NEW DELHI: Come February, the longstanding rivalry between Virender Sehwag and Shoaib Akhtar will be renewed but this time it will play out on an ice field rather than on a cricket ground.
The exotic location for the Sehwag-Akhtar showdown will be a frozen lake in St Moritz, Switzerland with the spectacular Swiss Alps in the backdrop.
Cricket on ice has been played in St. Moritz by a bunch of amateurs since 1988 but it will be the first time that greats of the game will grace the Alpine resort.
Twenty20 matches will be played on February 8 and 9 next year and besides Sehwag and Akhtar, lending star power will be Mohammad Kaif, Mahela Jayawardene, Lasith Malinga, Michael Hussey, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Daniel Vettori, Nathan Mcullum, Grant Elliot, Monty Panesar and Owais Shah.
The event, called St. Moritz Ice Cricket, has been launched with an aim to establish the sport in an unchartered territory like Switzerland. Organiser Vijay Singh of VJ Sports claims the pilot project has the approval of world body ICC.
Sehwag, who was present at the launch alongside Kaif, said he took just two minutes to say yes to the offer.
"I never thought playing cricket on ice was possible but now that it is happening, I wanted to experience it. It won't be serious cricket but it would still be a challenge to play on ice," said Sehwag.
How much time did Kaif take to sign on the dotted line? "Five minutes to be honest. Cricket is not popular in Europe but with this initiative, we can make an impact. And playing on ice does sound very interesting," said the 36- year-old, who is still playing at the First-Class level.
Sehwag is not new to playing exhibition games outside India. He played the MCL in Dubai and was also part of Cricket All Stars which was played in the USA two years ago.
"I was still playing First-Class cricket in 2015 so it was not very difficult to play those matches. Now since I have stopped playing the game completely, it will be a challenge to get into the groove.
"But there will be no pressure to win or lose. Also, now that I am retired I don't need to take anyone's permission including the BCCI," he quipped.
It has been learnt the top stars will be paid in the range of USD 40,000-50,000 for two games while the others will get something between USD 20,000-30,000.
Players will use the traditional cricketing gear including the red-ball but will wear sports shoes instead of spikes. The weather is expected to be nice and sunny during the day but the temperatures can dip to as low as -20 degree celsius.
The matches will be played on matting pitch.