Youngsters of MCC firmly proved that they are in the Swedish League to compete for the Trophy.
On the 17th February 2002, during a period of a reconstruction and renewal, Malmö CC sent its inexperienced and youthful team to compete in the first annual indoor tournament in Gothenburg.
The team had been preparing for the prestigious tournament for six weeks, with regular training sessions every week. The team was led by skipper Hassan Zaigham, 21, who had advanced from the position of captain of U-20 team, to the skipper of the seniors. The only other senior member of the squad, was debutant wicket keeper, Ronny, 26, who had just joined the squad, and would prove to be a valuable asset for the team. As evidence of the reconstruction of the team, the remaining seven members were all key players of the U-20 team. Umair Khan, 19, needed to perform after two years of disappointment, so did the reserve wicket-keeper Jon Abbas, 19, who was in the same position. On the other hand, his contender as the second wicket-keeper, Zalmay Daftani, 18, had been eager to stabilise his place in the squad, and seemed in form after the last training session. The remaining four had all impressed during the training sessions, among those Hassan Niazi, 18, and Bobby Sheikh, 17, two bowlers who had just bloomed last season. The final two squad members were Bilal Zaigham, 16, and Sunny Sharma, 14.
Six teams were competing for the Gothenburg Indoor Tournament Trophy; Desi CC, Gothenburg CC's A-team, Gothenburg CC's junior team, Landskrona CC, Malmöhus CC and finally Malmö CC.
The matches would be played at 10 overs per innings. Each team was to have six players in the team, whereof no bowler was to bowl more than two overs, meaning that at least five bowlers needed to be used to complete the full 10 overs.
The rules of indoor-cricket were vastly different from the common outdoor-cricket rules. Some of the main differences were that a wide ball gave three runs (!), instead of one, but no extra ball was to be awarded. In addition, the ball hitting the sidewall or the back-wall of the hall resulted in one run. One run was to be rewarded, as usual, for every time the batsmen switched ends while running between the wickets, but if the ball had hit the wall, and the batsmen had run between the wickets, a third run was rewarded to the batting side. If the batsman played a shot straight to the forward end of the hall, and hit the front wall he earned four runs, unless he hit the wall directly, i.e. the ball hit the wall at first contact after have had travelled through the air. In that case, the batsman received six runs. However, there was always a danger in playing a shot in the air, since if the ball hit the sidewall above a certain limit at a height of roughly three metres, he was out. The last difference was that the fielding side had 30 minutes to bowl the total number of overs. If the full 10 overs had not been bowled by then, 20 runs was to be added to the batting side's total, for each of the overs not completed.
After have filled in the whole team of the rules of the tournament skipper Hassan Zaigham went on to win the toss against the captain of Gothenburg CC. He elected to bat. The captain decided to open himself with his former deputy of the U-20 team, Umair Khan. A cautious captain stepped up to the crease, and batted warily, scoring 3 runs off the first over. In the following over, Umair Khan added to his disappointing last season with a duck off the fifth ball. The skipper's younger brother joined him at the crease for a valuable 20 run partnership, only to be bowled after a short ball remained low. In came an explosive Sunny Sharma who played confidently, but he too fell victim of a ball staying low, and in fact got bowled by a ball bouncing twice. The wickets kept on falling from there as wicket keeper Ronny and Zalmay both got out in succession in the last over. Skipper Hassan Zaigham played a captain's innings playing until the end, very much the main contribution of the 55 run total of Malmö CC.
Malmö CC soon found that the score was far too low, and realised that they needed to bowl the opposition out for a win. It started well, with a run out in the second over of the innings, but the main breakthrough came from Umair, as he ripped through the middle order, with two wickets, as well as a run out coming from his first over, only the fourth in the match. However, Gothenburg CC fought bravely and was approaching the total steadily, as the fall of wickets had dried out. Nonetheless, when wicket-keeper Ronny took off is pads to bowl the eighth over, things wrapped up, with two wickets in four balls. Malmö CC had won the match, not too convincingly, by 5 runs, thanks to an overall great team effort.
