Cult figure

Jesse Ryder... a popular cricketer.-AP

Jesse Ryder, who always has time for kids, is a potentially great batsman, freak athlete and is capable of incredible things for a man of his size, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

This being the diary’s last week in New Zealand, it thinks a shake-up is in order. Instead of the tried, the tested, and the immensely popular chronicle, why not attempt a different sort of recording? A recording along the lines of what Christopher Isherwood once wrote: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” Well, minus the not thinking. So the diary will make you, dear reader, privy to its notes, jotted assiduously on tour in New Zealand. You decide if it’s making it up as it goes.

Auckland: Twisted, crowded, Indian. New Zealand’s largest city, but has it soul? Certainly has very good Indian food, which, to a born again veggie, is the easiest and safest among meal options when time’s short. Always on the move, the most polite taxi service, but not the most ethical of drivers.

Basin Reserve, the: Weaver of dreams, brilliant name, 3 a.m. wake-up calls, the world’s largest traffic roundabout, soft-green, musty, ancient as the bearded curator of the New Zealand Cricket museum, which resides here. One of the best backdrops, hills and trees, but prettier than can be described.

Barefoot: Uncommonly common. Particularly in Christchurch, which was freezing. Fortunately no one spits on the roads. Speaking of Christchurch, biggest chess set ever in Cathedral Square, Harry Potter-like.

Craig McMillan: Once famously criticised for having grown a beard! Lighten up. Muscled, thickset, low to the ground like a badger. Narrow slits for eyes — how did he see the ball so early? ICL-tainted, so anathema for the BCCI. Nice level head on commentary, when Ravi Shastri flies home during the second Test.

Doosra: Not seen in the first two Tests; perhaps Harbhajan Singh doesn’t bother with it. What he bothers with though is the stuff written on him — refers to the **** written pertaining to his performances abroad after he makes 60 in Wellington.

Enemy: Australia. Nothing tickles a Kiwi more than seeing an Aussie get beat. Said to V.V.S. Laxman: “You’ve scored so heavily against Australia; anyone who does that it is a great friend of ours.”

Hakka: How does one not quail after seeing this? Check it out on Youtube. Best seen from a distance, and preferably from behind a table, in case they decide to charge. Rather gentle fellows off the field, even smile in acknowledgement. “Skinny men in glasses don’t look good doing it” — Daniel Vettori, asked if he’d greet manager David Currie, formerly with the All Blacks, with a hakka.

Jesse Ryder: Cult figure. The air of vulnerability connects instantly. Lovely bloke, always has time for kids. “Keep your two eyes on the ball, and hit it,” he says to two kids who want advice on batting. “That’s all?” they ask. “That’s all,” he says. Honest to a fault. Offered a contract for the two-sided bat, designed for reverse-sweeping, and says, “I’m not the best at that shot, I don’t always play it.” Potentially great batsman, freak athlete, capable of incredible things for a man of his size.

Kia Ora: The Maori greeting, wonderfully warm.

Mark Richardson: Like another opener of a once stodgy reputation, has reinvented himself into a funny man on commentary; only, his is mostly intentional. Hosts Crowd Goes Wild, a mickey-taking sports show. Crazy teeth: his incisors seem eerily shaved downward.

Nathan McCullum: Less famous brother. What’s it like mate when both the looks and the talent in the family goes to a sibling? The diary and Steve Waugh know.

Ocean: You get to see plenty of it; mostly from flights though. The National Aquarium and Marine Land in Napier, each offering a different slice of it, were brilliant. The latter is a rehabilitation centre for injured creatures of the sea, sea lions, fur seals, penguins. Didn’t know a sea lion could go so quick in the water; rapid inky-dark ghosts under the surface.

Quest Apartments: Home away from home; not quite, for nothing is, but darned good substitute. Located close to the grounds at Napier and Hamilton.

Racing: There’s lots of it on NZ TV: hounds, horses, carts! Also on the same channel, hear this line about stallions, “They need to have pace, and late acceleration”. You’d figure.

Sir Richard Hadlee: Fantastic bowler, made for the highlights package, but just as good watching a full spell. An action to die for — Michael Holding showed he hadn’t lost it recently, what about Sir Richard? Seems a touch full, the waistline not the length.

Tim Southee: Mangled at Christchurch. Returns bravely in the third Test. Sadly, despite his lovely release, can’t control the radar.

Uncle John: S’wat Indian journalists that know Mr. Wright from his time as India coach call him, affectionately of course, and presumably behind his back. Now a New Zealand selector.

Zzzzzzz…: Time to count the sheep, which New Zealand has plenty of.