Southland's Hawke Cup cricket squad has a real Indian flavour this season.
The Southern Institute of Technology in recent years has attracted plenty of Indian students and that has had a flow-on effect for cricket in the south.
The students have wanted to study at the SIT, enjoy the New Zealand lifestyle and for many of them there is also a strong desire to test their cricketing skills in a different country.
One of the faces attached to the SIT, as far as promotion goes, has been former Indian coach John Wright and it seems that has been a masterstroke from the SIT.
His name has prompted many of the cricket-mad Indians to look at moving to Invercargill to study and play cricket.
The Appleby, Invercargill-Old Boys and Metro clubs are all bolstered with the inclusion of some of the students and that Indian presence is now filtering through to the Southland squad.
Akash Christian, Amarpreet Singh and Bibwas Bibhas part of the training squad.
The trio played for Southland in their warm-up game against Otago under-19 on Sunday, but only one will be able to play against North Otago in Southland's opening two-day Hawke Cup fixture in Oamaru this weekend.
Hawke Cup Associations can use just one overseas player in the playing 11 which has created a head scratcher for Southland coach Steve Jackson as he has pondered over his selections.
Bibwas, who plays for the Appleby Rams, is a bowling all-rounder while Christian and Singh are useful top-order batsmen.
Singh joined the Invercargill-Old boys club and has impressed with his free-scoring style.
His approach to never face more balls than he scores runs gives away what type of player he is.
Invercargill-Old Boys initially had him batting in the lower order before his talents become obvious and after a couple of games he was propelled to the top of the order.
He has scored 180 runs at an average of 45 in club cricket and on Sunday scored 98 off 70-odd balls for Southland against Otago under-19.
In club cricket Christian - who plays for the Metro Tigers - has scored 144 runs in four innings with an average of 48.
After a difficult start getting use to playing on artificial pitches early in the season, Christian has in his past two club innings racked up half centuries playing on grass wickets.
The trio said they are enjoying playing cricket in Southland and have been impressed with the standard of play.
"In India I didn't get a lot of appraisal from my mates and my coaches to play for further teams, so I'm really enjoying it here. I'm getting consideration from my coach and my team-mates, they are inspiring me with my game," Singh said.
Bibhas said he had been made to feel welcome within the Southland cricket community including at the Appleby Cricket Club where he is playing.
"I'm really enjoying playing [at Appleby]. I've got some good friends there, they are very very encouraging. The likes of Clinton Goad and Mark Ross, these people are really encouraging me."
Meanwhile in the opening southern zone Hawke Cup fixture played last weekend, South Canterbury grabbed an outright win over Otago Country.
- © Fairfax NZ News