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  Friday, 5 April, 2002, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Windies' eastern roots
Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Chanderpaul is one of seven 'East Indian' players
As the two teams prepare for a Test series, guest correspondent Gulu Ezekiel looks at the increasing influence of players of Indian origin on the West Indies side.

After a barren period in the 1980s, the Indian influence in West Indian cricket has reached its peak.

Many names in the rival camp will be familiar to Indians as their team tours the Caribbean for the eighth in 50 years.

  'East Indians' since 1994
Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Rajendra Dhanraj
Daren Ganga
Dinanath Ramnarine
Sooraj Ragoonath
Mahendra Nagamootoo
Ramnaresh Sarwan
Not since the glory days of Joe Solomon and Rohan Kanhai have so many East Indians (as the community is known in the Caribbean) made it to the Test side.

Mostly from Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, a total of 20 have represented their adopted land, with as many as seven making their debuts since 1994.

Generally from the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, these cricketers are the descendants of indentured labourers brought over by the British in the 19th century to work in the sugarcane fields.

Outside of cricket, perhaps the best known of these immigrants is the Nobel Prize-winning novelist V.S. Naipul.

Today East Indians make up slightly more than 50% of the population in Trinidad and Tobago and 42% in Guyana.

Two of those 20 captained the West Indies, first Kanhai and then Alvin Kallicharan.

Calypso

Traditionally batsmen or spin bowlers, the first from his community to play Test cricket for the West Indies was Sonny Ramadhin.

Bowling both off and leg-breaks, he made a huge impact in tandem with left-arm spinner Alf Valentine on his debut tour of England in 1950.

Robin Singh
Trinidad-born Robin Singh reversed the trend
The two inspired the Calypso, 'Those two little pals of mine, Ramadhin and Valentine'.

There are no Calypsos today sung in praise of the likes of batsmen Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Daren Ganga and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

But the trio have been mainstays of the current West Indies squad.

The recent resurgence of East Indian representation has coincided with Afro-Caribbeans increasingly turning away from cricket to more financially lucrative sports likes soccer and basketball.

In a role-reversal, all-rounder Rabindra (Robin) Singh was born in Port of Spain but returned to India in the 1980s to study, and starred in the one-day side for much of the 1990s.

He is currently captain of the Tamil Nadu Ranji Trophy team and has settled in Madras.

Impressive tourists

It was the very first Indian team that visited the West Indies in 1952-53 that sparked interest among the East Indian community.

Under the captaincy of Vijay Hazare, the visitors did well to lose just one of the five Test matches and made a huge impression with their dazzling ground-fielding.

Rohan Kanhai
East Indian Kanhai broke into the side in the 1950s
Traditionally, Indian (and Pakistani) touring sides have received tremendous local support from crowds at Port of Spain.

Indeed this is the only venue where India has won a Test match, both in the 1971 and 1976 series.

Kanhai was the first of the great batsmen to emerge from the community in the 1950s and went onto play 79 Test matches, captaining his country from 1972 to 1974.

His exotic batsmanship was mirrored in the left-handed Kallicharan, also from Berbice in Guyana.

Kallicharan, who went on to play 66 Tests, made a huge impact in his maiden series against New Zealand in 1972 with centuries in his first two Test matches.

He briefly led the side during the period between 1977-79 when the cream of the team was contracted to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket

And he was the first from the West Indies to play cricket in South Africa during the apartheid era.

See also:

07 Mar 02 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Guyana
07 Mar 02 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Trinidad and Tobago
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