Dhoni, a man of impeccable taste

Zaheer Khan and Dhoni pose with fans in front of a theatre, in Melbourne, where Don-2 was released. “I like only action and comedy,” says Dhoni.-

Another tour, another chronicle. The diary wishes it can greet you, dear reader, in the words of a writer and person it greatly admires: “Not to fear folks, the wit, it shall remain acerbic, the observations, spot-on, and the gossip, nothing short of scandalous.” Well, what do you know! It can, for those are the diary's very words. Stolen, but who doesn't do that these days? Over to S. Ram Mahesh.

Cricket draws the cruellest spectators: there's plenty of opportunity for physical humour, but nothing tickles the average fan as surely as pain. Whenever a batsman is hit in what Ravi Shastri bracingly calls “the unmentionables”, mirth abounds. Poor Joe Previtera — he eluded what every batsman dreads, but copped a fate far worse. Channel 9's Joe operates the Segway camera, a two-wheeled contraption that carries him around the ground so he can capture the players taking the field.

Having boasted that he'd never fall off the thing — you can't really, it's freakishly well designed — he runs it over a helmet placed behind Brad Haddin, and crashes to the ground. More than 50,000 people, including the stuffy members in their soup and fish, roar in delight. Joe later says he was worried he had run over an Australian bowler stretching on the ground.

Ever one to rub a man's face in it, Ian Healy tries to show Joe how it's done the next day. He's doing rather well, the self-satisfied smirk on his face beginning to resemble the time he was poised to stump Brian Lara. But as he tries a jaunty dismount — keepers love jauntiness, it's their very being — he stumbles, tearing the seat of his pants, as Michael Slater excitedly tells us. More mirth. Heals puts on a limp to milk the moment.

P.S.: For the cricket nerds out there — you know who you are — Joe's the chap that made the “can't bowl, can't throw” line over the stump microphone about former Australian two-Test wonder Scott Muller. Shane Warne was suspected to have made the damaging statement till Joe owned up. Wonder what Muller felt about Joe's fall from grace.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The diary has always maintained that M. S. Dhoni, barring the disastrous experiment with the mullet, is a man of impeccable taste. There's more proof at the Indian training session. Most of the team went to see a movie the previous night, and a journalist wants to know if the Indian captain enjoyed it. “I like only action and comedy,” says Dhoni, who adds that he can't sit through love-stories. Sensible that. As the bard Warne said, love-stories are like a Buchanan team meeting, why sit when you should be a-fleeting?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What's in a name you ask? Listen to this: R. Ashwin's finger-flicked leg-cutter once went rather unpretentiously by the title of ‘carom ball'. But some clever chap in Cricinfo, which everyone uses as a ready reckoner, finds that the delivery is called a ‘sodukku' in Chennai's tennis-ball cricket, and rechristens the ball, in Ashwin's profile. Channel 9's commentators read this, but begin calling it the sudoku, perhaps connecting the puzzle with mystery (sudoku puzzle…mystery ball…you know how the mind thinks). So they wonder if he bowls it by numbers. A journalist from Chennai puts an end to the vagueness, telling Mark Taylor, in the gents', exactly what ‘sodukku' is. Taylor reports the discovery the next time he's on air, and they go back to calling it the sudoku.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ed Cowan is that rare cricketer: a man who's seen a lot of life before he entered the bubble of international cricket. He appears more real. There's no mask. He blushes and grins, squints and grimaces. Like a theatre artiste on the big screen, these emotions are magnified. In tense battle, the aim is to give nothing away in body language. And he hasn't learnt the tired clichés that allow a cricketer to say nothing while speaking a lot.

So he's refreshing at the press conference. When asked if learning his game on the green tops in Hobart had helped, he says, “Yes, batting becomes easier when you do get wickets that don't look like your front lawn.”

Asked if he sought out his friends in the crowd — the same friends with whom he'd have been partying weren't he making his debut — he says, “I had no idea where they were sitting. It's an odd feeling standing out there with… 70,000 people. It almost is like a painted backdrop. There are so many people and it's such a big ground, apart from the sightscreen it's almost as though, there's a huge amount of noise but the rest is almost from a movie set. They're here, they're probably very drunk by now.”

The best line comes when a journalist evokes the Tasmanian connection. Did his heart bleed when the man he reveres, Tasmanian legend Ricky Ponting, was hit on the helmet grille? What did he do? “I said are you okay, and he said, yep, I'm fine.”