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Siddhartha Vaidyanathan on a bowler who both lost and won
Winnipeg Hawks need 13 runs to enter the GT20 final.
The man whom Brampton Wolves have picked to bowl that over is a 35-year-old medium-pacer who plays for Canada, Cecil Pervez.
Cecil plays for the Shahid Afridi Cricket Club in Toronto. He was in high school when Afridi first played for Pakistan, when he reeled off that madcap hundred off 37 balls. For the next few years, Cecil “wanted to be Shahid Afridi”. He moved to Canada in 2000 and first played for the national cricket team in 2011. Now, as his childhood hero Afridi stood at short midwicket – and as one of the great T20 captains Darren Sammy set the field – Cecil warmed up for the final over.
“I’ve been bowling the final over for Canada for the last few years,” he would say later. “I knew the game was coming down to the last over. I was mentally okay with that.”
Cecil’s first ball is yorker-length and outside off. JP Duminy, batting on 42, carves it past point for two runs.
Cecil’s second ball is also yorker-length and outside off. Duminy taps it to cover for a single.
Winnipeg Hawks need 10 to win off 4 balls.
Early last year, Cecil bowled the final over of another match. That was for Canada against Nepal in a crucial World Cricket League Division Two game. Nepal needed 8 off the final over with one wicket in hand. A nerve-jangling finish was in store. Cecil began with four dots but conceded a heart-rending six next ball. A wide followed. And then a single sent Nepal into raptures. They had clinched a spot in the World Cup Qualifiers. According to some local club cricketers here, that was the “biggest heartbreak”.
Now at the CAA Centre in Brampton, Cecil runs in for the third ball, from around the wicket, to the right-handed Dwayne Smith. He has had a brief chat with Sammy, and they have perhaps decided to not allow Smith to free his arms. Cecil lands it outside leg stump and angles it towards the pads. But one little deflection is all it takes. The ball races past the wicketkeeper for four leg-byes.
“In this kind of format, it’s really tough to defend 15, 16, 17 runs,” Cecil would say later. “All it takes is for a couple of balls to not go your way. Like the ball that went for four leg-byes.”
Winnipeg Hawks need 6 to win off 3 balls.
Cecil, along with many of the Canadian cricketers, have been both playing cricket and working their jobs through this tournament. Cecil even worked a few hours yesterday – “in car sales” – though he says his job doesn’t demand much from him.
“Most of the Canadian players have to work and play cricket. I have a full-time job, and sometimes it can be challenging. Taking time off from work and playing is not ideal. But for us it’s the biggest opportunity. And I just love being part of this tournament.
“I am working for a friend right now. He is also my manager and helps me take time off from work and play. While playing, I work few hours only. It’s an easy job. Just have to show up.”
Now Cecil runs in for ball number four. Again he is bowling around the wicket. But this time he cramps Smith for room. And the batsman can only smack it to midwicket, for a single.
Winnipeg Hawks need 5 runs off 2 balls.
Cecil will finish this tournament with a “lot of memories”. One of his team-mates would later say that this group of players and the experiences they have had is not something that can be replicated. A few of them may combine as team-mates at some point – in some league – but there is no way the squad will remain exactly the same. There is no way the chemistry can be recreated.
“I’ve shared the dressing-room with legends,” Cecil would stay after the game. “Afridi, Sammy, Wahab Riaz… I’ve got lots of pictures in the last few weeks. I’m going to keep a copy of every match report of every game I played with these guys. And I’ll show it to my kids and grandkids everything. For generations to come.”
Cecil runs in for the fifth ball, this time bowling to Duminy. There has been another chat with Sammy, another discussion on the game-plan. The field is off-side heavy, so one expects that he is going to keep it yorker-length and wide of off once more – like the first two balls.
But this time the length is not full enough. Duminy has enough room to get under the ball. And lofts it towards cover for four.
Winnipeg Hawks need 1 run off 1 ball.
Duminy would later talk about how impressed he was with Cecil’s final over. He would credit him for some “really accurate” bowling, for “executing those wide yorkers” under pressure. Cecil would be thrilled when told of Duminy’s endorsement. “A person like JP saying it means a lot. Really great to get a compliment from a batsman like that. I would love to get a video of that press conference and watch it when I get back home.”
Everyone is ready for the final ball. The fielders on the off-side are all within the circle. Square leg and midwicket are on the boundary. Cecil runs in to Duminy, over the wicket. The ball is full and on middle and off. Duminy shimmies across and chips it, in the vacant region midway to the square-leg fence, for an easy single.
Cecil grimaces. He clutches his knees.
His team-mates all run up to him to pat him on the back.
Duminy’s Winnipeg Hawks have sealed a a spot in the final.
Cecil’s Brampton Wolves are eliminated. He has played his seventh, and final, game of the tournament.
Cecil has plenty of cricket coming up. “In a week, we’re leaving for Bermuda for the World T20 qualifier. Hopefully we will qualify for the next round. Then a tour to Malaysia and then to Dubai. Busy next few months for Canadian cricket.”
Does he plan to get back to work this evening?
“No. Not today. Just plan to take it easy this evening. I will be going back to work on Monday.”
And with that he picks up his kitbag, and walks towards some fans who want to click selfies.
Cecil Pervez has lost a cricket match.
But Cecil Pervez leaves this tournament a winner.