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Thursday, October 15, 2015

missing crowds at Abu dhabi ~Adil Rashid on debut beats McGain, who ?

In Aug 2014,   in England - in the 3rd  Test at Southampton the tall Pankaj Singh became 282nd  player to represent India in Test matches.  The last one from Rajasthan was Parthasarathi Sharma who played against the WI in 1975.  Pankaj had taken 300 domestic wickets before making his Test debut !  ~  Way back in Feb 1987 at Chepauk when play ended on 4th Feb 1987 [2nd  day], Indians were 15 without loss with Srikkanth unbeaten on 5. The next day was a rest day and 6th Feb started with great expectation for Chennai fans ~ all roads led to MA Chidambaram stadium and there was mad scramble for tickets – there were heads everywhere – people occupying all vantage points to have a glimpse of Krish Srikkanth playing the pace of Imran Khan; there was Wasim Akram, guily Abdul Qadir and Tausef Ahamed.  It was breath-taking assault as Srikkanth, cut, pulled and played with gay abandon to reach his maiden century in front of his home ground with all present cheering merrily.  He finally got out to Tauseef making 123 with 18 fours and 2 sixers.  Chepauk has always had heavy crowd attendance.

Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, is one of the good looking stadiums.  It opened in 2004 and had  an Intercontinental Cup fixture between Scotland and Kenya.  When Ben Stokes came on for the final over before tea and started bowling off-spin, it was a clear admission  that things were not exactly going to plan for England.  Shoaib Malik  was on 40 when caught off a Stuart Broad no-ball on the opening day of this first Test. It was an error that proved costly as the 33-year-old, playing his first Test for five years, went on to plunder a career-best 245.

More than the match statistics, there is another sad feature.  London Daily Telegraph reports that it became clear on the first day of this match who has the most futile job of the 7.8 million migrants who work in the United Arab Emirates: the guy paid to wash down the seats at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. For the two days leading into this game the blue seats in the stand opposite the dressing rooms were sprayed free of their desert dust both to look better on television and also to save patrons from going home with dirty trousers. But on the first day of a series that will decide which team is second in the world rankings of Test cricket the crowd looked as if it numbered no more than 1,000. And that is being optimistic.

The two grassy knolls square of the wicket were devoid of fans and nobody parked their behinds on the recently cleaned clean seats even though ticket prices here for Test matches (between £5-£20) are probably cheaper than buying your lunch at Lord’s.

The London Daily Telegraph reports further that only 54 people showed up to watch the match between two of cricket's powerhouses ! The seats did look resplendent on camera ... but that may have been because they hadn't been touched since their cleaning. Commentators were quick to point out that it was a working day in the UAE and Pakistan fans were unable to get the day off work to attend the cricket. The local Emiratis have not really embraced this Test either, leaving a smattering of fans that would be considered average for a Sydney grade cricket match.  The last England tour to the UAE was so badly attended that it was reported the England players would make up life stories for the individual spectators at the drinks breaks. There is hope that an Islamic holiday on Thursday will boost the attendance levels. Hopefully the batsmen won't be the only ones celebrating triple-figures.

Other than the crowd [0r lack of it] – one man would feel relieved – that is Bryce McGain, who made his debut at the age of 36 at Newlands in Capetown in Mar 2009.   In a match that he would like to forget, England's new spinner Adil Rashid made a record none for 163 on his debut, thanks to relentless treatment by Pakistan's batsmen. McGain earlier had conceded 0/149 from 18 overs. He made 2 in first innings and was run out for a duck in the 2nd.  Adil Rashid has now taken his place in the record books as the worst-performing bowler on debut in the history of Test cricket.

Rashid's teammate Ben Stokes employed some typical English understatement when he said: "It hasn't gone the way he would have wanted it to", after the leg spinner's 34 wicket-free overs cost 163 runs after Pakistan declared at 8-523 on day two of the first Test in Abu Dhabi. England began their response with 0-56.

Rashid's runs-conceded were about three times the official crowd figure for the first day of the match, which stood at 54.  McGain, who lost the crown, the Victorian spinner, who now captains district club Prahran's 2nd XI was philosophical as he reflected on the changing of the guard. "Like every other Australian boy who loves cricket, [I] dreamt of playing for Australia and getting the Baggy Green and making a hundred for Australia. But I probably didn't realise it'd be off 10 overs of my bowling," McGain said. McGain was selected to tour India amid Australia's search for a long-term replacement for Shane Warne but did not play due to injury. He was later selected to tour South Africa where he became the oldest debutant since Bob Holland in 1984. However, he was hit all over the ground in the Proteas' 651, which helped them to win by an innings and 20 runs.

McGain hoped that Rashid would get the further opportunities which eluded him following the Cape Town Test.

At Southampton in 2014,  Pankaj Singh went wicketless in his debut– not very unique you have many big names in that list including Imran, Sarfraz, Chaminda Vaas, Jeff Thomson and the whispering death Michael Holding.  Pankaj finished with a match haul of 0-179 when  England declared its second innings on 4-205 in the third Test at Southampton. The previous worst was 0-164 by Pakistan’s Sohail Khan against Sri Lanka in Karachi in 2009.  His maiden wicket came in his second match;  with his 416th  ball when he dismissed Joe Root on 77. He also dismissed wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Butler a few overs later.

Life at times is too difficult !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

15th Oct 2015.

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