No test for the wicket

They toil six days a week, pouring concrete and building scaffolds.

They look forward to Sunday afternoon, when Mr P. Manimuthu and 10 of his colleagues gather at the field at the junction of Hampshire Road and Northumberland Road, just 50m from where Sunday's riot started.

There, on their only weekly day off, Mr Manimuthu, 30, and his South Indian friends would indulge in the one thing they are passionate about: Cricket.

But the riot last Sunday gatecrashed their game.

It is just not cricket, they said, with their informal mini-league ruined.

They usually play against six other teams, each made up of like-minded foreign workers from various companies and dormitories.

They had been doing this every week for two months. They call themselves "New Friends" because the games are all about getting to know other foreign workers.

Now, that simple pleasure is being threatened.

Yesterday, there were only enough players to form two teams.

Said Mr Manimuthu: "It's disappointing because so few (players) came.

"Because of that one incident, they're now all too scared to come."

Other players said that the increased police presence and the suspension of bus services worsened their woes.

To keep foreign workers away, the Land Transport Authority and Public Transport Council suspended for the weekend 25 private bus services that ferry foreign workers from their dormitories to Little India and back.

The dormitories' managements were also told to tell workers to avoid Little India.

When The New Paper spoke to the cricketers over dinner on Sunday, they were upset that the rioters had robbed them of their fun.

One of the players, Mr Manickandan, 29, said Little India is an important meeting place.


People go to Little India to catch up with relatives and friends from their respective villages in India, who may work in different companies or live in other dormitories, Mr Manickandan said.

He added that there is also a practical purpose for visiting Little India: They buy necessities and remit money to their families overseas.

But above all, it is a place for them to rest from work.

"We come here on our only day off, so it has to be fun," he said.

For New Friends and the 60 other players who turn up every week, cricket is what they look forward to most.

Mr Praba Kanran, 29, who did not know the others when he started playing there a month ago, said: "It's a happy thing we do every week. Sometimes, (strangers) would join in and we'll all have fun together.

"But because of somebody's drinking problem, now nobody wants to come here."

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