A Good team man

BOB TAYLOR brought a party of fans to the Mumbai Test and asked nostalgic questions about old friends.-VIVEK BENDRE

Bob Taylor, now 60, is still active, selling cricket balls for Tests, holding wicket-keeping clinics and spreading the knowledge that makes him one of the great glovemen, writes TED CORBETT.

March 20: Why are the Indian cricketers not afraid of chicken flu. Because they know they never catch anything! Ho. Ho. Ho. That joke comes from a table mat in the eating house known as Tendulkar's where a man can find food to his taste, a glass of Indian beer or a bottle of chilled white wine.

Hordes of the 4,000 English fans head for the restaurant after the game is over and find they can consume all they want and still come away with a bill for less than a tenner; English pounds that is.

That is cheap at home where 40 pounds is often asked for a similar bill of fare; but Tendulkar's is "too dear for us," says an Indian friend. I entertain my nephew who has — how shall I put it and still retain his affection — rather less knowledge of the game than his uncle.

He is back-packing round Kerala when my sister informs him that I will be in Mumbai for the third Test and suggests he might like to see the cricket and visit me.

So, off he sets with two pals by train on a 40-hour journey and arrives in Mumbai last Thursday wondering if he will see the whole of the first day.

But a helpful guide explains that the match does not start until Saturday; so he has dinner with me, does a little shopping and catches the return train for another 40-hour journey so that he can catch his plane home tomorrow.

March 21: Farokh Engineer, at least one collar size bigger than when I met him 40 years ago at Old Trafford but still ready to exchange a jolly word with anyone he meets, is seriously offended by the bad language aimed at Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard, by the booing of Sachin Tendulkar and the whole football crowd culture that surrounds the Wankhede Test.

He appeals to me to let the people back home know that Mumbai is really a sporting city and that the true sports fans resent the language from the rough necks in this crowd. "Rookie" as he is known to Lancashire fans in the 1970s when he, Clive Lloyd, Peter Lever and Ken Shuttleworth propel the side to one trophy after another, still lives in Manchester — with the wife he married on a beach in Honolulu — still keeps a lot of friends in Mumbai and is still fluent in Hindi and Marathi, the languages of his childhood in this thriving, chaotic city. Alastair Cook, the youngest in this England team of babes, complains he has a 200 "near death" experiences in one taxi ride. Wait until you go further than round the block, Alastair.

March 22: Bob Taylor brings a party of fans to the Test and asks nostalgic questions about old friends. How is his family? Well it seems particularly a daughter now in America and prospering as a hostess on private jets for the super rich. I remember that daughter.

He and I travel together by plane from Heathrow to Manchester after one of the old long tours round Fiji, New Zealand and Pakistan. As we emerge from the corridor into the Arrivals lounge a tiny figure comes flying across the room shouting: "Daddy, daddy, daddy" as any child might who has not seen her father for four months. Bob, now 60, is still active, selling cricket balls for Tests, holding wicket-keeping clinics, spreading the knowledge that makes him one of the great glovemen. The hair is grey, but the fit body that sees him through 25 years as a professional and enables him to keep wicket — aged 44 — when Bruce French is injured against New Zealand in 1988 looks as trim as ever. He is not the complaining type even when he goes on three full tours as deputy to Alan Knott. Now that is a sign of a good team man.

March 23: There is one aspect of this tour that is shrouded in mystery. No, not the reason for Marcus Trescothick's sudden return to England but the contracts which mean Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff will not talk about his baby, the reason for the strange name "Corey" or his plans to make a swift dash to his luxury home in Cheshire, give the new baby a hug and climb aboard another plane so that he is in time to lead England in the first one-day international. I suspect that he has a contract worth a lot of money with a society magazine, which will show pictures of him and the baby and the new home. What with a benefit, high wages, win bonuses, advertising beer in India alongside Michael Vaughan and cash from the show biz magazines you can guess that a trip to one of the Mumbai cafe's will not punch a big hole in the Flintoff wallet.

March 24: The next year will be busy; not just for the whole world of cricket but for me in particular. Next month I have the pleasant duty of making a speech in praise of umpire David Shepherd, an old friend, and helping the Cricket Writers' Club celebrate 60 years since those days on the 1946-7 tour of Australia — the first after the Second World War — when half a dozen cricket correspondents formed the club. At first it was male only, evening dress compulsory and the best jobs for the boys.

Now all that has changed. Lounge suits and ladies are the order of the day for our dinner at Lord's and a very jolly evening it will be.

March 25: I am never sure that the World Cup ought to be in the West Indies. Believe me, I stand often enough in Barbados airport waiting for a plane that has gone missing to know what I am talking about. If it works it will be magnificent; all that music, all those natural ingredients, all those bright colours in bright sunshine. If it goes wrong, it may be a disaster. I know that committees are working to ensure everything is smooth, all the contingencies are covered and every last detail is under control.

But what if? The hotels already increase their base rate fourfold and when I suggest to a hotelier that he will make a fortune if he builds hotels there before the World Cup, he suggests I think he is mad. "It'll ruin me," he giggles. And I am talking a very rich man indeed.

March 26: A cricketer visits his doctor to complain about his lot. "I can only make one or two runs an innings, I cannot pitch the ball on the cut strip and I drop every catch that comes my way," he moans. "Give up the game," suggests the doctor. "I can't, doc; I'm playing for England tomorrow." Well that is what it says on the cafe table mat but in view of the result of the Mumbai Test you may want to change that to "I'm playing for India tomorrow." Just a thought.