By HSC in Ahmedabad
Hampton School’s cricketers completed the first leg of their Indian tour on New Year’s Eve after three memorable games in Mumbai. They now move on to Ahmedabad for the tour’s second leg, with three more matches on the menu.
Spirits were high in the party following the thrilling third match, in which the team came within a trice of chasing down a huge total set by an outstanding side representing the Vengsarkar Academy, Mumbai. A sense of anticlimax might have been understandable, given how close the team came to a remarkable victory, but the tourists were philosophical about the reverse.
The Mumbai Academy were quite clearly exceptional opponents. In twenty overs of spin sent down in the middle of the Hampton run-chase, there was scarcely a loose ball. Yet the tourists played the bowling with a measured common sense that almost brought victory.
Indeed it was only because the Academy produced a genuinely stunning fielding performance – two brilliant catches and a remarkable run out – that the visitors were denied victory.
Bear in mind that this Academy team is in mid-season form with several months of cricket behind them: the tourists, by contrast, are fresh from rugby and football fields. Add to that the fact that the Vengsarkar Academy is producing cricketers out of the top drawer, with Prithvi Shaw a young Indian Test batsman tipped for top honours just beginning to emerge.
And then factor in the presence of Dilip Vengsarkar himself on the boundary for the morning session, the former world number one batsman keeping an eye on his charges: the only overseas batsman in history to score three test hundreds at Lord’s inspiring and challenging his young charges to match his achievements.
Equally, the really exciting feature of Hampton’s performance lies in the progress the boys have made in rising to the level of these opponents. After two games that served as exercises in blowing away the cobwebs and measuring up to the challenge, this third match suggests these tourists are quick learners driven by an ambition to accept no ceilings on what they can do.
Now in the second half of the tour comes the hard part: promising starts with bat in hand need to be built on – so far no batsman has reached fifty on tour; bowlers need to get control – in particular of extras, with wide balls especially costing the team dear; and in the field the team needs to emulate the sometimes astonishing standards of their hosts.
But the players have emerged from the first week of the tour as quick learners and ambitious performers, determined to meet their potential and push their own limits. One of the pleasures of watching this tour unfold is the sense that the team may just be finding out how good they could become.