This weekend's Port Moresby Cricket grand final between Pure Water Raukele and Dulux United brings so many memories of yester-years. Tightly contested matches, match winning moments and of course players that became household names.
Unlike the 80's and 90's era, todays competition is based on the shorter version of the game –20Twenty. Imagine how some of those stars in that era would have fared if they were to don their whites this weekend for the biggest game of the season?
Just so you know, many of these "stars" had a more attacking style whether with the bat or ball which is why a 20Twenty match would have been highly entertaining. Take for an instance Raukele's powerhouse all-rounder Vavine Pala. Pala had a bat as heavy as his old ute engine and slogging the ball around the park would have been much to the fans delight and much to the bowlers dismay. Considering the boundaries are a lot smaller in this shorter version, with a bat like the Big V's, his straight forward defensive shot would have been racing all the way to the boundary rope for a 4.
With the ball in hand, Pala was destructive. In his prime, Pala had sheer pace. But as he aged on, he naturally lost his pace but never his variation. Swinging, cutting and spinning PNG's finest all-rounder had many tricks up his sleeve. What was more dangerous about him with the ball was his control. He had so much control with the ball an inexperienced batsman facing him for the first time would have thought Pala had the ball in one hand a remote control on the other.
Pic: Raukele circa 1980 (N. Richards)
Rushing in from the other with pace and swing was the fierce Kila Alewa. Alewa is a player you could consider as one of those that fell into the "looks could be deceiving" category because while he looked like your average player in whites, he was certainly no average player. On his day, Alewa bowled with hostility and along with Pala, Raukele's bowling attack was a force to be reckoned with.
In the batting, La'a Aukopi was a pleasant to watch much so because of his stylish approach. There are many other great players from Raukele some which come to mind include Kila Age, William Age and not forgetting Pala Ure.
Raukele's then young guns never disappointed when the likes of Pala, Alewa and co retired.
The more upright opening batsman Jamie Iga was a very reliable batsman. Then there's Chris Alu who could bat all day and play text book type cover drives with ease. Alu was a handy spin bowler too and a fieldsman who was re-known for, unlike many of us, not dropping catches. A young (but not so young now) Maru Hobart led their bowling attack and while he wasn’t as fast as some of the other top-line bowlers around 2000 era, he could swing the ball gracefully. Off the field Maru got along well with many of his opponents perhaps because of his tendency to chew betelnut with anyone just before taking the field. Some say the nut "fired" him up and there's got to be truth in that because he certainly was fired up on the field.
United had their fair share of stars too.
Even before Lakani Oala captained a star studded United which included Tau Ao, Taunao Vai, Kulu Loi and Gavera Rarua to name a few, the team from Hanuabada had already produced fine cricketers much earlier in the likes of Don Fox, Lou Ao, Ume Heni and Ovia Uduru.
Former PNG captain Taunao Vai led a formidable batting line-up which included Tau Ao, Vai Kevau, Gavera Rarua and Mea Udu.
Like Vai, Ao was a master with the bat who was clinical in despatching the ball around the park. Even with the ball, Ao was equally devastating who could, like Raukele's Vavine Pala, swing cut and do whatever with the ball.
United late 1970's early1980's
United's bowling attack was led by Kulu Loi. Loi was a class player and had a bowling action similar to that of Windies pace Michael Holding. With Loi from one end and a young Fred Arua, who was lightning quick, United had one of the best attacks during that era. A promising John Vada and before him swing king Sere Toua made up the United attack.
Seura Loa was perhaps their "go to" bowler when it came to slowing the run rate or taking crucial wickets. He also ended up being the "go to" batsmen when it came to rescuing the team from a collapse or to hit the winning runs.
Alas, it is a new era now and the players of today look more technically advanced, more knowledgeable of the game from mental and physical aspect of it. The players of today train a lot more too which makes the quality of the matches much higher.
Both Pure Water Raukele and Dulux United have an evenly balanced team in both batting and bowling.
Raukele have the aggressive Tony Ura and Jason Kila to lead the pack in the batting department while former PNG pace Raymond Haoda Junior leads the bowlers.
United on the other hand have the small but powerful Lega Siaka and the ever solid Sese Bau. All-rounder and experienced Mahuru Dai will play a vital part in this match and so too speedster Willie Gavera.
The biggest contest is likely to be that between Siaka and Haoda. It's going to be a case of "hit and miss" and much look forward to contest.
Given the balanced teams and the more attacking version of the game, it's a case of who turns up more hungry for the match. Expect some classic text book type shots from both sides early on and no doubt some wild slogs in the later part of the innings.
Get out there and support your team and the sport!