Dressed in cricket gear with a bat dangling from his hand, he could have passed off as any other boy-next-door. But this was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav out on the field for a “friendly” limited over cricket match with IAS officers. He was also the first CM in recent decades to actually play the game. In the CM XI versus IAS XI held as a part of the IAS Service Week in Lucknow, the Chief Minister scored a half century and romped home with three trophies: man of the match, best batsman and best bowler.

And if anyone thought that the match was “fixed”, UP Chief Secretary Jawed Usmani asserted before the toss, “We have practised hard and will give a tough game to the CM XI.”

His words proved hollow as the senior IAS officers, some of them fatigued and pot-bellied, dropped catch after catch and ran slow, giving the CM ample opportunity to score runs.

While the IAS XI, led by senior IAS officer Alok Ranjan bowled with diffidence, the CM XI batted with aplomb. The Chief Minister’s team romped home victorious.

Akhilesh Yadav later told reporters that he was well versed with the game. “Rajniti ke pehle maine bahut cricket khela hai, ab time nahin milta (I played a lot of cricket before joining politics, I do not get the time now),” he said.

Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav was one of the guests at the event and sat throughout the match with a smile on his face. A wrestler himself, Mulayam is known for his disdain towards cricket — “Yeh Angrezon ka khel hai aur ghulami ka prateek (it’s the Englishman’s game and symbolises slavery)” — but he watched his son play the game with ease. Akhilesh’s wife and SP MP Dimple Yadav came with her children, Aditi, Arjun and Tina. Younger brother Prateek and his wife Aparna were also present.

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