Zafar Ansari Welcomes Rise of Cricketers of Asian Heritage in England Team

Zafar Ansari has spoken of his pride at being one of four players representing the ethnic diversity in the current England Test team and has said the value that others see in this is good for society.

According to England and Wales Cricket Board figures quoted in Wisden, players of Asian heritage make up almost 40% of recreational cricketers in the UK and with Ansari, his fellow spin-bowlers Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, and the opening batsman Haseeb Hameed, all playing   in the drawn first Test in Rajkot last week , it was the first time that the national team has reflected this figure.

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, was quoted on Monday as praising a merit-based selection that could, as a by-product, inspire the next generation of young cricketers of Asian heritage in the country. When that was put to Ansari, who like Moeen, Rashid and Hameed identifies himself as British Muslim, the left-arm spinner agreed.

“As a collective, as a group of four British Muslims, there is something in that,” the 24-year-old said. “There’s no doubt that’s really exciting and something we’re proud of. A lot of people outside the group clearly care about that and value that a lot. And that is a good thing in our society.”

Ansari was born to an English mother and a Pakistani father, both of whom are professors at the University of London’s Royal Holloway College, and as a non‑practicing Muslim who did not grow up in a British Asian community he acknowledges his own background is different to Moeen, Rashid and Hameed’s.

He said: “From a personal point of view, I wouldn’t hold myself up as a role model. At least in that way. I’m from a very privileged background. I don’t necessarily challenge norms in a particularly obvious way or even in a superficial way. So I wouldn’t necessarily characterize myself as breaking down boundaries.

“But Moeen, Adil and Haseeb – all of them are doing a wonderful job representing, if they are representing, their communities. And that’s not an easy role to play, even if they’re just being themselves, but they’re doing it really well.”

That Ansari speaks so thoughtfully on the subject should come of little surprise, with his father, Professor KhizarHumayun Ansari, appointed OBE in 2002 for his work as the director of his university’s center of ethnic minority studies, while his mother, Professor Sarah Ansari, is a historian who specializes in the South Asia region post-partition in 1947.

Ansari himself was recently awarded a double-first in politics and sociology from Cambridge, having combined his studies with a rise up the cricketing ranks of the Surrey academy and into the first team, something that has now culminated in his first two Test caps this winter.

After making his debut   in the Second Test against Bangladesh , Ansari put in an encouraging performance in Rajkot, where he claimed three wickets and compiled a composed 32 over two hours at the crease during England’s first innings. Despite one spell in which he lost his rhythm, he is feeling more settled.

Ansari, who describes himself as not a “natural” cricketer, said: “My Second Test felt easier than the first from a psychological perspective. It’s just the attention being removed from you to some extent.

“As an England player people are always observing but that singular attention shifting away is a big thing for the Second Test and going forward. It allows you to play the game as a game rather than as an event that you are the center of. So hopefully that continues.”

Asked how he has come so far despite not being a natural, he replied: “I guess it’s all relative. I’m probably comparing myself with Moeen and people like that. At least from the outside. They work incredibly hard but, from the outside, they have a certain touch that maybe I don’t feel like I quite have.

“But this is just my perspective. Other people might say: ‘You’re talking rubbish; you’re being self‑deprecating.’ But that’s genuine.” – The Guardian




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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