DO THEY PLAY CRICKET IN ROMANIA?
Report of the Tour to Bucharest – 25-29 September 2014
By San Gore and Ben Goldschmied
The fact that we were in Bucharest at all is down to the efforts of one KCC man, Rangam Mitra, the CEO of Cricket Romania, who has introduced the game into the country and with passion and dedication driven through Romania’s acceptance as an international cricket country. With the sponsorship of Gabriel Marin, a Romanian entrepreneur, a perfectly flat oval had been carved out of the hillside and, with help from the MCC, a proper turf square created. A brilliant example that an idea and drive is all that’s required to make anything. Well done Rangam and Cricket Romania.
We brought out our usual complement of ten players (to give the opposition a chance!) – Sunil, San, and Vivek, the intrepid veterans, Ben and Steve, the drinking companions, Akhi, Saikat and Eddy, the youth brigade, and two MCC guests, Charles Fellows-Smith and Sal Butt. We also had a few adornments – Ravi Kannan came to umpire, his friend Jolin from Hungary to interpret, Akhi’s bride Harshadha to sightsee, and Sal’s non-cricketing pal, Sat Singh, to just hang out. Sat thought he was coming to Spain and was quite lost. So we nicknamed him “Sat-Nav” for the tour!
Sat 27 Sept Bucharest Barbarians Lost by 2 wkts
We 106/6 in 20 overs (Sal Butt 24, Vicky Manani 18, Ramesh Satheesan 2/13, Saad Mohsin 2/21)
They 107/8 in 19.3 overs (Shiv Kumar 35 rtd, Shiraz Gondal 28, Extras 16, Akhi Shailendra 3/16, Charles Fellows-Smith 2/13)
It had rained the previous evening and when we arrived at the ground in the team bus we found the grass pitches were very damp at one end. After some delay it was reluctantly agreed to play the game on the adjacent Astroturf surface; a big disappointment. Anyway, we finally got going for the first T20 of the day. San won the toss and batted first with Big Stevo and Little Sal taking strike. Not a good start as Steve then Akhi went cheaply and Sal, struggling with his timing against an accurate attack, could not gain momentum. 59/3 after 13 overs. Saikat heaved a six and then was stumped. Borrowed player Vicky Manani and Ben threw their bats at everything and ran impossible singles to get our score to 106. Not nearly enough, we reckoned.
The first over yielded 9 runs and confirmed that reckoning. Then Akhi took a wicket, smartly caught by Eddy, who followed it up with one for himself. We had sniffed a way in. But opener Shiv and Shiraz put on 57 runs in 46 balls to show us how this format of the game should be played. Shiv retired on 35 to let others have a go at this seemingly toothless attack. A mistake as Charles bowled Shiraz next ball, Saikat uprooted the dangerous Saad’s stumps, and Charles trapped Chris Lewis lbw. Akhi was brought back and he promptly picked up 2 wickets. 92/7 with 4 overs left and only the tail to bowl at, KCC were now alert in the field. Skipper James Koder and Shafiq played cautiously and ran their singles well. Last over and 3 runs required to win, then only one off three balls. Eddy bowls a wide and an exciting game is over.
Sat 27 Sept Romanian Bears Lost by 4 wkts
We 126/2 in 18 overs (Ben Goldschmied 65, San Gore 22, Charles Fellows-Smith 20*, Ramesh Satheesan 2/22)
They 127/6 in 17.1 overs (Abdul Shakoor 53 rtd, Ramesh Satheesan 13, Extras 23, Akhi Shailendra 3/16, Steve Thomas 2/22)
Sunil skippered this second T20 game of the day but because of the delayed start of the first match we had to reschedule this one to 18 overs each. We were informed that the opposition included many Romanian youngsters and were not as strong as the morning side. So, as this was a tour we naturally changed the batting order to give everyone a knock. San and Ben opened the batting and began comfortably at 7 runs an over in the first nine. Just when the accelerator button was pressed San holed out at point (67/1). In comes Charles who takes a while to get adjusted though by now Ben is in full swing hitting fours and sixes at will. But singles were not being converted to twos as Ben often was stranded at the other end. Nevertheless, 9 runs were smacked in the last over with Ben held on the boundary off the last ball. We ended up with 126 which really should have been about 140.
Rangam Mitra bowled the first over in recognition of his 100th game for the Club and then promptly retired to the pavilion tent, wheezing after his leg-spin effort. Vivek and Steve bowled tidily, Steve taking the first two wickets to fall. But Abdul was hitting the ball ominously and with Sergin Marfan, the young Romanian lad, put on 52 together. Abdul was forced to retire when he reached his fifty with just 26 runs in 5 overs for victory. However, Akhi had other ideas as he took two wickets next over. Runs became hard to come by as KCC applied the squeeze (quite an art given the number of geriatrics in the side). It seemed to work; 16 were now required in the last two overs. But Mohammed Ali at no.8 kept his cool and took 15 off the luckless Saikat – aided, of course by a sloppy fielding lapse that cost 6 leg byes! A formality to get the winning run next over to the unbounded joy of all in the Romanian team.
