Nostalgic note for a fine sport.

A LOVELY story from Melbourne ahead of the T20 final was Devendra Pandey's nostalgic piece for the Indian Express. It concerned Melbourne restaurateur Iftikhar Shah, who answered an SOS call from fast bowler Wasim Akram hours before Imran Khan's team would defeat England to win the 1992 World Cup.

'They were serving sandwiches, Akram said to me: 'Bowling kaise kar payenge yaar?'' Shah said of Akram's trauma with sandwiches on offer. Was there any biryani left from the previous night? Wasim was desperate. 'I said it will be done but give an hour or so.' What we could glean from Shah's story was that Akram's craving for biryani, moments before a crucial match, was probably triggered by his diabetic condition with a hectic day ahead, something he hadn't discussed openly.

To help make cricketing history, Shah was parked by the player's room. Piping hot biryani was served in the dressing room, and Akram went on to bowl what fellow fast bowler Aqib Javed would later describe as 'two unplayable deliveries' in the famous win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Akram took three crucial England wickets for a paltry sum besides scoring an unbeaten 19-ball 33 that lifted the Pakistan total to a challenging 249.

Other than the delicious biryani story, a lasting image from the match was not of any particular shot or a wicket taken - for these are passe in the 'pajama cricket' we just watched - but of two heavily bearded Asian men delirious with joy as they flanked their less bearded English skipper with the winner's trophy. Wonder if Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali would be aware that they carried with them a part of cricketing history that shone only brighter when their English teammates toasted Barbadian-origin bowler C.J. Jordan for helping critically on the road to the cup. Basil D'Oliveira would be smiling - and why not?

The magic was about the cornucopia of characters that made up the Indian squad in 1983.

The D'Oliveira affair dogged England's 1968-69 tour planned for South Africa. The point of contention was whether or not the England selectors would include Basil D'Oliveira, a mixed-race South African player who had played for England in Test cricket since 1966, having moved there six years earlier. With South Africa under apartheid, the potential inclusion by England of a non-white South African in their team was bound to whip up a political controversy, which it did.

D'Oliveira was of mixed Indian-Portuguese descent, the possibility of whose inclusion...

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