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United by birth dates, divided by years

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He will complete 39 and touch 40. But he still has the enthusiasm of a 16-year old, fitness as good as of any team member in the team, commitment probably stronger than anyone. Yes, reams of newsprint, web space will be dedicated to Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday, but not many will remember a few lesser mortals of cricket who share the same birth date.

Aussie bowling sensation Damien Fleming, Sri Lankan spinner turned umpire Kumar Dharmasena, inventive Zimbabwean Dougie Marilier and gone with the wind Indian wicketkeeper MSK Prasad were all born today on different years though. Even the original master, Sir Jack Hobbs was born this same day a good 68 years before Sachin was born in 1905.

All of them a part of cricketing eco system have given the sport its moments to cherish. Somebody was the inventor of the now known ‘Dil-scoop’ shot, somebody was the third bowler in Test history to take a hat-trick on debut, a quickish off-spinner who then became a part of the rarest breed of international cricketers to take up a non-glamorous job of umpiring.

But above them all is a man with stats of titanic proportions to back his credentials. If one thinks what Tendulkar has done is unachievable, well here is some food for thought. This English legend that we are talking about here has 61,670 First-class runs to his name, has hit 199 centuries, scored his last Test century when he was 46 years and 82 days old. Yes, that is Sir Jack Hobbs for you, no wonder he was the first professional cricketer to have been knighted.

All of them have a terrific story to be remembered forever. Dougie, born in year 1978, survived a terrible car crash in his teens to comeback and play cricket and how. A belligerent batsman, who could bat anywhere, Dougie gave the world a shot which is now as famous as any other shot in the world, and sometime soon it would surely enter the cricketing textbooks too.

When Zimbabwe were playing the might Aussies in February 2001, he twice lapped low off-side full-tosses from Glenn McGrath over his shoulder for four. Mind you this was the final over of an ODI in Perth and that too when his side needed 14 and fell short by one run only. But India bore the brunt of his unusual ways when he helped the minnows a famous one-day win at Faridabad in 2001-02, not many Indians would forget it.

1970-born Fleming was one of the most miserly fast bowlers. Though his was a career dogged by untimely injuries, he ably played the second fiddle to leading lights of Australian bowling like Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and even Craig McDermott. Fleming was known for his lively pace and a looping outswinger, all of it in a matter of a 10-pace run-up.

His moment of truth came when he bowled the final ball to Lance Klusener when Australia and South Africa locked horns in the epic semifinal tie en route to their World Cup win in 1999. But Fleming was rather famous to become only the third debutant to claim a hat-trick in his Test debut against Pakistan at Rawalpindi in 1994.

On the other hand, Dharmasena, born in 1971, was a true lover of the game. While his contemporaries chose to take the glamorous option of becoming pundits of the game, the wily off-spinner decided to become an umpire, to stay close to the game. Instead of becoming an arm-chair critic or an official in the unreliable and in-debt administration of his country, he decided to be in the thick of the things.

Having played in the shadow of his much-celebrated teammate Muttiah Muralitharan, Dharmasena played a key role in Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning campaign. His flatish off-spin and useful lower order batting helped Lanka more often than not. His disciplined approach complemented Murali’s attacking instincts.

But since his decision to become the decision maker on field in 2006, he steadily rose up the ranks. After three years of domestic leg-work, Dharmasena made his international debut in 2009 and was rightly picked as one of the 18 umpires to officiate in the 2011 World Cup. As expected, Dharmasena then got selected in the elite panel of ICC umpires.

Now for whatever they have contributed, in a big or little way, they all are birthday boys and deserve to be remembered. Here is wishing one and all a many many happy returns of the day.


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