Bollywood meets cricket

AP

Shah Rukh Khan decides to drop in at The Oval, and immediately, journalists leave their perches for bytes. Haven’t they had enough of him on ‘Kofee with Karan’, the diary wonders aloud. Over to S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, August 5: It’s the last day of the practice match at Leicester. The proceedings are turning distinctly drowsy — there’s quality in spurts, however — and the diary is thankful for the lunch break. Highlights of the India-Pakistan World Cup match, played at Centurion, are being shown in the food marquee. One bloke sighs and gasps as Sachin Tendulkar cuts Shoaib Akhtar for six before square-driving Wasim Akram. Is he aware the match isn’t live? He slams the table in disappointment after Virender Sehwag’s dismissal. “Why now?” he asks. Emboldened, the diary thinks of wagering on the result, but scruples get in the way. Of all the world’s suckers, the cricket fan deserves exemption.

Monday, August 6: Devotion to work is often touching, and the diary learns that Team India’s support staff is doing fabulously. So much so that Russell Radhakrishnan, baggage handler, confides to a source: “The coaching sta ff is gelling really well — Borde, Robin, Prasad, me…”London must be travelled to today. The Midland service has been commended by a friend, but the diary finds the train cramped. How a land of large people can design such trains is bizarre. But, the staff is polite. A young Bangladeshi, who speaks no English, is helped change trains after he gets on the wrong one.The journey, as journeys are apt to be, isn’t eventful. But when a group of journalists gather, gossip is swapped. Such purlers they are too; if it wasn’t for libel, you, dear readers, would be shocked out of your sandals. But, such is life: some are damned for eternal fame, other damned to learn stuff they’d rather forget.

Tuesday, August 7: It’s always instructive watching practice. You’re closer to the action, so theories based on observation can be confirmed; just as fascinating is the feel for character you’re allowed. Attitudes, bi ases, fears — to the careful observer, everything is revealed. The diary being nothing of the sort spots a stray cricket ball at The Oval and pockets it surreptitiously. Finders keepers, as Kleptomaniacs Anonymous proclaims. The line doesn’t go down well with a fellow journalist — formerly a bosom buddy, but now the lowest of cads — who resorts to blackmail. Dark acts with the ball — perceived ones at any rate — were why the previous Test match here ended infamously. Some people never learn.

Wednesday, August 8: For a brief while today, the diary feels like a Beatle, captial B. A photo exhibition by Suman Chattopadyay, a senior Indian cricket photographer, takes it to the Bridge Club: dark, dingy, and very happening, the d iary is informed. The club, near London Bridge, has been carved into a subway tunnel, the kind the Beatles performed in before they were called the Beatles. It takes a while finding the place, particularly because the area looks straight out of in-navigable Hades. Tempers are frayed after a long day’s work — journalists are apt to turn on each other, and the cold isn’t helping. Eventually the entrance is found thanks to the unobtrusive bouncers outside. The collection of photographs is interesting: the one of Gavaskar losing his bat in 1983 as Haynes looks on, grinning from short leg, is a classic. There’s one of Sehwag, Dravid, Ganguly, and Tendulkar celebrating the series win in Pakistan on the flight backhome; only, they seem more sleepy than happy. Quite a crowd gathers, for the attractions, besides the photographs, include members of the Indian team. Sourav Ganguly is spotted posing with fans; Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni mingle with practised politeness. Suman is quite the celebrity; he gives interviews and whips out photos of Ronaldinho, his coup de grace. On the way back, the diary sees everything it had been told to visitas an earnest tourist: London Bridge, London Eye, Hyde Park, Tussaud’s. A pity covering cricket isn’t the holiday it’s thought to be.

Thursday, August 9: What a jamboree! Shah Rukh Khan decides to drop in at The Oval, and immediately, journalists leave their perches for bytes. Haven’t they had enough of him on ‘Kofee with Karan’, the diary wonders a loud. No, says a journalist shocked at the thought, this is Bollywood meeting cricket, boss. It doesn’t get any bigger. Don’t you need to watch the match? Aren’t you here for that? Don’t preach boss, I’m doing my job. Fine, don’t bother with that Jaffer upper-cut or that Dravid cover drive between two catching men for the stroke. Boss, where are you from? No one cares about that. The diary admits it’s scared.

The English papers go to town on Matt Prior. Wicket-keepers have always had it hard, and Prior (pic, above) has about him a manner that irritates. No wonder his dropping Sachin Tendulkar is seized with grateful hands by the media.-AP

Friday, August 10: The English papers go to town on Matt Prior. Wicket-keepers have always had it hard, and Prior, poor beast, has about him a manner that irritates. No wonder his dropping Sachin Tendulkar is seized with grateful hands . Graham Morris, one of the finest cricket photographers, has another beef. Morris is a kindly man, and he enquires at the beginning of every Test about The Hindu’s V. V. Krishnan. But, the caption-writer of ‘Daily Telegraph’ cops his ire. The photo is of Prior falling to his left; the caption reads ‘One that got away: Matt Prior dives in vain and Sachin Tendulkar survives to fight another day’. Only, Prior had dived to his right for the Tendulkar snick.

Saturday, August 11: The ECB, whatever the criticism they are subjected to, should be praised for making Test cricket watching both convenient and fun. A nice touch is the earpiece radios that allow the crowd not to miss out on the Sky Sports commentary panel. It’s too much of a bother to listen to constantly, but sometimes one gets lucky. The diary hears a droll passage from David Gower: it involves identifying the type of musical instrument a fan plays the theme of ‘Rocky’ on. It looks like a trumpet, but Gower wants to be exact. “It certainly isn’t a guitar, or a grand piano,” begins Gower, before Ravi Shastri collapses with laughter. The answer comes via e-mail: a four-valve Piccolo in B-flat with swappable lead pipes to tune the instrument to B-flat (shorter) or A (longer), apparently from a professor of music; or a Wikipedia addict.