India has unique distinction: It produced several cricket captains of other nations too

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India enjoys a unique distinction in world cricket. It is the birthplace of several cricketers who went on to become captains of teams from foreign lands. No other nation has produced so many outstanding cricketers who became captains of teams belonging to other countries. There seems to be something in the air of India with its ancient traditions that gives rise to people of diverse talents.

Among the players who were born in India but went on to become captains of England are Douglas Jardine (born in Bombay), Colin Cowdrey (born in Ooty) and Nasser Hussain (born in Madras / Chennai). Then from Pakistan, there are Asif Iqbal (born in Hyderabad, Deccan), Javed Burki (Meerut), Hanif Mohammad (Junagadh), Saeed Ahmed (Jalandhar), Inthikab Alam (Hoshiarpur), Majid Khan (Ludhiana) and Mushtaq Mohammad (Junagadh).

Majid Khan Cricket Legend
Majid Khan (Ludhiana)

This is a list of only the captains. There are dozens of players born in India or of Indian origin who represented other countries in international cricket. Two prominent India-born players in this category are Bob Woolmer and Robin Jackman both of whom played for England. Jackman was born in Shimla in 1945 where his father, an army major with the 2nd Gurkha Rifles was stationed. The family returned to Britain in 1946 where Robin found success as a cricketer.

Douglas Jardine was best known for captaining the English team during the 1932–33 Ashes tour which became notorious as the Bodyline series. He was born in Bombay to Scottish parents–Malcolm Jardine who was a former first-class cricketer and Alison Moir. At the age of nine, he was sent to St Andrews in Scotland to stay with his mother’s sister.

Douglas’ father Malcolm was born in India too (in Shimla) to a family which had been connected with India for many years. Douglas Jardine’s grandfather was William Jardine, a barrister and later a judge in Allahabad.

cowdrey in plaster
Colin Cowdrey

Colin Cowdrey’s story is quite similar. His father, Ernest Arthur Cowdrey, was born in Calcutta and later ran a tea plantation near Ooty and that is where Colin was born. Colin had no schooling in India, but his father and servants taught him cricket as soon as he could walk. He went on to play for England in 1954, became a captain in 1959, and led the team on and off for the next decade.

Nasser Hussain was born in Madras (Chennai). His father, Raza Jawad ‘Joe’ Hussain, was a keen cricketer. Reportedly he was a descendant of the Nawab of Arcot. Nasser’s mother Shireen (originally Patricia Price) is English. His father moved the family to England in 1975.

While it may not be very surprising that several Pakistan captains were born in India before the partition, it is extraordinary that a captain of Pakistan was born in India even after the two nations were parted. That man was Asif Iqbal who was born in Hyderabad, played for Osmania University and then migrated with his family to Pakistan where he extended his cricket career till he became captain of Pakistan.

One man whose life had several unusual occurrences was Bob Woolmer. He was born in Kanpur in 1948 at the Georgina McRobert Hospital which is opposite the Green Park stadium in Kanpur. His father was a cricketer too. His name was Clarence Woolmer who had represented Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji trophy.

At the age of 10, Woolmer was watching a cricket match along with his father and he witnessed the legendary Hanif Mohammad making a world record of 499 runs. Many years later, coincidentally Woolmer (then coach of Warwickshire) also witnessed Brian Lara breaking the record that Hanif Mohammad had made thirty-five years ago. The two events luckily were witnessed by Woolmer.

Tragically Woolmer died under suspicious circumstances in the West Indies in the midst of the 2007 World Cup. The mystery surrounding his death has not yet been solved and continues to be one of the strangest incidents in international cricket.

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( With inputs from )

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