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(From left) Navjot Singh Sidhu, Bishan Singh Bedi and Harbhajan Singh. (Courtesy: Getty Images)

The first Indian Test side included Lall Singh, a most singular Test cricketer in many aspects; he was the first Malaysia-born to play Test cricket and remained the only one till Steve O Keefe very recently; he was also the first Sikh to play Test cricket; and finally, he was a specialist fielder, almost certainly one of very few at the highest level. Within half an hour of making his Test debut he ran out Frank Woolley with an outstanding pick-up and throw.

Unable to find a team in Bombay Quadrangular, Lall Singh had to play for Hindus. Had he played a few years later he would have found a place in The Rest.

Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, was one of the most significant patrons during their early days in Test cricket. He was not a decent cricketer. His son Yadavindrasingh, who played a solitary Test and later became Maharaja, was a quality cricketer and did not require royal influences to make it to the Indian team.

Ram Singh (of Madras) was a contemporary of the Yuvraj of Patiala. He did not get a Test cap, but two of his sons (Kripal and Milkha) did. Kripal was also the first known international cricketer to change his religion (to Christianity, in his case) during his playing days.

The Sikh representation reached its pinnacle against West Indies at Ahmedabad in 1983-84, one that marked the debut of Navjot Singh Sidhu and the last appearance of Balwinder Sandhu. India also included Maninder Singh, which meant that three Sikhs played for India for the first time in their history. The icing on the cake was the fact that the designated 12th man was Gursharan Singh, another Sikh.

The Sikhs have produced some wonderful cricketers, comparable with any other ethnic group. While the others might give them a run for money on field, almost none of them can take them on when it comes to exuberance: seldom would come across a side this colourful, and by that I do not mean only the shades of their exotic turbans and patkas!

It is not the purpose of this article to hurt religious sentiments.

The problem I faced while making this XI was the lack of a specialist wicketkeeper. I had to assign the difficult task to Gursharan Singh.

Sikh XI

Navjot Sidhu, Gursharan Singh (wk), Yadavindrasingh, Kripal Singh, Milkha Singh, Lall Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Balwinder Sandhu, Harvinder Singh, Maninder Singh, Bishan Singh Bedi (c), Kanwar Rai Singh (sub).

(A New Delhi-based cricket author and historian, Gulu Ezekiel is the author of a dozen sports books including best-selling biographies of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni. Formerly sports editor at Asian Age, NDTV and indya.com)