An eye for detail

Steve Waugh's description, in his autobiography, of Glenn McGrath arranging his breakfast is why former cricketers must write. A summary of events by S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, April 22: A week to go, the diary is told. Talk of burnout among players doesn't compare to journalists whingeing on a 52-day tour. Mostly, the length has done no more than prompt a rash of articles on the need for the ICC to sharpen up — "Fat chance that, huh?" — and shorten future World Cups. One journalist has maintained a notebook in which he scratches out every passing day with a relieved red marker. Another tricks himself into thinking he's leaving the next day. The diary loves the Caribbean too much for such desperate measures: it's learnt to tell time by the length of a beard. Odin was a master at the art.

Monday, April 23: The diary passes the Pegasus hotel in Kingston, the scene of what a colleague calls murder most foul. The accent — thickly Bengali — brings out the poignancy and futility of it all. News breaks that Bob Woolmer's body will be flown home; it's a semifinal tomorrow. At the ground, Marvan Atapattu, who seems set not to play a game this World Cup, is put through an exercise that tests balance and co-ordination. He teeters over. Then, shamed by overweight journalists mastering the move, tries again.

Tuesday, April 24: New Zealand is soundly beaten. A pity for Stephen Fleming steps down as New Zealand's one-day captain. He's an intelligent man whose thoughts on the game are always worth listening to. He lights up press-conferences, drab affairs usually, indeed so drab that some journalists, the diary is told, don't bother turning up. Flem, as he's called, is calm, self-contained even in defeat. That he can already see the loss to Sri Lanka in perspective — he posits that New Zealand doesn't readily produce world-class players and there's only so much you can do by playing above yourself — is evidence that he'll make a first-rate coach should he so desire. If nothing else we'll get to listen to him.

Wednesday, April 25: What is it with grown men and video games? You will understand dear reader that this is a sensitive subject, and will excuse the diary if it keeps names confidential. Suffice to say the long queues at airports and the long nights made worse by working to knife-edge deadlines spark a gaming phenomenon. One bloke gets scarily good at tennis; two others develop crow-feet fingers having tried to squeeze a tiny car through mines and missiles. The diary has it on good authority that two top-class cricketers rarely leave their Play Stations.

Thursday, April 26: Is that braces Courtney Walsh is wearing? Clean-shaven he looks like a teenager. He's on a TV show and utters these immortal lines on Curtly Ambrose: "My friend Amby, the big man 'em never happy when it's a flat track and the catches go down." Again the Jamaican accent is compromised by resorting to text, but picture a raised eyebrow, the gleam of silver as the great bowler speaks — man, that's good TV.

Friday, April 27: The diary chances upon an article on Glenn McGrath. Written by Steve Waugh, it's 11 things you didn't know about Rhino a.k.a. Ninger a.k.a Nuff Nuff. For one, Pidge loves the Lord of the Rings trilogy — see, fast bowlers can be discerning — and he "gives the choc-top ice creams a real touch up." He likes creepy-crawlies, and likes them better when he can slip 'em down a neck or two: the diary always wondered if Michael Bevan's jerkiness at the crease had entirely to do with getting in position. Number 11 is particularly good: "Regularly wears cricket whites that are short in length prompting Allan Border to say to him in one of his first games, `What are you waiting for pal, the floods'." Waugh's writing is often gawdy: his autobiography is sprinkled with wildebeast and headless-chook similes. But, mitigatingly, he has an eye for detail.

His description of McGrath arranging his breakfast is why former cricketers must write. Writes Waugh: "Eats the same breakfast each morning on tour. He places his two fried eggs on separate pieces of white toast before making sure the yolk is perfectly positioned in the middle, before trimming the overhanging egg white edges with surgical precision. The contents are then cut into quarters after being doused with a three-second barrage of salt. It's a real shame to see him eat it such is the masterpiece he creates."

Saturday, April 28: The final. A full house and that's nice though ICC-haters put it down to the suit-types rounding every corporate they could find and putting them in the seats. The merchandise shop next door has slashed prices and a feeding frenzy begins. The diary itself is too tired for such things. But, not as tired as one cricket writer — and it takes much out of the diary not to indulge in tittle-tattle — who whoops it up all night at Lawrence Gap, and can barely see beyond his laptop.