Cricketers catch football fever

Besides playing in the Test series, the players of the West Indies and Indian teams will be rooting for their FAVOURITE sides inthe World Cup. Ram Mahesh finds out their preferences.

Come June 9, and some cricketers will be keeping an eye on more than five and three quarter ounces of leather and cork. India and West Indies will be just a day away from the second Test; rest assured Brian Lara will monitor what Dwight Yorke does in Trinidad and Tobago's first match of the 2006 World Cup in Germany with much keenness.

Lara has a reputation of having been a footballer of considerable skill in his school days — if his ball juggling skills are anything to go by, vestiges still remain. Before the fourth ODI, the 37-year-old bounced a football off either leg almost indefinitely, pausing only to address the press conference arranged inside the Queen's Park Oval.

India has its share of soccer nuts. "He is a big fan," says biomechanist Ian Frazer pointing to M. S. Dhoni, "he thinks he can play a bit too." Elsewhere, S. Sreesanth, from the land of I. M. Vijayan, declares his crazed following of the sport.

Sportstar caught up with cricketers from both sides, and a couple of golden oldies, to find who they'll be cheering for — over beer and crisps — during a month that promises madness and memories.

Here is what it discovered: M.S. Dhoni

Will you watch it?: The World Cup? he asks and shakes his head as if the thought of not watching it is ridiculous.

Team: Brazil

Dark-horse: Don't really believe in dark horses.

Player: Not Ronaldinho, I love Zinedine Zidane. His last World Cup (grimaces).

Rahul Dravid

Will you watch it? It depends on when it's on, but I'll follow it.

Team: Brazil; I really like the way they play.

Dark horse: England. I think they have a good team.

Player: Ronaldo from Brazil. Yuvraj Singh Will you watch it?: Of course, of course. Team: I support England. Dark-horse: The Netherlands.

Player: Wayne Rooney, hope he recovers. Theo Walcott, do you think he will make it? And Ruud Van Niestelrooy.

Harbhajan Singh

Will you watch it?: I don't know too much about football. I just watch Brazil; the whole team is supporting Brazil, I think.

Team: Brazil, who else? It's like the Australians in cricket because they win so much. No, it's more like the West Indies of the 1980s because they enjoyed playing so much.

Player: Just one guy. Ronaldinho — he is unique. I watch whenever he is playing. Mast walla bandha hai.

Virender Sehwag Will you watch it?: Yes (no nonsense). Team: Brazil. S. Sreesanth

Will you watch it?: I am the craziest football fan you will find.

Team: Brazil man. They rock and roll. Player: Ronaldinho. Brian Lara

Will you watch it?: I am playing Test cricket, and the primary aim is to win that, but all of us are going to be keeping an eye on the football.

Team: Everyone's favourite team here is Brazil, but since I'm Trinidadian, Trinidad & Tobago. Hope they go past the first round. We've got England in our group. I know who I'll be backing.

Player: Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy. Sir Vivian Richards Team: Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago Dark horse: I have a soft spot for England. Player: Ronaldinho, Steven Gerrard. Curtly Ambrose Will you watch it?: Ya man. I will watch it.

Team: I am realist, so Brazil. Hope Trinidad and Tobago do well though. Hope they can surprise some big teams.

Player: Ronaldinho. He can still learn so much, and improve.

Chris Gayle

Team: Trinidad & Tobago because they are good, man. And Argentina.

Player: Ronaldinho. Ramnaresh Sarwan Team: Trinidad & Tobago. Also Brazil. Player: Adriano. Dwayne Bravo

Will you watch it?: Yes, if I can. I might have to watch the highlights.

Team: Trinidad & Tobago. After that, Brazil. T&T have a good chance of qualifying for the second round man. They can take England.

Players: Ronaldinho, Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, and (Cristiano) Ronaldo from Portugal.