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Milan C.C. vs YMCA C.C.
14th April 2012
By Karthik Duraisami

From the 13th man

It didn't rain. The intermittent showers that were predicted for much of the day stayed away. Apparently Nand had predicted a rain free Saturday. How we managed a 35 overs a side game on a day like this is anyone's guess. The pavilion, nicely painted and all, was inaugurated by David and the visiting team was given first use of the facility.

On Friday, before start of play, Sunil pointed out to Van der Merwe as the international player we'd be up against. He left out a certain Alan Lewis, who I was to later find out, a legend with 120 odd international appearances playing for Ireland. Alan and I - yes, name dropping at its very best - stood in as umpires for the game. He did not partake in the T20 game that day obviously saving himself for the bigger game that was to follow. Alan assumed I too had, like him, saved myself for the bigger occasion. The very thought of that, no doubt, would have most in the MCC in splits. How I wish all umpires were cut from the same cloth.

As Alan, after the game, pointed out, a fairly one sided T20 game had lulled the visitors into a false sense of confidence. The visiting team had assumed that we were not capable of a much better showing. But MCC had put together the finest team possible with the exception of you know who. But then given the clubs origins, its history, past captains merit a place. I stand by that previous sentence. Sunil, despite his poor showing on Friday, belonged. Nand, captain, owner of the biggest monstrous looking SUV, put YMCA to bat. Nand, speaking in Hindi, asked everyone to step it up a notch and at the same time to tone down on the appealing. A duality MCC managed with some style. YMCA got off to a snails start scoring at less than two an over for the better part of fifteen overs. The bowling was spot on. Both opening bowlers maintained an impeccable line and length and were backed by some superlative fielding. Sonu didn't let anything get past him at Point. Ross put in a dive, and even had a bruise to show for it. Bhupi, twelfth man for the game, had said before the start that Imran and Amir had it not been for the fact that they were in Italy would have played professional cricket. How true. Sunil, mercifully, rediscovered his touch and even almost pulled off a tough caught and bowled chance. Nand bowled well, continuing from where he had left of the other day. Moon and Sonu pitched in with economical spells. Van der Merwe was the first to be dismissed, caught at slip by Irfaan off the bowling of Amir. Shami, who has played with the likes of Afridi, was the next to go adjudged lbw for not much. Strydom and Alan batting in tandem did up the scoring rate for a while but their dismissals put an end to any thoughts of YMCA posting a decent total.

With only a sub-par 101 to chase, MCC was never in any doubt of getting across the line given our formidable batting line up. After Sonu got out 'trying to invent a shot', as Bhupi put it, Vikas and Irfaan batted sensibly putting together a partnership that got us close. So convinced of victory were the rest of the batters to follow that they helped themselves to second servings of biriyani and sandwiches. While the two were going, anything pitched short was pulled with disdain. Vikas, in fact, hammered three fours, all pull shots front of square at that, in one over from Umar. Gurmeel, busy body that he is, at the crease following Irfaan's exit, tried his best to unsettle Van der Merwe's constricting line and length by shuffling about in the crease and threatening to walk down the track. He got the better of Van on one occasion lofting him for a huge six, but Van had the last laugh. Moon sent in at Gurmeel's fall, with not much required, dead batted everything that came his way for a couple of overs to justify the distance he had traveled for the game.

Il Palio

David recounted his beginnings with YMCA and how his time with the club had instilled in him a lifelong passion for the game. He then spoke movingly about how it was everyone's responsibility to give back at some stage for the benefit of those to come after us. Chris did the honor of presenting the manager of YMCA with a plaque. David, noble soul, had brought along bottles of wine, Nebbiolo - if my memory serves me well, with the logos of the two clubs imprinted on them for the occasion.

Both teams having clearly over estimated the number of new recruits for the year, and with plenty of shirts lying about, decided to remedy the 'excess' situation by showering each other with jerseys and caps as tokens of appreciation. Camaraderie and warmth flowed, the wine helped obviously. The beneficiaries from Milan were Irfaan and Vikas for their match winning stand, Nand, Chis, Gautam and Sunil for chauffeuring the visiting team around. For YMCA, Shawny was handed a cap for his good spell as much as for his prettier sibling, Strydom for his hard hitting 50 of the previous day, and a cap each for the lanky fast bowler and muscled wicket keeper whose names I forget.

Ross then took center stage and did his Maori Haka impression followed by a song from 'Fiddler on the Roof'. His Haka was spot on. Tim Robinson would have stood up and applauded. Actually, Tim would have bettered that. He would have, if in a position to do so, conferred him with honorary citizenship of NZ. His second act, Tevye's impersonation, was interrupted twice. First by the arrival of the second fish course and then by a drunk, inquisitive, Swedish guy who for some reason seemed extra keen on letting us know of his viking roots. Ross unperturbed by waiters and vikings gave a shirtless rendering of 'If I were a rich man'. Given that most were in an inebriated state and the mood was joyous, almost celebration like, the situation called for 'Lechaim, To Life' but Ross pulled off the more sober and reflective 'If I were a rich man' without dampening the mood. If anyone can pull it off, it is he.

On a completely unrelated note, I seem to have misplaced my MCC cap that was handed to me that morning, without fanfare, without the customary team huddle and applause that follows on such occasions, with only Nand's demoralizing words for company, 'The cap comes with the rest of the outfit you paid for, here you go'. If someone knows of its whereabouts, do let me know. Although I came in its possession in less than ideal situations, I'd still like to try out the routine of having the cap under my pillow before game days. I am told such absurdness pays off. My wicket less streak (this season) might come to an end.

Also, after due consideration, I have decided to hang my batting shoes. Henceforth I'd be available for team selection as a bowler alone. This, I must tell you, was a very hard decision to arrive at. This weekend I realized that when Sunil went about with his shadow practice he accompanied every swish of the bat with a 'click' sound that was a close approximation of the middle of the bat or thereabouts meeting the ball. I, on the other hand, could not reach that note. With bat in hand, swinging away at imagined full tosses, when I raised my tongue to make contact with my palate, I could only manage the sound of ball thudding on to the glove or at best the sound of ball hitting the toe end of the bat. It is an omen, a sign of things to come. It is time. Karthik, the batsmen is dead. I plan to focus on my bowling and in my spare time designing nail clippers with a long reach. I hear there is a market for that.

A great evening overall. In all probability, the next time around the guys around the table won't be the same lot - there is talk of some getting married and some others relocating to palm fronds in distant lands. But this night will long be remembered.

Inaccuracies/incompleteness in reporting have to do with being allowed only occasional glimpses of the action in the middle in between some less than glamorous heavy lifting and having no access to the score book.

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