When cricket ‘legends’ brought cheer to a Qatar neighbourhood | Cricket News

Doha, Qatar – For taxi driver Mohammad Siyad, seeing his favorite cricketers in the flesh is a dream come true.

Siyad was one of the nearly 7,000 fans who gathered at the Asia Town Cricket Stadium on Monday to watch the Legends League Cricket (LLC) Twenty20 tournament final featuring veteran players. great players like Shahid Afridi, Jaques Kallis, Ross Taylor and Misbah ul-Haq.

“I never imagined I would see so many legends with my own eyes,” the Sri Lankan national told Al Jazeera at the stadium in a working-class neighborhood outside the capital. Doha of Qatar.

The 10-day tournament, the second of its kind after the inaugural edition in Oman last year, featured three teams – India Maharajas, Asia Lions and World Giants, made up of cricketers from the rest back of the world.

legendary cricket tournament 2023
Fans at the Asia Town Cricket Stadium outside Doha [Nadim Asrar/Al Jazeera]

The event, where retired cricket legends return to cricket, also brings a lot of joy and brings back old memories to the nearly 1.3 million cricket-mad South Asian community in the Gulf state.

“I have grown up watching these men compete on TV. Now it’s nice to see them in the flesh,” Siyad said as he waved the Sri Lankan flag.

title conflict

The Sri Lankans had a lot to cheer for in the final between the Asian Lions Team – led by famed Pakistani cricketer Afridi – and the World Giants, with Australia’s Shane Watson is the team captain.

Hit the ball first, the Giants, hit by some sharp throws from Abdur Razzak and Pakistan’s Afridi, hit just 147 – a modest goal in the T20 game.

legendary cricket tournament 2023
Sri Lanka’s openers had an impressive start to the chase of the Asian Lions [Nadim Asrar/Al Jazeera]

In response, opening pair Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan of Sri Lanka entertained the audience, hitting opposing pitchers – led by Australian speedster Brett Lee – across the ground.

Construction worker Subhash Nishantha, 47, couldn’t contain his excitement as he ran across the aisle with two tiny plastic Sri Lankan flags.

“I’m here to enjoy,” he said.

legendary cricket tournament 2023
Sri Lankan National Subhash Nishantha enjoying the finals [Nadim Asrar/Al Jazeera]

Tharanga and Dilshan eventually scored 115 points for the opening match, both scoring for half a century in the process and making the chase easy for the Lions en route to the title.

“The last time I played international cricket was in 2015, so it’s been a while,” Tharanga said when declared a “Legend of the League” for scoring the most runs. He’s hit three 50’s in the four games he’s played.

Most Pakistanis in the crowd wanted to see their Afridi hero hit the ball. While his team’s right to the field meant Afridi wasn’t needed with the stick, loud cheers of “Lala, lala” – as cricketers in Pakistan call it – greeted him on field in the first half.

He usually waved back with a smile.

“I hope to return next year. Before that, I needed to practice more,” he said after the game.

‘Maharajas’ missing

Twenty20 cricket is where the “gentleman’s game” meets the market. India, with a population of 1.3 billion, is the game’s biggest market. It is therefore no surprise that India has influenced the way the game is played at the Asia Town Cricket Stadium.

The latest hits from the Indian film industry are interrupted all the time – sometimes every ball – or when a touchline is bumped or a batter is dropped.

A group of fans – all in yellow – from the southern Indian state of Kerala played drums throughout the match, adding to the cheers even without Indian cricketers on the field.

legendary cricket tournament 2023
Qatar Manjappada team performing during the match [Nadim Asrar/Al Jazeera]

On Saturday, India Maharajas were knocked out of the event by the Asia Lions, despite captain Gautam Gambhir leading from the front and some stunning catch from Mohammad Kaif, who, at 46, still defied gravity. with his physical strength.

Khursheed Mohammad Zahiruddin, a truck driver in Qatar, said that although he missed his favorite football team, he came here because of his love of the sport.

“Maybe they will come back next year,” the 35-year-old told Al Jazeera.

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