Keg & Maiden, a popular joint

Published : Jul 21, 2001 00:00 IST


JULY 5: The Keg and Maiden is quite a busy place. It has a well-stocked bar and a restaurant with a wide range to choose from. And it has a cricket ambience about it.

Forming part of the set up at the Harare Sports Club, it is a meeting place for the young and the old. Music in the evening keeps the young on their feet while the old folk prefer sitting under the sun, enjoying the cricket on view. It does not matter whether Zimbabwe plays or not, for cricket is the second priority. Weather and gossip take the preference.

Inside the Keg and Maiden, you get to see pictures and memorablia of the matches played at the Harare Sports Club. The scoreboard of its first ever Test - in 1992 - tells the story of Zimbabwe's hour of glory, taking the first innings lead against India. And then there is this famous picture of the Test match against Australia with all the 11 Aussies in the frame - bowler, wicketkeeper and the nine others in catching position.

It is a sports club which offers 'live' fare on a big screen. These are the occasions when the Keg and Maiden is crowded and there is lot of fun and frolic. Rugby matches beamed live attract the best crowd, with the elite of the city turning up to enjoy the atmosphere.

The eats and drinks are reasonably priced and the idea is to make it a comfortable place for all people. We are not members of the club, but during cricket matches we can walk in any time to avail of the services. "Indian media," is the password as we grab a table and order chicken fajita, a great hit at the Keg and Maiden. When I mention this dish to some of the Indian players, they give it a try and soon take-aways are ordered for evenings too.

It is the benefit season for Eddo Brandes, the former international cricketer. The restaurant joins in the act by naming some dishes after cricketers. Eddo is quite a popular character and the gesture is in keeping with the sporting traditions of the Keg and Maiden.

July 6: The man with all kinds of brushes and colours has made a good 'killing' at the Harare Sports Club. He paints faces and is as busy as any other soul at the cricket venue.

The character of the audience has changed worldwide and the Zimbabweans cannot lag behind. A cricket match offers the kids and the young fans the opportunity to have their faces painted and have a good time in kind weather.

So, this man paints the national flags of India or Zimbabwe, depending on your choice. The painting is done on match days and in quick time too. This man with the brush and colours is setting up his place a day ahead of the final. He is well-prepared for the big day but he has a problem in hand. What if some supporters of the West Indies turn up. He has no flags of the various islands in the Caribbean. "We'll cross the bridge when we come to it," he says. He may not have to actually, for the West Indians are considered the least spectator-friendly and are not popular with the small group of supporters in Harare and Bulawayo.

Uncle Lester of Trinidad is one great supporter of West Indian cricket and travels with the team wherever it competes. But even he has a poor opinion of his team. And he is not off the mark. The West Indian players avoid crowds. They are not seen in the hotel lobby, very few appear at the breakfast table and generally they seem to avoid any contact with their fans. No wonder, the steel band which makes an appearance in Bulawayo is missing in Harare.

July 7: The Indian flags flutter high. The groups are spread all over and the atmosphere is electric. There is a large group of Indians. Bappa Morya, Bappa Morya, the refrains are loud. The supporters of the Indian team have come from Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Ethopia.

For the West Indians, it feels like playing in India. The smell of curry is thick in the air and the Indians enjoy every bit of it. These supporters are genuine fans of Indian cricket, unlike some officials who claim to be romantics, watching the game in all comfort at the cost of the players. These fans are different. They take pains and spend a lot of money to come and cheer their heroes and seek very little in return. An autograph, or, if the player is willing, a photograph is all they ask for. This Indian team makes it a point to keep the fans happy and it is a pleasant sight to watch them mingle with the spectators.

But the day belongs to this small group of Caribbean supporters. The steel band entertains the crowd the whole day with these West Indian supporters, mostly based in Harare, creating a din which keeps the team going. But sadly, at the end of the day, none of the players from the winning team acknowledge the work of this Caribbean stand on the left of the pavilion.

July 8: Williams has spent 44 days with the Indian team. He was at the airport to receive them and is now driving them back. He has some fond memories of the cricket tour.

This friendly driver of the team coach has enjoyed the company of the Indian players throughout. Driving this bunch of cricketers, some naughty and some not, to the ground and back; being their local guide and never missing the deadline.

"Players' comfort" has been his priority all the time. He enjoys the trip to Victoria Falls. It was fun, he recalls, listening to Hindi music in his coach and stopping for a while to catch up with a film on the video screen.

Some of the boys remember his services and present him with a lovely gift before bidding goodbye.

July 9: The lasting memory of our tour of Zimbabwe is Dean, a cricket lover, commentator, and a sort of celebrity at the Harare Sports Club. And he is just 23.

Born blind, Dean has a picture of cricket in his mind as painted by his father and friends. The game comes alive for him as he makes it to the ground to watch the matches.

"He's amazing," says Dave Houghton, one of the close cricketing friends of Dean. The former Zimbabwe captain and coach shares the mike with Dean as they commentate on the radio. Dean does not describe the game. That part is left to Houghton, who keeps the conversation going with some interesting questions which Dean tackles with a splendid sense of humour. His turn over, Dean takes a seat at the back but makes sure he is within hearing distance of the television. The mike at the ground is his key to following the game. Of course he relies on the commentators, too

"Zaheer Khan comes in and bowls wide of the stumps,"... the commentator goes on. Dean whispers the bowler is not Zaheer, but Ashish Nehra. The commentator does not take notice. Dean is convinced. As it turns out, the bowler is indeed Nehra. Everyone in the room is flabbergasted. How could Dean know when he could not even see?

"The footsteps," whispers Dean. He has heard the footsteps of the bowler from the stump mike.

Dean needs a job and such assignments come in handy for this pleasant young man. The Zimbabwe Cricket Union office is considering employing him as a telephone operator. We hope Dean gets the job.

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