There are a few unwritten rules in cricket which should be strictly and religiously followed, more than the actual laws set by the governing body. One is if you are a fast bowler you never sledge certain Vivians, Tendulkars, Laras, Haydens, Sehwags and a few more. And if you are a batsman, you never open your mouth against any one from the legend Caribbean fast bowling quartet, Donalds, Lees, Akrams.
Some smarty pants have done it, paid for it and how. One such instance happened exactly 16 years ago, during the 1996 World Cup. A certain Sultan Zarawani, overloaded with cash and completely empty in the head probably, learnt it the hard way. While every other country coming to the sub-continent for cricket’s showpiece event looked serious, the UAE captain, Zarawani was surely on a cricket holiday.
The filthy rich Emirati, the only native-born member among expats and others in the UAE national squad, will never forget this day. If sources are to be believed, Sultan probably owned more cars than he managed international runs (26). Before he was struck by the Lightning, there was a small story which led to the situation and was only fuelled by his tomfoolery on the pitch then.
As the Proteas landed at Rawalpindi, the UAE team too happened to be there. Some of their players, in what can be called the heights of stupidity, played mock hook shots at the likes of Donald and Shaun Pollock. Not knowing that Donald can be as nasty on the pitch as affable off it, their captain had to pay the price ultimately.
South Africa piled on 320 on the back of a superb 188 by Gary Kirsten. There was no chance in hell, UAE could have chased it. And in some time, they were 68-6 when the spoilt brat Sultan came to the centre. To everyone’s surprise, the UAE captain displayed a cool demeanour, which MS Dhoni is famous for now.
But it was unwarranted to go without a helmet, wearing a sunhat, knowing Donald was the bowler you are facing. No batsman in the world, even at this age, would face the White Lightning without helmet. At the back of the airport mock show, Pat Symcox snarled “Al, this guy's asking for it.” Donald agreed and sent down a brut.
Zarawani wobbled around as if he was pissed drunk as the ball hit his head before he could blink his eye. Still, refusing to swallow his pride, or foolish ego, he resumed as if nothing had happened. Mind you, he didn’t ask for a helmet even after that. Luckily for UAE, his family and friends, his role in the film ended six balls later when Brian McMillan had him caught at mid-off by Hansie Cronje and without getting hit.
Not sure if Zarawani or Donald met each other ever after that. But every year, on February 16, 2012 Zarawani would be praying to his Almighty to have given him an unbroken skull, more brain cells may be and a second life.
PS: While Zarawani must be trying his best not to remember this day, Michael Holding and Wasim Jaffer would be celebrating it. Holding and Jaffer were born on this day and for nothing else.