LONDON - In England, you can’t get out of the house if it’s -5 Degrees Celsius,” Owais Shah told Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi as they stood on a frozen lake in St Moritz, ready to play cricket in the Swiss ski resort on Thursday.
Standing on a matting wicket rolled over wood planks in the morning in minus 10 degrees chill, several former stars wondered what was in store as the two-match cricket series was ready to unfold in this picturesque Swiss village.
Sporting their respective colours but making sure they were protected from the cold, cricketers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England, South Africa and Australia entertained a small but colourful and enthusiastic.
St Moritz is a famous sports destination. It has held two Winter Olympics (1928, 1948). But organising something as complex as cricket , the Ice Cricket 2018 tournament also aims to draw attention of those who want to explore the interiors of Europe.
Much to the delight of many, the sun rose over the snow-capped mountain near the lake as the players took the field. Shoaib Akhtar didn’t charge in, but wicketkeeper Matt Prior had his task cut out.
TOUGH TO FIELD
Fielding was the toughest task; the ball didn’t bounce but it was slippery and dodged any fielder on its way to a blue-printed boundary line.
Spectators came in with their pets; many locals, used to skiers rather than cricketers, wanted to see what the fuss was about. But there were die-hard Asian fans too — travelling from nearby Zurich as well as Dubai for this tournament.
Altaf Syed has travelled all the way from Dubai to watch his favourite cricketers in action. He saw them train on Wednesday and was also spotted outside the team hotel in the evening.
“It’s difficult to play on ice, but we’ve trained a bit. We are here for the love of the game and I want to entertain the Swiss people,” said Virender Sehwag, captain of Palace Diamonds, ahead of the match.
“T20 is short and sharp,” he said, backing the slam-bang format to promote cricket in continental Europe.
Mahela Jayawardene said, “It’s a new experience for everybody. Cricket has been played here for last 15 years in similar conditions. For us to come here and show that cricket can be played on ice, (try and) be a bit more competitive… it’s slippery, but we have to be careful.”
Lasith Mainga said it was all about enjoying. “It’s cold, but we have to enjoy. T20 cricket is good, it requires all kinds of skills. Everyone has time to watch it.”
Sehwag said he wanted to play his ‘see-the-ball-hit-the-ball-game’, and did that in scoring a 31-ball 62. However, his team lost to the Shahid Afridi-led Royals by six wickets with Owais Shah hitting 74 not out.