A magnificent ground

The North and the SOUTH STANDS are five storeys high.-AP

Built in partnership with China, the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground has underground passageways for the movement of players. A summary of events by S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, March 25: A day of gloom. The rain rarely relents, but Bangladesh finds time to defeat Bermuda. India can fly home now. The side has hung around in Port of Spain, hoping against hope. Actually, it can do little else: flying out to London only to return should Bermuda do the unthinkable would have made no sense. "India's too good to depend on Bermuda," says Bermuda captain Irving Romaine. "They did it to themselves".

Monday, March 26: A day of black coffee. The diary's spies positioned at the team hotel — the diary itself is too upmarket for such things — inform it that India's cricketers are yet to be seen outside their rooms. All sorts of stories do the rounds, each more incredible than the next. However much the diary aspires to gossip journalism, reporting rumours without confirming them with other mongers is a no-no. And confirmation is difficult when each draws the diary out conspiratorially to say his version is the absolute truth. Besides the diary has a flight to catch.

Tuesday, March 27: The Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground is magnificent. Easily the best the diary has been in. The five-storey North and the South Stands pop open mouths. Check out the roofs on that one, a colleague says in hushed tones. The diary does. Split roofing: three levels of silver flapjacks. Gorgeous. Built in partnership with China, the stadium has underground passageways for the movement of players. The diary is shooed away when it tries to investigate.

The ground's greatest attraction is Beach 366. Antigua has a beach for every day of the year; on leap years, visit the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground. It's a wade pool that caters to the swimmers, the tan-seekers, the roisterers. The diary passes up an invitation. Its views on swimming are clear: best done in open waters.

In other matters, the diary receives information that Team India leaves for home. It prays for a safe flight and a safe reception. These are dark enough times; little need for some lunatic to make them worse.

Wednesday, March 28: The diary has a hankering for cricket. The time spent in Kingston wasn't enough to get a game in. Port of Spain had other problems: the men at the Savannah looked a little too good for a casual game one could emerge from pride intact. But, Antigua is perfect. Kids between five and 13 play tape-ball cricket on a concrete wicket near the airport. A wicket-keeping addict, the diary takes up position behind the stumps to be referred to from that moment onwards as Mr. Wicketkeeper. As in "Mr. Wicketkeeper, catch it for God's sake!", or "Mr. Wicketkeeper, pass me that ball, that one there, that one near em' big ol' feet" or the ever popular "Mr. Wicketkeeper, go home, you no good man". The diary is certain it spots the next big West Indian hope. A batsman of six with strokes off either foot, but the diary is disinclined to give details lest it jinx the young talent.

Thursday, March 29: A red-letter day for the diary. For long, wicketkeepers have been treated like second-class citizens. The trend towards shot-stoppers who can bat is merely the latest in a set of deceitful moves to undermine the position.

So, the diary finds great pleasure in New Zealand 'keeper Brendon McCullum putting on a stellar display against the West Indies. Even the most blase can't suppress their admiration.

His captain Stephen Fleming is grateful. "It wasn't just the work he did with the gloves — which was simply outstanding — but, the little things he did, the energy he generated."

Friday, March 30: Drivers in Antigua are extremely courteous towards fellow users of the road. Lane discipline is excellent; overtaking is rare; zebra crossings are stopped at; the horn isn't used save to say hello to a friend on the road, which happens all the time in small places like St. John's.

Angie is the epitome of this courtesy. The diary remembers stating it would abstain from taxi-driver stories, but to call Angie a taxi driver is to call the Amazon a stream.

Angie is a kind of super taxi driver. Jamaican by birth, she regards Antigua her home, and refers to everyone as "babies". The back of her taxi serves as a sandwich joint. She slips into an apron and plastic gloves, and whips up a mean ham-and-egger for a dollar.

She is a formidable woman, so the diary doesn't ask her how old she is. A conservative estimate would put it at 45. She sticks to 40 mph and plays gospel music. She has a hat for every day of the week and curls her hair.

Some unfortunate soul scratches her car. Angie's response is to take the man along for one of her tours, and make him work on the car as she waits for her patrons to finish with their sight-seeing.

For good measure, she tells him, "If I be driving a trailer man, I reverse and back into you."

Saturday, March 31: A group of Indian fans turn up for what might have been India-Australia. Instead, it's Australia-Bangladesh. It doesn't stop them having a good time. Ridiculously ornate maharajah turbans are taken out; but the wait gets to the fans, for soon they're content to sit back. A couple of attempts are made at getting the slow handclap going, but play doesn't start. Inside the press box, a coup is planned. "All in favour of an early lunch, say ye," says one English journalist, who then proceeds to see if he can convince the caterers to open their stalls early. No luck. Another journalist informs us that his three-year-old daughter wins the edible necklace in a school competition. The lack of play is getting to people.