NAAZ- THE LONE FEMALE CRICKET FAN-
20th Feb.,1994-The Express
The Director of Materials Management at the Agakhan Hospital was late for duty as the Australia-South Africa encounter had reached its climax and she could not resist watching the last few overs.
On arrival at the hospital she spoke with assertion and authenticity, “Hansie Cronje under bowled Richard Snail. He should have continued him.” She went on speaking, “Dean Jones applied a rash stroke. It was irresponsible of him.”
I am referring to Naaz Badru Bandali. There is no female cricket revolution ragging in here for the ladies have not invaded cricket but it is a fact that Naaz is female and the only lady cricket enthusiast around us.
Lady cricket spectators are not unusual in other parts of the world. In Islamic cities like Karachi and Lahore they come clad in kurta-shalwar-dupatta or burkha(veil). One can even bird watch damsels in bikinis at the grounds in Australia and South Africa.
Anyhow Naaz is our numero uno fan. In simple frock or skirt blouse attire the eversmiling and respectful Naaz is a permanent feature of the group of AK Club supporters at the cricket grounds. That does not make her partisan for she is quite sincere and would not hesitate to give her opinion.
Born in Zanzibar Naaz has been hearing of cricket since childhood. Her father has all along been a great cricket fan and would keep mentioning the great Mamda Kassam, Gullu Kalyan and Badru Bhamji . Also her sister Mumtaz’s husband, Adam Akberali, and cousin Noor’s husband, Bashir Ramzan, were both national players. While she would be with them the chat always revolved around cricket. Even today Bashir would call all the way from Canada seeking local cricket news. In fact it was Bashir who had introduced Naaz to cricket. Once sometime in 1981 he persisted that she accompany Noor to the Burhani ground where he was playing for AK Club against Union Sports Club. It was supposed to be a vital game and there was a big crowd. Excitement and tension could be felt at the ground.
She recounted, “I stayed right through the match and when AK Club chasing Union’s score seemed nearing the target there occurred this run out dismissal of Shiraz Sumar. The dismissal seemed doubtful and the crowd erupted invading the pitch for Shiraz was going great guns. Tempers flared and there was chaos all around.”
That really excited Naaz and she became fascinated by cricket. She became regular at the grounds and followed the game with keenness embracing all its intricacies. She also happened to be the Secretary of the Diamond Jubilee Committee and attended the meeting of their Sports Section taking minutes. Cricket often formed the highlight of such meetings and she got more involved into it. Shiraz Sumar often featured in the discussion and he became her favorite cricketer.
Naaz regretted she could not watch Adam during her peak days when he used to be a class batsman. She also admired Mohammed Nathoo for rescuing his team every now and then with his prolific scoring. She was also impressed by the leg spinner Sajjad Lakha whose economic bowling often paved way for his team’s victory.
Naaz’s current favorites are AK Club’s Ayzaz Jessani who is a consistent performer and can always be relied upon, and Amirali Fidahusain who besides keeping wickets is also a useful batsman and bowler. Burhani’s Ilyas Abdulla also impresses her a lot and so does Union’s upcoming Hasnain Rahim.
Naaz’s group is made up of Amir Ratansi(Babu), Amir Bandali, Hassanali Ladha and Mohamed Ganesh(G9). G9 is the mischief-maker and at times can create havoc with his merry making. He also provides tea and snacks for the group as well as the entire AK team during tea time. The group had lost Hassanali Karmali and Fateh Mawji sometime back. Fateh was on the Board of Governors of the Agakhan Hospital and of great assistance to cricketers. Whoever got injured Fateh would rush him to the hospital, even if he was other than AK player.
Naaz laments lack of competitiveness today recalling AK’s Saturday Knockout final against Union. “AK had scored 119 for 7 and Union at 40 for no seemed heading for an easy victory. Then AK boys fielded and bowled superbly taking spectacular catches that reduced Union to 116 for 7. There still remained an over and Union needed 4 runs. They managed 3 and the score thus tied but in the process lost 2 more wickets enabling AK a win. It was cricket at its best.”
She added, “But nothing can supercede the dramatic last over display by Sumar in a vital Saturday game. AK needed some 20 more runs to overcome Union’s target and just an over remained, an impossible task. We were all subdued with sinking feelings. Union’s Arusha based Zimbo was entrusted to bowl that decisive over.
“Sumar hit him for 2 consecutive sixes and fetched the remaining runs. It was so heroic of him. We were all ecstatic and uncontrollable. Even today I shed tears of joy when I think of it. What a cricket match!”
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