Batsmen return

Batsmen return

If football is proverbially a game of two halves, then the Celebrity Cricket League’s (CCL) international leg can only be summed up in equal measure – simply substitute ‘game’ for ‘day.’

By David Light

Published: Mon 25 Feb 2013, 8:35 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:10 AM

For what ensued during the two match series at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium over the weekend was a full-blooded, thrilling Twenty20 meet… well, at least that can be said of the first encounter.

A mid-afternoon start for the Kerala Strikers and Bengal Tigers provided the perfect introduction to this cinematic-sporting amalgamation. Like any athletically themed movie ever made, under a clear blue sky stars from both Indian film industries took to the field, cheered on by a vast legion of fans that managed to fill a large proportion of the stadium. And like the finale to said genre, what occurred between the stumps was pure drama. The Strikers, led by southern superstar Mohanlal, put in a performance to be proud of. Choosing to bat first they raced to a total of 245 at the cost of only two players. With such a low tally of batsmen taken, the heftier 52-year old captain, who the majority of the crowd had turned out to see, was surplus to requirement during his team’s innings, but made an appearance on the large screen after the huge score had been posted showing off a rather snazzy head band and bemused smile. Whatever ‘Lalettan’ had to say, however, will unfortunately remain a mystery to those within the complex, as the in-house sound system did not transmit any of the interviewees’ responses – a feature that lasted throughout the day.

Salman collects a collage made by a local fan

Chasing an almost insurmountable number of runs, the Bengal Tigers put in a passable effort, yet finished 147 behind their opponents.

It was then time for what was purportedly the main event. Under the floodlights, 8pm brought about the toss between Dubai’s adopted team, the Mumbai Heroes and the normally strong Chennai Rhinos. Heroes’ captain Sunil Shetty won the coin flip and chose to bat first, rationalising that his side have not been adept at following on from challengers this season. This was the last bit of sense heard that evening.

The following four hours were a lesson in how not to endear yourselves to a T20 audience. All initial anticipation quickly dissipated as the drawn out bout ticked by over by over. Despite the cricket being of a moderately high standard, players appeared to forget the ‘where cinema meets cricket’ tagline and the spectacle that is supposed to deliver, going about their business as if embarking on the first day of a test. Where the Malayalee team would slog everything that came their way and Mohanlal in particular fielded with aplomb, the Heroes and Rhinos’ performance was functional and tedious.

The only reprieve from the damp squib of match was the inexplicably late arrival of the Heroes’ brand ambassador/most valuable player who doesn’t play/semi-owner (take your pick) Salman Khan. To be fair, the few spectators who had remained until his 10.30pm entrance were excited. Noise could be heard for the stoic Ek Tha Tiger star from the pockets of fans dotted around the venue and he did dutifully meet with children and wave when pointed in the right direction. Swamped by a squadron of beefed up para-military security guards (who at first failed to recognise head cheerleader Kangna Ranaut before a flunky persuaded them to let her through), no attempt, though, was made by the 47-year old to address the crowd. Yet, from the wait admirers had to endure to merely catch a glimpse of him, surely he can do no wrong in their eyes anyway.

Commotion over, the match resumed with the Heroes taking a 19-run win. To say the masses went wild would be an overstatement, but the team did look genuinely thrilled when all was said and done and even the silent Salman managed to crack a smile.

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