Two worlds collide today when mighty India tackle the United Arab Emirates’ team of shipping clerks and airline staff, with at least two of the Gulf amateurs relishing the World Cup showdown at the WACA.
All-rounder Krishna Chandran and wicket-keeper Swapnil Patil were both born in India but, frustrated by the pedestrian pace of their playing careers in the country’s over-crowded talent market, they decamped to the UAE where they could pursue both jobs and cricket.
Chandran hails from Kerala and once featured for a Bangalore college club alongside Stuart Binny, who is a member of the India squad at the World Cup. “It’s going to be a big moment for people back home,” 30-year-old Chandran, who moved to the Gulf in 2010, said.
“For people who saw me playing in my shorts, with a tennis ball, on the streets of my home village of Kollengode, it’s going to be a big thing to watch me on TV, playing against India, in a World Cup match, at a ground like the WACA.”
Chandran, who has become something of a curiosity at the World Cup due to his surname of Karate which adorns some of his playing gear, made a solid 34 runs in the opening loss to Zimbabwe before being dismissed for nought in the heart-breaking two-wicket defeat by Ireland.
Patil is another Indian expat and he is looking forward to meeting up with star batsman Ajinkya Rahane who smashed 79 against South Africa. Patil and Rahane played in a variety of youth teams in Mumbai before the keeper decamped to Dubai.
But the 29-year-old Patil, one of seven players in the UAE squad who only made their debuts last year after completing residency qualifications, has fond memories of his time spent with Rahane.
“As juniors we have spent much time together. Because of distances in Mumbai, we couldn’t hang out together after games but Ajinkya is like a brother,” Patil told the Indian Express.
“Once I moved from India, we lost contact. But one day at the Dubai airport, he was returning from India’s A tour to South Africa, it was like old times again.”
Reigning champions India’s much-vaunted batting line-up has impressed so far at the World Cup, but captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said his fielders deserved credit for restricting opposition totals.
“If we score 280, for example, we know with our fielding we can actually add another 15 runs. I think we have got some excellent fielders, and apart from that we have got fast bowlers who are above average fielders,” said the skipper, whose team were livewires against South Africa.
“Overall I’ve got plenty to play with.”
India have a mixed record at the WACA, winning four times and losing six, with one of those defeats coming against England during the tri-nations series in January. Now they may use today’s match to test their bench strength.
Waiting in the wings are batsmen Ambati Rayadu, all-rounder Binny, young left-arm spinner Akshar Patel and seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The United Arab Emirates have made a mark at the tournament, with Pakistan-born Shaiman Anwar scoring the first hundred by a UAE batsman at a World Cup with 106 off 83 balls against Ireland.
All-rounder Amjad Javed, who made 42 and took three for 60 in Brisbane, believes that performance, as well as Ireland’s win against the West Indies and competitive displays by Afghanistan and Scotland, should force a rethink by the International Cricket Council (ICC) who plan to cut the 2019 World Cup to 10 teams.
“They have to introduce more teams in the World Cup. The teams are not coming straightaway to the World Cup, they are going through a process and then they are qualifying for the tournament,” Javed said.
“So I think they should increase the number of teams.”
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