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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Mixed feelings for continental clash
By Ken Borland
South African sports journalist

This week's three one-day internationals between African and Asian XIs offer clear proof of the power wielded by Indian cricket supremo Jagmohan Dalmiya.

Inzamam-ul-Haq
Pakistan's Inzamam-ul-Haq will captain the Asian side

In terms of cricketing worth, the series is a merely peanuts on a bar counter in comparison to the five-course gourmet meal that the Ashes series between England and Australia is turning out to be.

Dalmiya, the architect of what is to be an annual series between the two continents, has assured sceptics the matches will be valuable money-spinners for the development of the game in Africa and Asia.

He has even promised to donate 10% of the earnings, most of it from his television contacts, to charity.

But the organisers have refused to divulge how much money they are expecting to raise or even which charitable cause will benefit.

The Asian players gathered in Centurion on Monday, two days ahead of the opening game, and wasted no time in voicing their enthusiasm.

"The concept of combined teams has really taken off since the tsunami, which brought the cricketing community together.

"The tsunami has changed players' outlooks radically and we now realise that cricket is more than just a sport that is there to entertain.

"So this series should be a great experience and a great spectacle for the spectators because there will be a wide array of talent in one place," Sri Lankan wicket-keeper/batsman Kumar Sangakkara said.

Jagmohan Dalmiya
Jagmohan Dalmiya was the driving force behind the series

"As long as we are professionals, we will always take it seriously because spectators are paying money to watch us. The intensity will be there even though we are not playing for our country, but a region."

Fellow Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan was also excited about the three-match series, which ends over the weekend in Durban.

"It will be a privilege to play with great players against other great players.

"We have spent so many years on the same fields playing against each other, but after cricket we are all friends and now we get the chance to make money to help cricket in our region," he said.

Detractors, however, point to the concept being flawed from the start in that any team representing the best of Africa will invariably be basically the South African side.

But the rush to start the series this year has also meant several players are unavailable.

South African stars Makhaya Ntini, Herschelle Gibbs, Andre Nel and Charl Langeveldt will all be absent, while the Asians will be without Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas and Irfan Pathan.

Dalmiya has managed to persuade the International Cricket Council to accord the matches official status, so runs scored and wickets taken will count in the record books.

Jacques Kallis
It's just another game of cricket - like a pre-season warm-up - because it's obviously not strength versus strength
Jacques Kallis

South Africa's prolific run-gatherer, Jacques Kallis, seems more interested, however, in the practice that the series will allow him to get in before the international summer kicks off in the southern hemisphere.

But with skipper Graeme Smith able to complete a four-match time-wasting ban during the series and new South African coach Mickey Arthur getting to know his players as he also guides the Africa XI, the hosts were never going to turn their noses up at the thought of playing the three matches.

The United Cricket Board's cut from the matches will also help financially as they enter a new era of 'belt-tightening'.

How much interest there is among spectators remains to be seen.




SEE ALSO
Kallis hits out at Afro-Asia Cup
12 Aug 05 |  Cricket
Mortaza called into Asian squad
05 Aug 05 |  Cricket
Inzamam to skipper Asia XI team
01 Aug 05 |  Cricket


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