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July 23, 2013
When Dimitri Mascarenhas, who has had to give up his perennial struggle with injuries and who will retire at the end of the season, made his first-class debut in 1996, it was a heady time indeed for Hampshire. The previous week, Liam Botham had taken 5 for 67 on his first appearance. Now, another teenage medium pacer, one whose name the club could not spell correctly, returned still more impressive figures.
Nobody present, fortunately not even Mascarenhas himself, can recall the name provided to the media in the cramped old press box at Northlands Road - but they do remember his bowling. At a brisk medium pace, the 18-year-old who was born in London of Sri Lankan parentage and raised in Australia, took six Glamorgan wickets for 88, the best analysis by a Hampshire bowler making his debut since 1899.
When Mascarenhas read the glowing press reports the next day, he was baffled as to the nomenclature given him. Vic Isaacs, the long-serving Hampshire scorer, was more accustomed to chalking straightforward names such as James, Smith and White.
"This was not the last time my name was spelled wrong," Mascarenhas said at the Ageas Bowl, having come to the conclusion that the state of his Achilles tendon would not permit him to continue in the game. In first-class matches he has taken 450 wickets and scored 6,495 runs, but he will be remembered best for his ability in one day cricket, not least his cunning changes of pace and length in Twenty20.
This was recognised by England, for whom he made 14 Twenty20 appearances as well as 20 One Day Internationals. The highlight was five sixes in an over off Yuvraj Singh at the Oval in 2007. "The changes the ECB are making to the fixture list have played a part in the ending of my career," he said. "If the Twenty20 fixtures were going to be in a block next year, like they are now, then it would be a no-brainer to continue playing that. But my Achilles would not cope with cricket all summer."
So Mascarenhas will finish his level three coaching badge and discuss options with Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman and a friend. "I remember having a beer with him during my second match for the club and the fact that we moved grounds was entirely down to him. He loves Hampshire and is desperate for us to do well. Every time I speak to the England boys they tell me how great the pitches are now. An Ashes Test on the south coast is a certainty."
Mascarenhas remains particularly grateful to Bransgrove for giving him the opportunity to play in the IPL, the first England player to do so, in 2009, although this year his appearances amounted to one match for King's XI Punjab. The state of his body had nothing to do with this. "Darren Lehmann did not really rate me," he said. Still, his IPL coach could have done with him playing under different colours this summer.
If the IPL beckons him again next year, Mascarenhas will be tempted. Otherwise, he will finish for good in September, return to Australia for the winter - Paul Terry's academy in Perth, where he once learnt the game, is one possible location where he might do some coaching - but will retain his house in West End, just two minutes' drive from Hampshire's headquarters.
Shane Warne, his old captain and another friend, knew he was about to retire and sent his best wishes. "I've had a very happy time with Hampshire and now I feel I have a lot to offer as a bowling coach. I know how to bowl. But I'll give anything a try."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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