To follow, Malmö CC would be tested, when they were to meet Landskrona CC. Again the skipper won the toss and again he chose to bat. This time he switched previous opener Umair who failed to score, to wicket-keeper batsman Ronny. The change did not seem to do any good at all, after the skipper was caught behind the very second ball of the match. In came again Bilal, and things started to get better, as the two batsmen put up a partnership of 34 runs off only 5 overs. Next man in was Umair, and once again he got out early and cheaply as he too was caught behind by wicket keeper and captain of Landskrona CC, Irfan. Reserve wicket-keeper Jon, who had come in instead of Zalmay, gave a good stand to Bilal, who scored steadily and soon reached his 25 runs, at which one had to retire at. Bobby Sheikh, replacing Sunny Sharma, added to the score, and the two batsmen took the total to 67/3.
The second innings started perfectly, with opener Omar being run out in the first over, and things did not improve for Landskrona, when Bilal caught a blinder off his own bowling, and then ran out star batsman Shahid Mohammad for a duck. However the joy did not last long for the Malmö CC players, as no more wickets fell. Captain and opener Irfan and senior batsmen Sajjad stayed until the end, and made sure the total was reached with plenty of overs remaining. The scorecard tells the story better, as Malmö CC gave away incredible 30 runs in extras only, leaving only 38 for Landskrona to score.
Matters were only made worse, when Bilal Zaigham, key player against Landskrona CC, fell ill in a flush of fever. Nevertheless, Malmö CC won the next match against Gothenburg juniors easily, after great bowling by Hassan Niazi, claiming three wickets, good batting by skipper Hassan Zaigham and a good all-round performance as a whole. Other players, who stood out, were Sunny Sharma, giving away only six runs off his two overs, and Bilal claiming another great catch from silly point off Niazi's bowling.
The fourth challenge was facing archrivals Malmöhus CC in a pure derby. Malmö CC batted first scoring 63 runs, with no batsman really standing out, but a valuable last partnership between Ronny and Hassan Niazi, was crucial.
In the bowling department the team failed once again, as Malmöhus CC could win with four wickets in hand and three overs to spare. As skipper Hassan Zaigham was the only reliable bowler, Malmöhus CC did not have any problems, especially as main bowler Bilal gave away 15 runs in wides, in only two overs.
With only one match left to play, Malmö CC had won two, lost two, putting them in third position, after Landskrona CC, and Malmöhus CC. However, a win against Desi CC in the last match, would mean a secured third place, but a loss, would mean a tie for the third between Desi CC, Gothenburg CC and Malmö CC. Losing the toss and being given the field, the skipper attacked himself as he had done in all matches but one. Giving away 15 runs in the first over was not a start Malmö CC had wished for. When Ronny gave away 13 in the second over things did not seem to go their way. Desi soon reached the 100-run landmark, and ended with 110 runs on the board. Bobby Sheikh was most probably the only bowler worth praising, as he with consistent bowling got one wicket and forced through a run out.
The same player proved valuable in the batting as well, as he scored 13 runs, playing alone as last man, helping Malmö to a reasonable score of 73 in pursuit of the mammoth target. Captain Hassan Zaigham once again contributed with a valuable 16, as well as keeper-batsman Ronny, who scored 10 in a useful partnership with the captain. Unfortunately both batsmen got run out.
In the tournament ceremony, Landskrona CC won the first prize, Malmöhus CC claimed the second prize, and Desi CC was rewarded with the third prize (through scoring the most runs of the three tied teams). However, the Malmö CC players did not leave empty-handed as, skipper Hassan Zaigham was awarded Best Batsman, Umair Khan might have gotten his breakthrough, and received the award as Best Bowler, and Bilal Zaigham was Best All-Rounder.
Despite, not winning the tournament, the young team of Malmö CC performed well, and this was definitely an experience to learn from. The youngsters unquestionably proved that they are in the Swedish League to compete for the Trophy.
Bilal Haider Zaigham