The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A taste of Asian charm

London: The batting styles of Vikram Solanki and Nasser Hussain are miles apart. As far apart, indeed, as Udaipur and Chennai.

There is something very English about Hussain, despite his Indian birthplace. He appears measured and calculating. His work at the crease is similarly solid rather than spectacular.

He has proved a fine captain of a workman-like Test team.

Solanki, like Hussain, was born in India and bred in England. His uninhibited batting, however, seems to have remained loyal to his Asian roots.

His delightful century against South Africa at The Oval last week was full of exotic, impulsive, wristy flourishes. The style was no surprise. The fact that he survived as long as he did was.

Solanki has always looked dashing but has tended to deal in one-day cameos rather than lead roles. On Saturday, he was caught behind off a no-ball having just reached the 20s. Reprieved thanks to Shaun Pollock’s two-inch over-step, he went on to make 106 at a run-a-ball.

Fellow opener Marcus Trescothick out-scored him by eight runs more but said: “It was fantastic being at the other end...(it was a) typical Vikram innings, really.

“I have seen bits and pieces of it but I have never seen him play to that standard against such a good team.”

England boasts large communities with direct links to the sub-continent. Their traditional passion for cricket has long been seen as a valuable future resource for the national team.

In recent seasons, however, there has not been a significant breakthrough. Several players, like batsmen Aftab Habib (born in Reading, two Tests, average of 8.66), Usman Afzaal (born in Rawalpindi, three Tests, average of 16.6) and Owais Shah (Karachi-born, 15 one-dayers, average of 21.76), have been tried without immediately looking the part.

Solanki, of course, did not immediately convince either.

A compulsive driver, he survived for eight one-dayers in 2000 before being ditched, his highest score 24, and had to wait until this season before getting another game. It remains to be seen whether his majestic century proves yet another false dawn.

Solanki, who bats with his hands jammed down at the bottom of the handle, Sourav Ganguly-style, is also the best fielder in the side. (Reuters)

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