Dubai: UAE veteran cricketer Freddy Sidhwa has perhaps become the oldest cricketer in the history of the game to bag a Man of the Final award. He achieved the feat at the age of 76 playing alongside renowned international cricketers from around the world at the historic Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.
Sidhwa, who plays regularly in UAE’s domestic cricket, notched up this special honour at the JP Morgan International Cricket Cup annual tournament held last month. Representing former England spinner Graeme Swann’s Dover House team, Sidhwa struck twice in succession to sink South African pacer Dale Steyn’s Princess Gate team in the final to ensure his team’s victory.
Steyn was so impressed by Sidhwa’s spirited age-defying display on the field that he presented him a bat with the words: “You are the definition of spirit of cricket.”
Sidhwa owes his performance to UAE’s domestic cricket tournaments where he regularly plays. He also gets all his cricket loving employees to play alongside him in tournaments during the weekends, often sponsored by him.
Speaking to Gulf News on winning the man of the final award, Sidhwa said: “It was indeed a memorable experience. Though I bowl left-arm spin I was given the new ball and so bowling from the Lord’s Pavilion end I took the wicket of Steyn, caught by my son Shahvir, who also played for Dover team. With the second ball, I clean bowled the next batsman. Though I could not get a hat-trick, the early wickets put Princess team on the back foot as Steyn had remained unbeaten in all previous matches and had guided his team to the final. I had taken six wickets in the tournament and that’s why Swann gave me the new ball hoping to strike early.”
When I play cricket I feel like a 24-year-old boy. Cricket is one game I cannot resist playing... I think if you have passion for the game then age isn’t a factor at all.”
- Freddy Sidhwa » UAE veteran cricketer
In July 2016, Sidhwa, playing in the same tournament, representing Team Madison, led by former England skipper Andrew Strauss, took the prize wicket of New Zealand opener Brendon McCullum but lost the match to McCullum’s Team Wall Hall. “It was indeed special to get to play with players like Wasim Akram, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Graeme Smith, Jeoff Thomson, Jason Gillespie, Graham Gooch, Mathew Hoggard, David Nash, woman cricketer Ebonhy Rainford Brent and commentator Henry Blofeld in this tournament. Later when I was presented the Man of the Final award and when our team received the winner’s trophy, I was delighted to be honoured by great players,” said Sidhwa, who often wins the Man of the Match awards in domestic cricket but sportingly denies it and requests the organisers to give it to the second best performer.
Sidhwa, soon after celebrating his 71st birthday, while playing for Seven Seas team in the eighth edition of the Eat and Treat Cricket Cup, produced a six-wicket spell for 43 against Emrill Cricket Club. In the Sindhi Cricket League he returned with figures of six-wickets for one run. “When I play cricket I feel like a 24-year-old boy. Cricket is one game I cannot resist playing,” remarked the proud septuagenarian, who enjoys contributing both with the bat and ball, and relishes being a match winner rather than bagging awards. “One should never play with the intention of getting awards. I believe that if you give your hundred per cent in the game, awards will come automatically.”
So what is it that makes him play even in his seventies? “I think if you have passion for the game then age isn’t a factor at all, because you are doing something you enjoy.”