Top billing Fans mob cricket's stars

BY JEFF NEEMS
Last updated 13:11 11/03/2009
MARK TAYLOR
OUR HERO: Cricket fans swamp Indian player Ifran Pathan, second left, yesterday in a quest for photos and autographs as the touring team practised at Seddon Park's outdoor nets ahead of today's match.

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They're billed as the "rock stars" of the sport and when the Indian cricket team turned up for training at Hamilton's Seddon Park yesterday afternoon, it was easy to see why.

About 80 Indian fans waited for the touring side to arrive half an hour late and as the players left their bus, they were mobbed by enthusiastic supporters seeking autographs and photos.

Although Sachin Tendulkar, the biggest name in the side, was absent, cameras flashed and cellphones worked overtime as the passionate Indian fans jostled their heroes in scenes reminiscent of English footballer David Beckham's visits to New Zealand. Once the Indian team found its way through the throng, the supporters ranging in age from small children to men and women into their 70s surrounded the Seddon Park outdoor nets to watch the side train for about two hours.

Among the Indian fans was 77-year-old Zambian Indian PG Nana, who played for the composite East Africa team in the inaugural Cricket World Cup in 1975.

Mr Nana, a left-arm spin bowler, has been in New Zealand for four months, following what he described as a "fantastic" Indian tour on a cricketing holiday.

"It's very exciting," Mr Nana said of the tour and training session. "I've really enjoyed my stay in New Zealand. This is the best tour I've been on." Mr Nana "very much doubted" the New Zealand team could win today's game.

Amid the hubbub were a cluster of Northern Districts age group players, lined up as willing cannon fodder for the Indian batsmen. Adam Flegg, 18, said bowling to the world-class Indian batsmen was a thrill. "I love it, it's a great experience. I kept them pretty tied down ... a few loose ones though," said Flegg.

Today's game starts at 2pm and is a sell-out.

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