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Counties in for an Indian feast
Maxwell Harrington in London |
May 09, 2003 13:23 IST
Yuvraj Singh brings to six the number of star Indian players now performing in England's much-maligned county cricket programme.
These are all players who have been involved in most of an eight-month international programme, culminating in the epic but strength-sapping World Cup run.
The long slog of hotels, coaches and laundry bills is now over for the Indian team for a long while, and the temptation to unwind with the family and take holidays without bringing a cricket bag must be enormous.
But a professional cricketer's life is but a short one and the lure of the English pound practically irresistible.
This year, county bosses have been allowed to employ more than one overseas pro, and with India enjoying a rare lengthy close season, cheque books have been brandished everywhere from Bombay to Bangalore.
Javagal Srinath's creaking body has hauled itself up to the chilly north east of England where it now resides in picturesque Durham.
Virender Sehwag has just begun twirling his bat in the east Midlands, ready to keep a large local following of British Asians bewitched at Grace Road, Leicester.
Manchester is another city with plenty of Indian interest.
And after feting the footballers they adore -- United have just pulled another Premiership title out of the fire -- sports fans there can now turn their attention to Harbhajan Singh.
The turbaned off-spinner may not be on a David Beckham-esque salary but, assuming his finger injury clears up, he should do well at Old Trafford.
Though prone to rain, it is a ground where Shane Warne and Muthiah Muralitharan have enjoyed plenty of success in the past.
One of the most exciting coups, of course, is the very recent signing of Yuvraj Singh by Yorkshire.
It was his heroic match-winning partnership with Mohammad Kaif in the NatWest Series final at Lord's last July that launched his international career.
Yorkshire were relegated into the second division of both the County Championship (the competition they won in 2001) and the National League at the end of last year.
This year is one of rebuilding and Yuvraj will find himself facing plenty of very average county "trundlers" as he bids to advance his first class average and nudge the Indian selectors over his Test credentials.
And let's not forget Kaif himself.
The 22-year-old right-hander is expected to make his debut for Derbyshire on June 4, in the Championship fixture against Welsh team Glamorgan.
The recently-married Rahul Dravid is another of the Indians to make it to England this year. A batsman of his quality hardly needs another tiring season for a first-class county behind his belt.
So he has nailed down a valuable contract to play for Scotland in just 11 one-day matches, starting in June.
Scotland are making their debut in the 45-over-per-side National League, which is so unfashionable these days. It is still without a sponsor even with the season now underway.
Dravid, who damaged a finger during the World Cup, has thus avoided the absurd treadmill-style life that will face some of his fellow-Indians.
The first nine days of the season, two four-day Championship matches followed by a scarcely-digestible dessert in the form of a National League game, were squeezed into a mere 10 days.
But there are certain factors that will be easier to stomach.
Few English summers escape spells of rainy days here and there -- so there will be opportunities to put the feet up and sign autographs from the small smattering of fans on show.
Certainly, if the previous experiences of Dravid at Kent and Sachin Tendulkar at Yorkshire are anything to go by, Yuvraj, Kaif and Harbhajan should be able to fit in well while learning plenty.
True, Sourav Ganguly and Lancashire did not exactly bond as smoothly as they may have done in 2000.
He managed a lowly average of just 33.89 that year and Lancashire fans have all sorts of stories of how he caused dressing-room angst and antagonised local Indian supporters.
That, however, is a story for another day.
The table below lists the Indians who have represented various counties:
AH Kardar +
S Nazir Ali
IAK Pataudi #
(+ also appeared for Pakistan in Tests)
(# also appeared for England in Tests)
Statistics - Mohandas Menon