Cricket: Pride that transcends division

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The Independent Online
With their Indian background, Jimmy Irani and Mahesh Patel have perhaps felt even more of a thrill than one might expect of parents whose sons are making their England Test debuts.

Both Ronnie Irani's father and Min Patel's father have been at Edgbaston, bursting with pride and able to reflect on the course of history that has brought them and their offspring to this great moment in their lives.

While Mr Irani has come down from his Lancashire home to follow events in the company of the former Pakistan Test player, Mushtaq Mohammad, Mr Patel has left his newsagents in Sidcup, Kent, in his wife Aruna's hands and has with him his daughter-in-law Karuna, wife of Min.

"We agreed I could come and see Min here, and if he stays in the team then Aruna will go to Lord's," Mr Patel explained.

Unlike Mr Irani, who was born in India but came to England before Ronnie's birth - in Leigh - 25 years ago, Mr Patel was born and brought up in Uganda, for whom he played cricket at the age of 14. He came to England to study and then took over his father's property business in Bombay.

It was in Bombay that Min was born, in 1970. "I used to take him down to the PJ Hindu Gymkhana club, and he would bring his plastic bat," Mr Patel said. Vinoo Mankad, one of the greats of Indian cricket, was the coach, and his example as a slow left-armer was one of the reasons why Mr Patel wanted Min to bowl in the same style.

The Patels came to England when Min was five and settled in Dartford. Min's talent was developed at Dartford Grammar School and then for the Blackheath club before he made his Kent debut in 1989.

It would be entirely understandable if Mr Patel was one who is proud to fail the Tebbit test, but when asked if he had any residual feelings of support for the Indians, his response transcended mere partisanship. "I'm a sportsman," he said. "I just like to see a good game. I don't mind who wins or loses. If it's a good game I enjoy it." You can bet your life he's enjoying this one.