Injury-prone Papu faces pain and pulls stumps for last time

HONGKONG cricket lover Papu Butani has bowled his last ball after a shattering experience over the weekend.

The 45-year-old Indian jeweller, a keen supporter of local cricket on and off the field, is still in hospital after being struck a fearsome blow in the face by hard-hitting Australian batsman Ross Greer during a Saturday League game.

And Butani has decided to give up competitive cricket because he feels his advancing years are making him more vulnerable to injury. This is the third time in the past 12 months he has needed surgery.

''I think I should retire - I am getting old and my reflexes are not there,'' said Butani last night, from a St Teresa's Hospital bed.

''I'll have to concentrate on organising games instead of playing in them from now on.'' The accident happened at Mission Road, where the Merchants Cricket Club - a Saturday League team formed by Butani a couple of years ago - were playing St George's, spearheaded by the formidable figure of Greer.

Butani, who was playing despite a high temperature, bowled a full toss to the left-handed Greer, who smashed it back towards him. Butani tried to stop the ball but it thudded into his face, fracturing his nose in two places and causing extensive bruising and swelling.

An ambulance took Butani to hospital and he expects to be there until tomorrow, depending upon the extent of the damage.

Added Butani: ''I am still bleeding from the nose and my face is still numb but the dentist thinks my teeth will be okay.

''I was bowling well, too. I had him in trouble but now he's got me in trouble. It was a full toss and the ball came shooting at me like a bullet. I could not get out of the way.'' Greer, who set a Saturday League batting record of 233 not out the previous weekend and who went on to score 80, added: ''He bowled me a full bunger and I was trying to hit it high but it went flat straight back at him.

''I caught it in the middle of the bat and I think he got a hand to it. He was very lucky it hit him on the bridge of the nose; if it had hit him on the cheek or in the teeth there could have been real trouble.

''I went up to him and there was blood everywhere. His first words were 'I'm dead'.'' Bombay-born Butani, who has been in Hongkong for 24 years, was a leading figure in organising the first Hongkong Sixes at Kowloon Cricket Club last October.

He has also brought Indian players to Hongkong to provide top quality opposition for the territory's representative sides.

His other injuries have been a broken finger and 16 stitches in a head wound.