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What's age got to do with cricket?
Ashish Magotra in Pietermaritzburg |
February 22, 2003 21:56 IST
The youngest participant in this World Cup has the tournament's oldest player in its ranks.
And, on Sunday, when -- if -- he faces the boys in blue, he might well say what Ronald Reagan said to Walter Mondale in 1984: that he did not want to take undue advantage of the relative inexperience of his opponents!
Namibia's Lenny Louw is 43. He made his debut for a provincial side in South Africa nine years before Parthiv Patel was born. And in 1985, the year the baby of the Indian team opened its eyes on this planet, Louw moved base.
Louw shifted to Namibia, wedged between the Kalahari and the chilly South Atlantic, and has been in what 'Lonely Planet' calls "one of Africa's most intriguing destinations", all these 18 years playing the game he loves.
The World Cup is the pinnacle of a long career.
The India match on Sunday will be Namibia's fourth in the tournament, and although they lost each one of the earlier three, they have impressed and nearly gave England a scare.
While Louw & Co may be short of experience at the highest level, they have played a lot of cricket in South Africa's highly competitive domestic circuit where they routinely hit up scores of 140-150.
Bowling first-change against Zimbabwe, Louw returned figures of 10-0-60-1 and did not play against England and Pakistan due to a back injury.
Whether he will get a chance against India tomorrow is not clear, but if he doesn't it can't certainly be for lack of fitness. Louw is no sloth. Far from it, he is in very good shape. Injuries have been the bane of many a modern day cricketer but Louw has been fortunate in that regard. Though, he did have to change to bowling slow left-arm spin after starting his career as a fast-bowler.
With age comes experience, with experience -- victory?
"The the main thing to my advantage is that I have so many years of experience. Obviously, I am not as mobile as I used to be but the experience makes up for it. Especially being a last-arm slow bowler you need all the experience against the top players," said Louw.
The old man on the field is certainly young at heart. But does he feel left out of the loop among all the youngsters, some of whom are almost half his age?
"Not really, They respect me for what I am and I respect them for what they are, and it's a wonderful relationship that we share. And I do have very good hands and am as good a fielder as any one in the inner circle."
Namibia is a huge country with a very small population. And the number of cricket players is very limited.
"We actually performed against all the odds to get to the World Cup and it is a wonderful achievement for the country. The support has been tremendous and there is a huge interest in cricket now."
To qualify for the Cup, Namibia had to win ten matches in a row. Because they started in the 'B' division of the 2001 ICC Trophy, they had to win all the matches and the playoff matches as well.
"Currently the strength of our side lies in the bowling and fielding. On a day when we get the inconsistencies of our batting right, we are capable of competing with any one," said Louw.
"This is only the beginning and we will continue to go from strength to strength."
And another man who could play an important role in that is Namibian opener J B Bruger, who was born and raised in Pretoria. His 85 against England got him rave reviews and the respect of his opponents.
"I played a lot on the domestic circuit in South Africa and that's where I got most of my experience," Burger, who was coached by his father, said.
"Namibia has only 400-500 players playing seriously. We have a lot of youngsters taking to the sport. But we have only five teams out from which the national side is selected," he said.
"I don't think we realized it at that time and now the magnitude of our achievement is dawning upon us," the 21-year-old said.
He says there are no perks and he is playing for the love of the game. "We don't get any money for playing cricket. We just play because we enjoy it. Most of the guys are working. I am a student,' he said.
"I play cricket all year round and try to practice everyday. Studying does not put me off my cricket. Cricket puts me off my studying."