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When Elsa met McDreamy
We were this close. Me and Daren “McDreamy” Ganga, who was dreamier than ever in shades of blue. Then I accidentally almost stepped on Dwight Yorke, who was behind me, and I apologised, and he flashed his signature smile.
I also had my picture taken with Brian Lara and the greatest batsman of all time, Sir Gary Sobers. If you squint and look really close in the upper right-hand corner of the photo, which is now preserved in a silver frame on my desk, you can just glimpse the top of my mop at the back of a crowd of important people who had surrounded the two giants.
Well, I was in the same room with them, which is a heck of a lot closer than you were, buster.
The Children’s Ark fundraiser Batting for Children’ at the Hyatt ballroom last Thursday saw the good, the great and the famous coming together for a worthy cause. I fall into none of those categories but I wangled a ticket and neither hail, nor rain, nor wind, nor traffic could keep me away from the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear Sir Gary. This is the cricketer my dad used to sit up nights for, listening to the radio when Sir Gary was playing in a time zone too far away.
Sir Gary, a natural storyteller, recounted how he joined the police band at 15 to get a chance to play cricket. Class and colour barriers of the 50s meant he was unlikely to play for the best clubs. But he was crummy at playing the bugle and what was the end of his musical career became the beginning of history. He played first-class cricket the following year at 16, and made his Test debut at 17. His first Test century was also his greatest, when he scored 365 not out against Pakistan in 1958.
Brian Lara, who made the event just before flying out to South Africa for an HIV/Aids benefit, said he once thought of going to Venezuela to play football with Dwight Yorke and other buddies. His dad Bunty asked him, “Who’s going to buy your football boots?’’
Dad steered him in the right direction: “If you want a cricket bat, you could get that.”
Last Thursday was a rare opportunity to have the different generations of cricketers under one roof. And other sport icons were there too—including cyclist Roger Gibbon and Olympic silver medallist Wendell Mottley. Dwight Yorke was just passing through Trinidad, when Brian invited him to stop by.
President Carmona brought greetings and coloratura soprano Natalia Dopwell sang the inspirational Just as I Am. During a power glitch the lights dimmed and the microphone went dead, but she continued as if she were in an opera hall and the audience loved her for it.
Still enjoying the afterglow, I was relating all this to my pal Elle when she brought me to a screeching halt: “So what does she look like?’’
“Jamey Bowers, Miss Scotland. Brian Lara’s girlfriend.” I was appalled—Elle is a rare combination of classy and tacky.
“He introduced me to her as the One that Got Away,” I teased.
Elle was not to be deterred. Whenever she receives a report that there might be a genetic marvel other than herself out there, she develops an almost pathological curiosity.
“She has the most perfect teeth I have ever seen,” I finally relented.
“Well, if you like that sort of thing,’’ she snapped.
The richness of the experience created by the Children’s Ark might have been lost on Elle. But not me. I threw aside years of practice at being a cynic (was I the one who used to sneer at celebrity-chasers asking strangers to sign their napkins?) and edged my way through the crowd.
“Would you mind?’’ I asked McDreamy. He signed my programme. And he shook my hand. Daren Ganga may not have broken any world records, but he will always be the Prince Charming of cricket.
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