Sun 28 Sept Bucharest United Lost by 210 runs
They 305/5 in 35 overs (Zeeshan Mazhar 116 rtd hurt(!), Ramesh Satheesan 56, Imran Haider 51, Abdul Shakoor 29*, Saad Mohsin 26*, Saikat Barua 3/55, Akhi Shailendra 1/52)
We 95/10 in 28.4 overs (Sal Butt 26, Shafiq Mohammed 16, Sunil Amar 11, Sheraz Gondal 5/2, Sunny Singh 2/16)
Ben now takes up the story…
The last match of a tour is always a tricky affair. Bodies and minds are tired from the previous matches, not to mention all the extra-cricket activities one is ‘forced’ to participate in. And so it was on that final morning we assembled on the field to face the strongest team in Bucharest and I had been given the dubious honour of captaincy. As I surveyed the weapons at my disposal, a motley crew scarred by the ravages of the previous day (and of course night), I wasn’t filled with confidence. Especially as the opposition were going through fielding drills on the outfield as we desperately searched for water, painkillers or beer to get ready to take the field.
There had been some glimmers of hope the previous evening. We were magnificently hosted for dinner by the two teams we had played that day and a sense of well-being and refreshment was evident in the team. A post prandial team-bonding session followed at which Sal Butt thought he had the answer to our narrow losses that day – Alcohol! The first few rounds of shots were well received…., but in hindsight it was just another way that Bucharest can take its toll. At the time, I thought this may have done the trick because while walking through the beautiful old cobbled streets looking for another ‘bonding’ venue’, I heard Sal exclaiming several times ‘I’ve got the power!’ to the bemused locals. Sadly, it turned out he was only referring to the fact he had a back-up iPhone charger in his pocket.
So, to the match – we love sport because before it starts, all outcomes are possible – or so they say. Hope is a terrible thing, but we started well! Saikat and Akhi bowled fast and accurate. Saikat picked up 3 wickets in his first 4 overs at which stage Bucharest United were 42/3. It should have been 4 but the wicketkeeper missed a tricky leg side catch (sorry guys). The rest of the team thought this was a simple catch, but I, as captain and wicketkeeper, disagree. The fact that this batsman, Zeeshan Mazhar, went on to top score with 116 is surely irrelevant. We only had 3 properly mobile fielders and our tiredness started to show as early as the 10th over. Zeeshan and Imran Haider began to cut loose after that and shared a 4th wicket partnership of 139. Imran was eventually caught in the deep by Saikat. Akhi struck near the end but we were set a mammoth 306 to win from 35 overs.
I’d like to be able to report that we started our reply well but… No. Stevo and Eddy opened the batting and Eddy was caught off his second ball, trying to force the pace off the bowling of Sunny. Steve was playing a sensible innings and with Sal Butt were rebuilding until Steve was adjudged leg before for 12 – 21/2. Then their mystery spinner Shiraz ‘Sherry’ Gondal came into the attack. On the artificial pitch he had the Ajanta Mendis knack of bowling strangely unplayable straight balls which zipped through and seemed to speed up after pitching. Too good for us! His first victim was San – lbw for 5 and after Akhi was run out for 1 there followed a procession of 3 Sherry wickets for no runs. At 44/7 the game was pretty much over but of course in cricket there always is a stat or two to keep things interesting. This one was awful – we were now left trying to avoid the biggest defeat in KCC history – we needed 74 more! Sal fell two overs later and Sherry with an analysis of 4-0-2-5 was taken off (whew). Charles and Shafiq managed to find a way to record our biggest partnership of a mighty 24. When Shafiq went (73/9) we still needed 20. Charles and Sunil occupied tenaciously, both hitting a couple of fours to huge applause. But the loudest applause came, much to the bemusement of the opposition, when we got to 93 thus avoiding our biggest ever defeat. Oh well, you’ve always got to find a positive somewhere, right? Sunil finally perished 2 runs later going for another big hit. Having been undone by spirits and Casinos the night before, it was fitting that we were destroyed by Sherry in the match.
So, do they play cricket in Romania? Hmmm… of course they do. Although we didn’t manage a win, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and the games were played in a fantastic spirit. I’m sure the whole of KCC joins me in thanking our hosts and wishing continued growth and success for cricket in Romania.