A haircut with Steve Waugh, watching Tendulkar patiently line up in the cafeteria, and other CWG ’98 memorabilia

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Aminul Islam, the former captain of Bangladesh, recalls having his hair cut at random with Steve Waugh and Gavin Robertson, the former Australian off-spinner, in the barber shop at the 1998 Commonwealth Games village in Kuala Lumpur. “They said, ‘hey, let’s get a haircut.’ So the three of us went there.

Alistair Campbell, the former Zimbabwe captain, remembers queuing at the ‘old fashioned’ phone booths in the Athletes’ Cafeteria to ask his sponsors for replacement bats after he broke a couple. Former Indian drummer Amay Khurasiya was waiting for refills to arrive as the 24-hour cafeteria’s limited vegetarian options would be sorted out early.

For cricketers accustomed to operating in their own cocooned world of bilateral tours and multi-team, but still single-sport events, Khurasiya believes the CWG village atmosphere has given a “slight indication” of what a village is all about. Olympic must look like. Coming from a country where cricket remains “a religion”, Gagan Khoda, the former India batsman and manager, recalls the sobering experience of watching hundreds of elite athletes from very different disciplines s train and compete.

Cricket returns to the CWG for the first time at Birmingham 2022 since first appearing in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. While 16 men’s teams competed in the one-day format in 1998, with South Africa winning gold, eight female teams will play in the T20 version. this time. Cricket was also part of the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, but India did not participate in both, making CWG 1998 their only major multi-sport event to date.

The village of Kuala Lumpur was an excellent leveler for cricketers; some of the game’s biggest stars, like Sachin Tendulkar, the Waugh Brothers and Curtly Ambrose, were “not that big here”, as Aminul puts it. “Swimmers and athletes were a much bigger attraction.”

Starstruck by sprinters, swimmers

Campbell says he was starstruck initially. “You saw the people you’d only watched on TV – the sprinters, the swimmers, so it was special from that perspective,” Campbell says. “You would walk past a big name and say, ‘hey, it’s such-and-such’, or ‘isn’t he the 400m record holder?’ etc

“A lot of us in the Zimbabwe team were keen observers of other sports. We knew the faces, we knew what they were doing, especially in athletics. And the ability to get on a bus and go anywhere from water sports to athletics to hockey was a huge eye opener and at every opportunity we would get on a bus and go watch the heats and cheer on the few Zimbabweans who were also competing.

It wasn’t that cricketers would go completely unnoticed. “A South African swimmer was very excited for cricket to be in the Commonwealth Games and his heroes like (Shaun) Pollock, (Makhaya) Ntini, (Mark) Boucher, (Jacques) Kallis were all there, and they also won the ‘gold,” says Aminul, who would make it 145 against India in Bangladesh’s first Test match two years later.

Still, cricket was new to many at the 1998 CWG, and Campbell would end up explaining the basics to other athletes over dinner. “A lot of guys there weren’t sure what this game was about and how it was going. Some wanted explanations of laws and such,” says Campbell.

Kitchens and Conversations

For Khurasiya and Khoda, the conversations over meals with the other athletes were memorable. “It was a world full of beautiful sports, beautiful athletes and beautiful people. People would start cycling or working out at 5 a.m. The levels of engagement were incredibly high. It was something nothing to sit with such people and have your meal,” says Khurasiya.

Witnessing up close what athletes in individual disciplines go through in their daily routines was a lesson for Campbell. “As cricketers, even back then, things were settled for you as a team. As an athlete, yes, you have your sparring or training partners, but otherwise it’s a lonely existence in an individual sport. It was an eye opener to watch these guys train and how disciplined they were. Just the loneliness they go through, especially athletics.

Queuing with hundreds of people to fill their plates at the cafeteria buffet was another unheard of experience for international cricketers accustomed to laid-back five-star hotels and room service.

“There was no VIP treatment for anyone, everyone was queuing. But it made no difference to Sachin Tendulkar, who was as modest then as he is now, and when Tendulkar didn’t complain, no one complains,” says Khurasiya.

While vegetarians obviously had less choice – and fewer Indian spices too – overall, Malaysians didn’t shy away from the variety of dishes on offer. The cafeteria was therefore an incessant melting pot of cultures, in more ways than one.

“These foods were very healthy, mostly steamed, not much oil. I became a fan of steamed salmon after those days,” says Aminul.

“They had kitchens from all over the world. They really pushed hard. You could have typical Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, English food, they really did an amazing job of catering to all the different cultures there. It was no small feat, 24 hours a day,” says Campbell. “Some of the disciplines were finishing very late and they wanted a midnight snack. So the cafeteria was a hive of activity all the time. It wasn’t just starch and protein, there was something for everyone. tastes.

Campbell also remembers how easy it was to get around the village and the metropolis beyond. “It felt like every whim was catered for. Even if you wanted to leave the Village to eat out or go to a bar, the transportation system was amazing. We just had to look for the shuttle. It was like being on the London Underground. It was a 24 hour clock.”

Opening ceremony

Outside of village life, the opening ceremony in a crowded stadium was where the difference really struck some cricketers. For Bangladesh, the moment was even greater as they had been on the rise as a cricketing nation; they had won the ICC trophy in 1997 to qualify for their first World Cup in 1999. Already there were high expectations from the team.

“When you attend the opening ceremony, you are not just cricketers, you are part of the Bangladesh contingent. It is a completely different feeling,” says Aminul.

“Our captain was Akram Khan, but I became captain after the Commonwealth Games. It was Akram’s last time as captain, and he was supposed to carry the flag, but at the last moment I think one of our shooters did.

Campbell, meanwhile, had to wait, and wait, along with the rest of the Zimbabwe contingent, for his turn to come. “We were ‘Z’, and Malaysia is very hot and humid. But when we finally got in it was wonderful. You see it on TV, but going through it was great,” says Campbell.

In contrast, cricket itself was largely irrelevant to the CWG. Contested at six venues in Kuala Lumpur, the competition produced several low-scoring howlers; bronze medalists New Zealand were eliminated for 58 in the semi-final against silver medalists Australia; in the other semi-final, South Africa were 96 to 9 chasing Sri Lanka’s 130 before advancing.

Training facilities were sparse and the pitches had been hastily laid out and were, understandably, under-prepared in a location that is still not known for its cricket. Indeed, the ICC Trophy, also contested in Kuala Lumpur a year earlier in 1997, was contested on synthetic pitches.

“The counters were bad and far from international standards. They were soggy and bouncing awkwardly,” says Khoda. “But we all sat and ate together, so many people from all sports and all countries came together. And I loved that.

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