All for a noble cause

It's a six-hitting charity programme and the Master, Viv Richards, is up against a bowling machine. He is inclined to be kind to the machine because as he informs us, "it doesn't talk back". A summary of events by S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, April 1: All Fool's Day and Stephen Fleming's birthday — no insinuations — as the media is thrown a party at Shirley Heights, a place every bit as exciting as it sounds. A vertical kilometre of sheer cliff: and what a view. The hundreds of yachts at English Harbour look like elaborate paper boats; at night, the light of St. John's, green, red, and yellow, twinkles though the trees to the diary and its fellow revellers. A steel band plays on the pan drums, narrow drum sticks finding the beaten-out, heat-treated hollows on giant metal saucers.

The timbre is supremely light; in contrast to the greasy warm whiff from the barbeque.

The diary passes Eric Clapton's house on the way to the party. Other celebrities are at Shirley Heights: Adam Gilchrist is seen leaning carelessly against a wooden strut near the shack that doubles as the bar. An hour later he's still there, nattering away to Greg Blewett and Damien Fleming, old mates who're in the Caribbean as commentators.

Andrew Symonds and John Buchanan make an appearance. The night closes with a reggae band. Security officers shine giant spotlights at the cliff edge to make sure no one's up to anything stupid. "It's a long way down," growls one at an American, who protests that he wants to feel the party.

Monday, April 2: The diary shares an elevator with Ian Botham, who's doing the World Cup in a cruise ship. It's docked at the harbour, he says, and he takes a walk at nine every night. A little too routine for Guy the Gorilla, the diary thinks. Another from the cruise-ship circuit, as it's being called, is Robin Smith, who's spotted by an alert cameraman.

Tuesday, April 3: Being a curious creature, the diary is intrigued by all the date-palm trees on a stretch of St. John's. The mystery is cleared up, surprisingly, by a Ministry of Tourism official. Many years ago, before Antigua had mechanised transport, a hundred camels were shipped over to work for the sugar industry, which has since declined. "But," she says with a sigh, "the camels have all gone. They don't live to tell the tale." Obviously, it's a practised line, but it's well done.

Wednesday, April 4: The diary runs into The Spin, the grand-daddy of chroniclers and an old master at farce. The Spin is The Guardian's weekly irreverent round-up written by what the diary always pictured as a middle-aged gentleman with his elbows in blancmange. Except, it's a rather young face that peers at the diary through spectacles. It's interesting how the voices of writers are often related to faces while reading; the first time the diary met by a reader, it was accosted with, "I thought you were handsome." Huh?

Thursday, April 5: Never in its years of following cricket did the diary think it would get as insanely fortunate as it does today. It watches from four feet Sir Vivian Richards get ready to bat, peeling on gloves, mashing different bats against the turf to check their balance, strapping on pads before commencing the walk. The Walk. The diary walks along as Richards pulls at his trousers, shifts balance unevenly, and laughs.

It's a six-hitting charity programme and the Master is up against a bowling machine. Richards is inclined to be kind to the machine because as he informs us, "it doesn't talk back".

Briefly the diary glimpses what it thinks is the insecurity every ego feeds and starves. The Great One refuses to bat until he sees exactly where the ball comes from, the length it's been programmed to land at, and the pace. Satisfied after a few preliminary pats, Richards opens up. The diary sees first hand what it's up against tomorrow.

Friday, April 6: The West Indies Legends v The International Media a.k.a the game we should have won had we not reprieved Richards. Gutted, said Michael Vaughan after losing to Sri Lanka. He wouldn't begin to understand how we felt. Here we were, 16 journalists, many of whom have spent years telling the best how it's done and why they should stop playing, trying our darndest to walk the talk even if it's beach cricket.

We play by the sea, where the sand is fine and consequently the pitch white-flat. The waves wash over, making the strip tricky. A delivery landing in these waves is legal as well. Go deep says our captain. One fielder swims out to the wharf. And we so nearly win. Richards is dropped on 0. Then he is run out by the diary, but the umpire, Greg Blewett, is a fan.

As Blewey might have said, the crowd came here to see him bat, not you showboat. Thus aided, Richards puts on a last wicket partnership like he did with Mikey Holding all those years back and demolishes us on the beach.

"Finally, I get some runs in beach cricket," he says.

Chasing, The International Media fall short. Just. Unfortunately, Curtly Ambrose doesn't play, though he arrives to do his gig with the rhythm guitar after the match.

Saturday, April 7: Every day in every way, you learn something. Or so these two-bit motivational books will have us believe. The diary learns today that pizza in these parts is ordered small. Medium will do nicely for four. But large — suffice to say, the diary won't be doing its usual quarter-mile today.