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It's back to `gully' cricket for Kapil

Sudha Menon

PUNE, Aug 5

CARE to crack that ball over the boundary with the Wisden's Indian cricketer of the century bowling to you? Or better still, how about bowling him out with a nasty turn of the leather? Lucky fans of the Haryana Hurricane might just be able to do this what with entertainment people, SET Max India, roping in their brand ambassador to play "gully cricket" with adoring fans across five cities in India.

The whistle-stop five-city gully cricket tour is part of Max's run-up to some of the mega cricketing events over the next 12 months including the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy, Sri Lanka 2002 and the ICC Cricket World Cup, and South Africa 2003, all of which will be aired on the channel. "This concept is the first of a series of initiatives we are taking to build excitement of the game in every corner of the country beginning now to the end of the World Cup. Kapil's charisma will bowl over cricket fans and non-cricket fans when he plays with them on their turf and in their neighbourhood," says Max Executive Vice-President and Business Head, Mr Rajat Jain. "The idea is to take the passion and excitement of the game and show viewers cricket like they have never seen it before, by making it entertaining for the entire family," he adds.

The Haryana da puttar is no stranger to the world of gully cricket since he himself grew up playing the game in the city's gullies before hitting big time and catapulting to the top of the pile in the country's and maybe the world's cricketing map. Kapil kicked the off gully cricket spin when he hit Nagpur city on Sunday to find an astounding 16,000 fans gathered to witness him play at one of the venues, instead of the 2,000 fans expected, according to one SET MAX executive.

"The concept is very exciting and personally very fulfilling for me since I will be playing cricket in the gullies after so many years and also because it is an opportunity to play with fans and witness the raw passion that the game brings out among Indians," says Kapil. The former captain will also interact with fans and share his most cherished memories of the game during part of the promotion, which will take place in August-September.

With Pune the next scheduled stop for the Haryana hunk, there is an air of expectancy about the neighbourhood cricket clubs that dot its gullies and the biggies like the Deccan Gymkhana where major sporting action happens. Hoardings announcing Kapil's arrival are going up at prominent spots and college cafeterias are buzzing with the news though the venue of his visits are still a suspense. Maharashtra, incidentally, has thrown up some of gully cricket's greatest names, including Sachin Tendulkar who grew up playing the game in the gully of his Bandra house and his pal Vinod Kambli, now a resident of Pune. Kapil will also visit Bangalore (August 17), Kanpur (August 25) and Ludhiana (September 8) as part of the tour.

The former captain and coach of the Indian team-turned successful businessman was roped in as brand ambassador for Max a couple of months ago for an undisclosed sum and will now work with the channel to promote their cricketing events.

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