Honouring a legend

It reportedly took sculptor Terrance Plowright six months to produce the 400 kg statue of Richie Benaud, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, December 30: The diary warms to Brad Hogg, purveyor of rare left-arm wrist spin, after a particularly endearing performance at a press conference ahead of the second Test. Hogg so obviously enjoys his cricket that it’s har d not to smile with him. The diary’s surprise stems from the fact that it never did like the chinaman and googly merchant on the telly, finding the lolling tongue coarse and the constant chatter annoying. He’s a touch nervous taking on so many journalists all at once, and having been in the same situation against many a teacher in school, the diary wants to extend an arm of comfort. But, Hogg comes through superbly — something the diary never quite managed. A self-confessed late bloomer, the 36-year-old says he will bring his kids, (one’s 15, the other’s 12) to the Sydney Cricket Ground so they can “lap up the atmosphere.” The diary hopes Brad’s tongue has skipped a generation; else there won’t be much atmosphere left.

Monday, December 31: Well, the diary says to itself, another New Year’s Eve, and all that jazz. So what if this happens to be Sydney, the site of the party to beat all parties, a grandmaster, so to speak, of the party universe? The Indian cricketers might have their cruise, and the Australians their roof-top perch, to take in the fireworks, but the diary is here for work not leisure goddamit and needs its R and R before a big day. Unfortunately, the diary’s admirable sentiments are ignored, and it finds itself on the long trudge to nowhere. There are no taxis, and the diary’s comrades display a ridiculous sense of direction — how can it be ridiculous when we don’t know where we are headed, you ask. Well, there’s usually a purpose to going nowhere (the diary, from its conversations with authors and wannabe authors, gathers the best novels are written that way), and these gentlemen aren’t showing it. The diary mutters darkly, dropping hints about pizza and bed. Suddenly a taxi is spotted. The rest of the night is a blur of swarming, shifting people, street parties, fireworks, sirens, and rock and roll.

Tuesday, January 1: The cry goes out: Where’s Sachin? Journalists at a pre-match practice session are an antsy bunch, always on the look out for missing players, suspicious niggles, and the next meal. When a hack spots one of the three he or she will usually holler, letting the others know. Hence the cry referred to at the beginning of today’s entry. Tendulkar isn’t to be seen at the SCG, and as is often the norm, theories start swirling like a black eagle in a thermal. This, however, is one of those rare instances when truth is stranger than fiction. Tendulkar has a cheek rash, the diary and his comrades are informed, and will practise at the indoor nets. Outdone, the journalists respond magnificently. Sun burn, says one, nodding knowingly. Another says it’s a reaction to detergent. The good ol’ shaving rash is put out there as well. The truth? It’s apparently detergent and, to quote another of those hoary aphorisms, one of those rare instances of life imitating art.

Wednesday, January 2: Shane Warne makes an appearance again in this space, dear readers. This time thanks to the humour (ribald say some, but the diary thinks it’s matey) prevalent in the Channel Nine commentary box. Richie Benaud is the master of the pregnant pause followed by the mote juste. Mark Taylor shows he isn’t far behind. Taylor talks of the reward associated with winning one of the many cricket-related competitions during the Australian summer thus: “Get a chance to win 30 minutes with Shane Warne ………. in the nets.”

Thursday, January 3: Long-time readers of the diary (err, make that reader) will have noticed its kinship with wicketkeepers. This isn’t a good day for us, brothers. Adam Gilchrist misses four shots at reaching 400 dismissals, and is slaughtered in the media. The diary, in protest, restricts its report to a mere mention, and speaks nothing of footwork and balance.

Friday, January 4: The diary is quite thrilled that a statue of Richie Benaud is unveiled at the SCG. It happens rather nicely too, for no one is aware of the identity of the sculpture. Benaud makes a humorous impromptu speech. It reportedly took sculptor Terrance Plowright six months to produce the 400 kg sculpture, a process that began with smearing oil-based clay on a bird-wire armature, making a silicone rubber mould and cutting it so was ready for the casting wax. Several other steps (a touch too complex for the diary to describe adequately) lead to the welding of the cut sections, before it was scrubbed and sprayed with a clean lacquer.

On the point of cricket sculptures, the one of Dennis Lillee at the MCG is quite superb. The attention to detail — the texture of the moustache, the bunching of the shirt around his shoulders, the depiction of the action taut as a coiled spring before release — is something else.

Saturday, January 5: Cricket Australia has recruited the services of Merv Hughes, the heavily moustachioed former fast bowler and current selector, to keep the crowd well-behaved. ‘Merv’s serve’ involves the Beer Gut telling the crowd in his most intimidatory voice, “There’s nothing wrong with a few beers, he he, trust me, I should know. Just you keep the beer rate below the run rate, and you’ll be alright.” Fast bowlers, the diary acknowledges, haven’t a head for number Merv, but what precisely do you mean? Less than four beers an over when Australia is batting? Or is that over an hour? A day perhaps? Being teetotal (and that’s the official party line), the diary is ill-versed in such matters, and can do with an explanation. But, you’ll never catch it asking Merv to his scary face.