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Will-o-Vancouver

TOO BAD, Shakespeare did not play cricket. Why waste my time on him,? I wondered aloud. The struggle was futile. I decided to slam shut a copy of Macbeth.

india Updated: May 26, 2006 00:26 IST

TOO BAD, Shakespeare did not play cricket. Why waste my time on him,” I wondered aloud. The struggle was futile. I decided to slam shut a copy of Macbeth.

The great dramatist was keeping me from a tryst with former cricketing greats, that too, in distant Canada, not quite known as the cradle of the gentleman’s game. Football (not soccer), ice hockey, basketball and baseball ruled there.

But, this time was different. This was one ‘show’ the Bard of Avon would have been proud of, had he been a cricket fan. (Was he?)

The star cast included Ajit Wadekar, Ashok Mankad, Eknath Solkar, Padmakar Shivalkar, Karsan Ghavri and 1983 World Cup hero Balwinder Singh Sandhu. They were in Vancouver, a beautiful city on the Pacific coast, to play exhibition matches against a local club side. The tour must have been planned months in advance. But, my father broke the news to me only on the afternoon of the first match.

“Want to meet Ajit Wadekar and Co?” he asked, as he picked me up from school.
“Where?”
“At Stanley Park Oval, an hour or so from now.”

Sure enough, an hour later I was on way to the venue. If I remember correctly, the ground was slightly above the road level. I stumbled as I stepped on the turf. The heart raced, as I walked towards the clubhouse.

There they were, basking in the autumn sun: Wadekar, Mankad, Ramnath Parker, Solkar etc.

My father introduced me to them. I probably said nothing. Not even ‘hello’.
“Do you play cricket?” Solkar asked.

“Yes.” I had never played a representative game.

“Bat or bowl?”
“Both.”
“So, you are an all-rounder. It’s easier for them to get into a side.” End of conversation. A warm-up game was on. The opposing team's batsman was out first ball.

“Just because a batsman scores a duck doesn’t mean that he is no good. It happens to everybody, even Sunil Gavaskar was out for no score sometimes,” said one of the stalwarts.

“The young boy Sachin Tendulkar is very talented. He is sure to play for India this season itself.” Prophetic words from Solkar. For, two months later, Sachin was taking on the thunderbolts of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in Pakistan.

The warm-up game was over. It was time to go home, with the promise of another match the next morning. Being a Saturday, there was no school on the morrow.

The pitter-patter of raindrops awoke me at dawn. It was gloomy.

By the time, the game got under way, it was late afternoon. The Indian veterans had been joined by Bishan Singh Bedi by then. Ramnath Parker played thumping square cuts and Sandhu hit towering sixes in fading light. Sixteen years later, I don’t now, remember... who won or lost. Being there was good enough.

First Published: May 26, 2006 00:26 IST