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 St Moritz:  At his prime, Virender Sehwag never had “surface tension”. Now at 40, with spectacles and big bald patch, it still does not matter. Just like he had thrashed a young Shoaib Akhtar 10 years back on turf wickets, a slightly round Akhtar was handed the same treatment in front of 500-odd spectators at the inaugural St Moritz Ice Cricket Challenge in this Swiss locale.

Mostly Asian expatriates and tourists along with a few bewildered locals trying to figure out what the game was all about were present. A Swiss sitting on the stands commented: “This game seems as relaxed as a game of golf. Very relaxed I must say.”

There was Sehwag hitting those sixes at the backdrop of breathtaking Alpine range, Shahid Afridi’s customary celebrations, Akhtar sledging Sehwag in jest — every ingredient needed to make the event a success.

The ground is basically the frozen St Moritz lake and the matting pitch fixed on a wooden plank.
Pink ball is being used but as Sehwag wants at least T10 to be included in the Winter Olympics, it’s still some way to go before it can even be considered a practical possibility.

The biggest impediment is weather of sub zero degree which forces every player to wear at least four to five layers of winter clothing, which impedes natural movements. The other thing that promoters of Ice Cricket need to worry is the ball they are going to use as normal leather ball that is used refuses to bounce on ice when a fielder is throwing it back to the keeper.

The players are forced to wear normal trainers or sneakers — something not advisable to wear on thick layers of snow. If they wear snow boots, they wouldn’t be able to run. Sehwag agreed that there could be injuries.

“It is an exciting concept and needs to be persisted with and it can only grow in people’s minds. It can also help St Moritz become a good sports tourism destination,” Sehwag told PTI.

For the uninitiated, St Moritz had hosted two Winter Olympic Games in 1928 and 1948 but now the Swiss Tourism wants to promote it actively as a new tourist hub.

Switzerland witnesses more than a decent footfall of Indian tourists over the years but it is mostly confined to Zurich and other known locales like Mount Titlis (now famous for the shoot of ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’).

But Indian cinema’s story telling has seen a paradigm shift and there are less dream sequences which require the protagonists to dance and sing in exotic Swiss locales.

In fact, a lot of other European countries now offer discount and sops to shoot their films in their country and the tourism department seems to be redrawing their strategy.

That’s the reason Swiss Tourism is thinking of cricket being made a medium to promote tourism. For the retired and semi-retired cricketers, it’s a win win situation. It’s like a paid holiday where they earn a few dollars, play some cricket and also enjoy holiday with their families like Afridi, Mohammed Kaif, Lasith Malinga are doing.
 


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