Under Manchester's glowering June sky, Abdul Razzaq arrived to play for Leicestershire at Old Trafford last night. He'd been in the country for less than a day and it showed. He wore a shirt with a large piece of white tape obscuring someone else's name, and when he went out to bat he had on his Pakistan team helmet. In his post-match interview, he acknowledged 'my colleague, Mr White', a man he'd evidently not spent a whole lot of time with before they met out in the middle.
That Razzaq belted one ball into a part of Old Trafford levelled by the builders, and the cameras tracked its progress through the mud and under a parked car, just added to the overall feeling of a game surrendering to its blur of fixtures and desperation for money.
Leicestershire endured their odd little civil war last winter, and they are one of the counties usually referred to when stories of those staring into the abyss are written. They are not alone. Rob Key said earlier in the season something along the lines of - and I'm paraphrasing here - 'you used to be able to get a good overseas for about 60k a year. Now they want that for the Twenty20'.
Hence Leicestershire's anxiety to get Razzaq from the airport and onto the pitch. And Razzaq is just one of the players carving a new kind of career as an international gun for hire. He has already played for Hampshire, Middlesex, Surrey and Worcestershire, and who can blame him? His game is ideal for T20, he gives value for money and he endures the chaos and uncertainty of playing for Pakistan. Soon his kind of peripatetic professional life will be the norm for men of his calibre.
Even the most determined of county-goers are hard-pressed to name who might be playing for them in the T20. It makes the game more difficult to market and it's a game that has to be marketed. To deserved hilarity, Surrey wanted to walk batsmen out like darts players, yet their urge for a gimmick is understandable. The Oval is a big place.
Razzaq was brilliant last night. Leicester needed 63 from four overs and he made it look easy. With Paul Nixon and Matthew Hoggard, men who understand what has been invested in Razzaq, looking on, at first twitchily and then with broadening smiles, it was superb theatre in a ground that was either half-full or half-empty, depending on how you look at it.
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