Former cricketer Syed Kirmani was at his sporting best at the launch of Jus' Sportz

The Ampa Skywalk Mall resembled the Colosseum, with hordes of people hovering around the atrium, for a dekko at the events unfurling there and most of all to get a glimpse of former cricketer Syed Kirmani. The charm of the 1983 World Cup win has obviously not subsided yet. Excited fans thronged the ex-wicketkeeper for autographs and photographs blatantly interrupting interviews. But Kirmani patiently obliged with a perennial smile on his lips.

Kiri, as he is fondly known, was in the city to launch Jus' Sportz, a store housing international and domestic sporting products and equipment. Garbed in a Jus' Sportz T-shirt and a funky hat, he waxed eloquent about the brand and the owner, C. Sivakumar. “Hats off to you (Sivakumar),” he said, doffing his hat. “Pardon my shiny pate,” he quipped sending the crowd into splits.

As a goodwill gesture, he presented a memento — a framed photograph of the victorious 1983 team. “It's an unbeaten record,” he declared, a sense of pride in his voice. Well, maybe not the World Cup but the present team has managed to reach the number one spot in Test cricket. To that he said, “It's a proud feeling that Team India clinched the highest points in Test cricket. Laughing he added, “It took us 77 years!”

Competition today may seem tougher but what difference does he see in the game now? “Zameen aasman ka farak hai. Now there are around eight support staff-coach, doctor, physio, bowling coach, fielding coach, batting coach. There is the media hype too. In our time, we didn't have any of these. We only had the transistor and radio and just one manager.”

Though he was the main attraction of the evening, there was also a fashion show and an acrobatic performance to mark the launch of the store. Models in sports gear walked around dribbling balls and posing with bats and racquets. Next came the European girls with their riveting acrobatic skills which left the crowd speechless. They shimmied and sizzled their way through hoops with as much ease as a thread through needle.

The evening had yet another star — paralympic gold medallist, Malathi Holla, who is also the Manager, Syndicate Bank, Bangalore. Despite 32 surgeries, she is world number three in shot put. Amidst the applause and tributes, she said, “We are born to fight. When I can do something, why can't you all.”

A visibly moved Kiri said, “It is sad that such personalities get less coverage.” And then was back to his merry self.