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India second home for SA manager

For Goolam, the second generation Indian-South African, every trip to this country is a means to refresh his roots.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2005 11:47 IST

For Goolam Raja, manager of the South African cricket team, every trip to India is memorable and a means to refresh his Indian roots.

The second generation Indian-South African, currently visiting India for the five-match one day international series, coming on a tour to the country is like "coming home culturally".

"It has been more than 10 years of coming back to India and I have made five trips with the team, but it was the World Cup held in the subcontinent in 1996 that was the most memorable," Raja said.

Raja was the assistant manager of the South African cricket team when India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka jointly hosted the 1996 World Cup.

Speaking about his roots, he said: "My grandfather immigrated from Gujarat to South Africa and both my father and I were born there, but coming on a tour to India is coming home culturally.

"We had no doubts while growing up, where we belonged culturally and ours was a typical Indian household though we were very proud of being South African."

With more than 260 one-day Internationals, 102 Test matches, three Cricket World Cups and three ICC Champions Trophy tournaments to his credit, Raja is the most experienced team manager in the international game.

Speaking about his days growing up in South Africa as a kid, Raja said the fact that he was of Indian origin did not matter because it was a well-integrated society there.

"The South African government is very supportive of various ethnic groups and we are perfectly free to practice our religions and cultural habits as we see fit.

"We were lucky that we all had equal opportunity to practice and play any sport we wanted and that is a blessing."

Though Raja played cricket only at the club level, he has been closely linked with the resurgence of South African cricket.

"I toured with the first South African team that made its return to international cricket led by Clive Rice as a support staff. It was a great tour and very important for me since it was India that first hosted us," he said, referring to the South African tour of India in 1991 when they first came back to the game.

He was also appointed the manager of the World XI in the recent ICC Super Series - recognition of his achievements as a team manager.

Asked about this stint, he said: "It was an absolute pleasure to be associated with the team. I respected every player in the team and they vindicated my confidence and respect."

"I also became very good friends with Virender Sehwag during that time, and we continue to keep in touch and share a relationship of mutual respect."

Raja, glowing in his tributes to India, said the people of the country were its real treasure.

"When I leave, I will take back with me fond memories of a wonderful place called India. The people make this country and you have a great asset in your people," he said.

"They are warm, hospitable, are always smiling and make you feel welcome wherever you go."

First Published: Nov 20, 2005 11:04 IST