Nadeem, 16, has the Tamil Nadu stars in a spin
Teenager catches spotlight amid defeat
The gulf in class between the cream of Tamil Nadu's professionals and Hong Kong's weekend cricketers is as wide as the Indian Ocean. So the 66-run defeat handed out yesterday to a Hong Kong President's XI by the tourists in the first of their two games here should not come as a huge surprise.
But even in defeat there were encouraging signs for Hong Kong - mainly the bowling of teenager Nadeem Ahmed. The left-arm spinner caused problems for all the batsmen yesterday on a slow track at the Kowloon Cricket Club and finished with the creditable figures of three for 53 off his allotted 10 overs.
His three victims were Tamil Nadu captain, the stylish Setty Suresh, Sridharan Sriram and Hemang Badani. All three are top-order batsmen with the last two having represented India in one-day internationals. This was certainly the biggest haul - in terms of the pedigree of his opponents - in Nadeem's fledgling career.
The 16-year-old left-arm spinner will undoubtedly go on to claim bigger names in the future. But these three wickets will be long-remembered for they are all quality batsman.
Nadeem's bowling must be taken in the context that all his opponents are traditionally weaned on spin bowling. They know how to play spinners in their dreams. So to get two of them out clean bowled and one out leg before is a huge feat when cast in this light.
'He has talent for one so young. Maybe he should go out and play more cricket at a high level,' was the assessment of Tamil Nadu manager Subramaniam Viswanathan. Let's hope Hong Kong's selectors are reading this. For Nadeem has been ignored for the Tuanku Ja'afar Trophy next month in Singapore.
'I'm available but I was not picked,' was Nadeem's answer when asked whether he was unavailable for the build-up tournament to the all-important Asian Cricket Council Trophy and the Asia Cup in the summer.
Nadeem made his Hong Kong debut at the senior level at last year's Tuanku Ja'afar Trophy in Malaysia and starred then too as Hong Kong defended their title. To be ignored, one year later, is a mistake especially when new coach Robin Singh will be getting his first look of what talent is available in Hong Kong.
And he is definitely a talent. Ask Tamil Nadu skipper Suresh. The tall, right-handed batsman was merrily scoring his runs when Nadeem was brought on in the 26th over with the score on 132 for two.
The first ball was short and Suresh, playing his favoured pull shot, whipped it to the mid-wicket boundary.
He tried to do the same thing next delivery, mis-judged the line and was hit on the back foot to be ruled leg before. Nadeem struck again in his third over when he enticed left-hander Sriram to drive on the front foot, only for the batsman to mis-read the flight to have his sticks rattled.
Then two overs later, he got the scalp of Badani, the biggest of his three victims having just played in the one-day series against Pakistan. Badani attempting a sweep played over it and was bowled comprehensively.
Apart from Nadeem, left-arm medium-fast bowler Khalid Khan also had a good day, especially his opening spell which was fast and accurate. Khalid grabbed the wickets of two tail-enders in his third spell, late in the innings.
His opening partner Michael Jamieson grabbed the first two wickets to fall but was later punished for bowling too short by Suresh and Subramaniam Badrinath, a compact right-handed batsman who top-scored with an unbeaten 134.
Suresh and Badrinath - the leading run-getter for Tamil Nadu this season - figured in a third-wicket partnership of 115 runs which set the foundation for the big total of 300 for eight. It was a target far too much for Hong Kong's batsmen to chase.
Even the absence of main strike bowler Suresh at the beginning of the home side's innings, failed to spark the local batsmen. Skipper Suresh, a nippy medium-pacer, only came on right at the end and that too bowling spin.
Let's hope he decides to go flat out today when they meet the Hong Kong national side at the Hong Kong Cricket Club. And let's hope Hong Kong bat first, so that they can get an opportunity to test their mettle against top-class bowling.
Meanwhile, today's game has been reduced to 40 overs match due to a wet outfield. The match will start at 12.30pm.