has only Malayalee players. There are several other cricket clubs with players of Indian origin.
There are also players from countries like Jamaica, Trinidad, and Tobago and Barabodas who represent different Clubs. Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta are the three provinces that witness good cricketing activity between May and September every year.
The provincial association also hold their respective leagues featuring their registered clubs.
Most of the Clubs registered with the provincial cricket association have no choice but to practice indoors during winter months.
Though Canada has played in the ICC championships held prior to World Cups, it has still a long way to go. What it needs a couple of cricket stadia with facilities for indoor training besides holding international matches on regular basis to further popularize the sport here.
* Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows. For more in-depth analysis please visit probingeye.com or follow him on Twitter.com/probingeye