Hick hoping to return to the English side



JULY 31. A visitor to the press box at New Road was Worcestershire captain and former England batsman Graeme Hick. He talked about the rain, Sachin Tendulkar and also the pride in playing for England. Hick, out of the England side for quite some time now, said: "I will be really surprised if I am recalled. I am sure John Crawley felt the same. I will be delighted, should I be recalled, but I will be very surprised if that happens." Hick, who has had a long distinguished career with the West Midlands County, said: "I have not totally ruled myself out of the World Cup squad. My immediate aim is to concentrate on the remaining part of the one-day games this season, do well and hope that when the selectors meet to pick the team for the World Cup my name is also in the hat. But it won't be a shock if I am not picked. There have been good parts in my career which I enjoyed. I began playing for England after scoring 60 first class centuries." His reply to a question on what he thinks of his home country was a matter of fact. "My family is still there. I keep myself abreast of the state of affairs in Zimbabwe, which is not very good at the moment."

South African all-rounder Nicky Boje (back row), Nottinghamshire's overseas player, watches the Indian team's practice session along with his county colleagues.-N. SRIDHARAN

The fact that Sachin Tendulkar was in the Indian XI had excited not only the small crowd but also the Worcestershire team: "He's a great batsman. I just wanted to stand there at first slip and see him bat. The young players are all talking about him in the dressing room."

August 1. For the second day the match between India and Worcestershire was abandoned due to rain. The umpires George Sharpe and Duncan Kettleborough and the two captains Graeme Hick and Sourav Ganguly have a couple of inspections and return to the pavilion disappointed. "We are very keen on playing. We need practice," said Ganguly, but soon the teams returned to their respective hotels.

The historic Cathedral near New Road, Worcestershire's home ground.-N. SRIDHARAN

Worcestershire has a handful of Australians employed on its staff. Tom Moody is the Director of Cricket with the County. There is also the tall fast bowler Matt Mason, who has become an ECB-qualified player. Mason is a Western Australian, but has opted to play for England.

Andy Bichel is another Australian who was doing duty until the call came from Australia that he has been picked for the ICC Champions Trophy tournament in Sri Lanka. His replacement, Shane Lee, within two days of his arrival, batted well and made 41 runs. But he proved to be very expensive for Worcestershire against Glamorgan in a crucial Norwich Union League one-day match. He gave away 39 runs in three overs.

Sachin Tendulkar obliges autograph hunters at the ground.-N. SRIDHARAN

August 2. More bad news for England. Simon Jones is reported to have aggravated a side strain and becomes a doubtful starter for the second Test against India after making an impressive debut at Lord's. The crowd at New Road gets to see an attacking innings from Sachin Tendulkar. The Indians scored 417 runs in 105 overs and Tendulkar's contribution was 169, 106 of those runs coming in the last session, with 21 fours. "Was it not brilliant? The majestic Cathedral, the Severn River and Tendulkar's batting," asked an old pro at the press box, reporting for a local radio network.

August 3. The Worcestershire openers Anuragh Singh and Stephen Peters get on with the job of scoring runs at a brisk pace. Indian coach John Wright is not happy with the run-up and the bowling action of Ashish Nehra. At the lunch break Wright spends time with Nehra, pointing out his flaws. "He had problems getting his rhythm. He was not running in properly." Nehra was a different bowler after the break. He bowled five overs and got the wickets of Stephen Peters and Ben Smith.

August 4. There could be quite a few Indians playing in the 2003 County Championship. Lancashire was said to be finalising a contract with Harbhajan Singh. There is also news of Leicestershire wanting to give Mohammad Kaif a couple of matches this season. Kaif is part of the Indian team and hence the BCCI does not grant him permission to play. There is also talk of Virender Sehwag getting offers from Sussex, Nottinghamshire and Lancashire. But there is no news, however, of Hampshire showing interest in Sachin Tendulkar. Things should become clear by September. The Counties are after the Indians because, after next year's World Cup, the players will be free until the start of the Indian domestic season.

The Severn River adjacent to the New Road ground in Worcester is full of swans and is a major tourist attraction. The river submerges the ground for nearly four months, between November and March, during the rainy season.-N. SRIDHARAN

August 5. Some of the greatest names in cricket have played for Nottinghamshire. The list includes West Indian Garfield Sobers who hit six sixes off Malcolm Nash, South African Clive Rice and New Zealand allrounder Richard Hadlee. Both Sobers and Hadlee were knighted after their retirement. Notts' home-grown boy, Derek Randall, was a great fielder and a fine middle-order batsman. Notts' overseas player for the current season is South African left-arm spinner Nicky Boje. "I was always looking to play cricket here. The ball swings and seams a lot here than at home. It's good to travel and play at different grounds. The facilities are good here. But I have not bowled in a single county match at Trent Bridge. It's more for the seamers." Boje met some of the Indian cricketers, including Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. He was keen on seeing 17-year-old Parthiv Patel. It was Boje's last week at Trent Bridge. "Stuart McGill will replace me for the remaining part of the season. I am going to Morocco as part of the South African team. Allan (Donald) is back in the side and so is Paul Adams," he said.

August 6. Kent's Robert Key and Durham's Steve Harmison were in demand from the English press on Tuesday afternoon. They are the lucky players who were picked by the selectors for the second Test at Trent Bridge. They were chosen because Graham Thorpe had told the England Cricket Board that he had decided to take a break from all cricket for the rest of the season and Simon Jones was ruled out because of a side strain.