It is good to join you all and extend welcome and felicitations to Sunil Gavaskar from the Sikh cricket enthusiasts of Connecticut. The idea grew out of a chance meeting that I had with Cathy Brophy when I was at Hartford Public Library a few weeks back for an unrelated meeting. I took the idea back to some in our fraternity and it was received warmly. It certainly is a great credit to the game of cricket and the memories associated with the sunny strokes of our own Sunny that the small Sikh presence in and around Hartford came together to join you in this informal setting to meet one another and help promote a fraternity of goodwill.
Cathy had suggested if some young folks from us could provide an icebreaker cultural opening. I asked Minni Randhawa who had earlier choreographed an excellent Gidda recital for a cultural event we did some three years back and she volunteered that the Randhawa children would make a Bhangra presentation. I am so glad that my young friends from the Randhawa and Zazzaro families are here all dressed up and innocently eager for me to finish so that they can get on with their recital.
Bhangra as some of you may know is the traditional harvest dance of Panjab – made memorable by the Sikh farmers. Today Bhangra is possibly becoming a dance craze. It has been hitting high on popularity charts in England for quite some time and is on its trans Atlantic voyage. Vigorous and rhythmic, even health and fitness exercises set to Bhangra rhythm and movements are catching on. Our young artistes I believe are presenting the traditional theme with some contemporary touches.
Before we start I do want to share some reminiscences about cricket and cricketing Sikhs. As I was growing up I read and heard about the early Indian cricket stalwarts – the Jam Sahib, Nawab of Pataudi, Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram, Gaekwad of Baroda and not to forget Maharaja of Patiala, his presence no less colorful than his turban. All of them scions of Princely families played the game to the delight of cricket lovers on English greens and in many ways helped generate greater respect for their colonized country men. More recently Bishan Bedi captained the Indian team for several seasons. Maninder and now Harbhajan are among the ace Indian spin bowlers. Navjot Sidhu left the bat to take to becoming a cricket commentator.
Sunil Gavaskar has been a man of many assets – not the least being his incisive study and writings on the Indian cricket and cricketers. There is one question that has nagged me at times. We the Sikhs are mostly Punjabi stock. The Punjabis are hardy people, eat well, are physically strong and fond of sporting activities. Sikhs additionally are thought to be outgoing, aggressive. Yet when I look at the Sikh cricket greats the names Bedi, Maninder, Harbhajan stick out. All three are spinners. Now spin has never been the forte of Sikhs. Even a journalistic stalwart like Khushwant Singh can at best be called the king of bouncers. So how come in cricket – what happened – would Sunny please throw some light. And no spin please!