Legends focus on fun side

Normal, Sports

The National, Thursday 6th September, 2012

CRICKET PNG’s special guests arrived yesterday for the annual PMMI Twenty-20 “Don’t drink and drive” Legends Bash this weekend.
Former test and one-day stars Aravinda de Silva (Sri Lanka), Merv Hughes, Michael Dighton (Australia), Adam Hollioake, Graeme Hick (England), Scott Styris (New Zealand) and Carl Hooper (West Indies) will play in the annual T20 competition that promotes the sport and “drives” an important community message.
The Pacific MMI and Motor Vehicle Insurance Ltd-sponsored event is into its third year with past events attracting other former stars such as Andrew Symonds, Greg Blewett and Andy Bichel.
Although most of the contingent admitted to not playing competitive cricket for “a while”, they were enthusiastic about supporting a good cause  and promoting the sport.
Former England batsman Graeme Hick highlighted the “fun” aspect of the event but added that he wouldn’t mind “middling a few”.
The Zimbabwe-born middle order hitter said he was looking forward to the tournament which will see six sides battle for the Legends Bash cup.
“I retired from the game in 2008 but I do play in PR (exhibition) matches because these games are about having fun and enjoying the sport,” Hick said.
“Don’t expect any big hitting (from me) but if I do get some in the middle that would be good.”
De Silva, considered to be Sri Lanka’s best ever batsman, said he had not played competitively since retiring in 2003 but had been part of the game through the Aravinda de Silva Sports Foundation.
“I’ve been involved with junior development in Sri Lanka even before I retired,” De Silva said.
 “I haven’t played much cricket since retiring but I think the conditions in PNG are like Sri Lanka so it will be good.”
Former Australian paceman Merv Hughes said his friendship with Cricket PNG general manager Greg Campbell had played a part in his involvement in the two-day event.
“I was supposed to come up last year but couldn’t so I’m happy to finally be here and play some good cricket,” Hughes said.
The former fast bowler who still plays grade cricket in Victoria, jokingly said he would bowl as fast as possible but “slower than Aravinda”.
Hughes, who is currently the bowling coach of Australian Cricket Council’s KFC Big Bash team Melbourne Rengades, said he thought PNG cricket was on the rise with the talent in its teams.
“The playing talent is very good, better than expected. PNG has improved and its teams are doing well at international tournaments so I’m looking forward to playing the local stars,” he said.
Self-proclaimed “fittest” man of the group New Zealander Scott Styris said he would be gunning for back-to-back titles after being part of the PMMI Rebels team that claimed the cup last year.
“I retired last year but I’m involved in six T20 tournaments currently so I guess I’m the fittest one of the lot,” Styris quipped.
The Kiwi batting all-rounder said PNG cricketers  had “phenomenal natural talent” and their skill set was constantly getting better.
He said, after eyeing his fellow legends, the PMMI side had a great chance of defending their title.
The group will be kept busy in the lead up to the tournament with visits to Lae, Central province and parts of Port Moresby today as well as a fund-raising dinner tomorrow night before matches on Saturday and Sunday.