Lovely little ground and obliging superstars

By V. Krishnaswamy, IANS

Hong Kong : The Kowloon Cricket Club is situated right in the heart of the city and surrounded by Hong Kong’s omnipresent sky-scrapers. With food stalls, merchandise in the forms of ‘Sixes’ T-shirts and caps, it was carnival atmosphere all around at the Cathay Pacific/Standard Chartered Hong Kong Sixes tournament.

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For a change, the superstars of cricket were even friendly. They were willing to stand and sign autographs, pose for pictures and shake hands.

Shane Warne stood close to the boundary ropes and signed a few autographs Saturday and Sunday. Brian Lara signed quite a few programme books for the kids.

Another popular man was the quiet and understated Indian spinning star Anil Kumble, naturally very popular among the expatriate Indians, who formed a majority of the crowds.


Last to arrive, first to get out

No guesses for who they were. The Indians, one of the teams not selected by the official cricket board of the country, were the last to arrive in Hong Kong and when they lost their second match Sunday morning, they also became the first to be eliminated.

The team, it is believed, was put together by Team India’s fielding coach Robin Singh, a very popular figure in Hong Kong. He also did a coaching stint here some years back. Robin has been a regular and even captained the side that won the title in 2005.

Ajay Jadeja seemed to have been pulled outside the experts’ box back home, where he does duty for a news channel, and Nikhil Chopra, who is the expert in the commentary box for a popular sports network.


Spectators are fine, but no-no for media

The superstars were all smiles at the crowd, but when it came to the media, it was a strict no-no. There were no one-on-one interviews and interactions were limited to a few questions after some of the matches. And most questions seemed to pertain only to the carnival Sixes tournament.

The All Stars team in particular were heavily guarded and they were almost out of bounds for the media.

An articulate Warne was one of the few who gave an extended – almost six minutes – of an interview at the ground to a crowd of about 25 media persons.


A drink and some cricket away from the ground

Since tickets are limited to less than 3,000, the maximum that the Kowloon Cricket Club can hold, one of the ways some cricket-starved locals could catch the action was to find their way into some of the partner pubs and bars in the popular Lan Kwai Fong area in the heart of the city.

The drink and the atmosphere was excellent – in fact, probably better than on the ground itself, where each entry ticket limited a person to one small area of the ground.


Celebrity commentators

The promoters of the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes really do it in style.

Not only do they have some of the legendary players in their All-Stars squad, but they also brought in some of the best names for commentary duty.

There was Tony Cozier, quite easily the voice of West Indies cricket, Jeff Thomson, one of the finest fast bowlers of all times, and former Australian opener Michael Slater.