Fear is the key

The 666 symbol of the devil has given way to a new 666666 Yuvraj symbol in England after the Indian hit Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over, notes Nandita Sridhar.

September 16: ‘Hard hats kiosk’ reads a signboard inside the stadium and there is a queue in front of it. Hats of hard-hitting batsmen, umpires’ hats that can hold multiple sunglasses, and hats of bowlers who had suffe red badly at the hands of the batsmen, I guessed, could be some of the items on sale. I ventured in to see if I had gotten anything right, only to be told that the kiosk actually sold hard hats. Who’d have guessed?

Twenty20 was a threat to some of the spectators closer to the ground, so the hard hats were designed to protect them from the batsmen’s fury. The kids were quite a sight with their hats, which looked like those worn by construction workers. It’s hard work, watching a Twenty20 match. With shots flying all around, next time, it might be neck pillows.

September 17: The cabbies and the chefs here in South Africa are quite a bunch. One of them was very eager to know how much Sachin Tendulkar had scored in the Twenty20 match against New Zealand. I broke the news that the great man wasn’t around, but that didn’t stop him from talking about Tendulkar. Among one of his innumerable instances of destruction with the bat was that of a Kenyan bowling attack a few years ago. “He destroyed us,” said the chef, who was from Kenya. “But he became my favourite after that.”

September 18: The tension was palpable in the media centre. M. S. Dhoni was appointed one-day captain, but was nowhere in sight. For some the deadlines were looming, while for the others they had already elapsed, but Mr. Skipper was nowhere around. The only activity at Kingsmead was the South African team’s practice session.

The ball was being belted around mercilessly and the nets were ready to snap. I went closer. Was it Justin Kemp? Herschelle Gibbs? Wait, it was Shaun Pollock. Now I’d seen everything.

Dhoni did arrive briefly and said that he was happy on being made India’s captain. Ah well, we had to hear it from him anyway.

September 19: Reliable sources tell me that the 666 symbol of the devil — the symbol most feared — has given way to a new 666666 Yuvraj symbol in England. In a little-known incident, Yuvraj Singh attacked a poor blonde English bowler named Stuart Broad, hoisting him for six sixes in an over in a Twenty20 cricket match.

The other little-known fact is that even after emerging victorious and claiming the Man-of-the-Match award, Yuvraj still found himself answering questions on past failures and the subsequent pressures. It’s hard being an Indian cricketer. “The day I’m a liability to the team, I will walk out,” he said. Ouch!

September 20: Words that would be shockingly out of place in this family magazine were all over the press-box. South Africa had crashed out of yet another big tournament, and the local scorers and volunteers were livid. Scores of people at Kingsmead carried the Indian flag in one hand and the South African one in the other, but there was no doubt which hand they used more.

Dhoni was delighted at the press conference. The captain has an underrated sense of humour, and his press conferences are interesting. “Nobody expected you to come so far?” he was asked. “Did you expect?” he replied.

September 21: An Indian group I met had come all the way from Gujarat to watch the Twenty20 cricket. “India will easily beat Australia,” said one of them, while another, extremely worried about the fitness of Dhoni and Yuvraj, was ready to offer some medical advice if sought, since he claimed to have topped biology in the 10th grade. Thankfully, both Dhoni and Yuvraj were fit for the semis.

September 22: There was a bit of a crisis in the press box. David Lloyd’s search for a sharpener or a blade to sharpen his ‘bloont’ pencil had brought him to the press box. The air-conditioned press-box offered internet services, food and water, but no sharpening devices. Last heard, Lloyd had approached the scorers.

Incidentally, amidst the pencil drama, India had entered the final of the Twenty20 World Championship. “Whoa! Big match. India versus Pakistan,” said the cabbie. Just another match, anyone?