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Breaking barriers to play for country

Hashim Amla is the first cricketer of Indian origin to play for South Africa. But his rise to the top is only the culmination of the process that started a few years after 1860 - the year when the first group of Indians was ferried to work in SA. Subhash Rajta reports.

cricket Updated: Jan 10, 2011 00:33 IST
Subhash Rajta

Hashim Amla is the first cricketer of Indian origin to play for South Africa. But his rise to the top is only the culmination of the process that started a few years after 1860 - the year when the first group of Indians was ferried to work in SA.

On the way, however, many a talented cricketer of Indian origin walked into sunset without getting the chance to play at the highest level, thanks to the apartheid regime that didn't allow blacks and coloured to play for the official side.

"The Indian community kept the game alive and there were several of them good enough to play for the country," said Elvis Govender, member of the former Natal Cricket Board.

The first name that springs to mind is that of left-arm spinner Parshuraman. "He was so good that the visiting Australian sides in the 1950s and 1960s used to "smuggle" him into the nets to prepare themselves against spin."

But the most famous name of Indian origin was that of Sewsunker Sewgolum - a golfer in the late 1950 and 60s. Sewsunker made history when he became the first non-white golfer to win a provincial open. He created ripples when he had to receive his trophy in the rain, as, due to apartheid, he wasn't allowed to enter the clubhouse.