In full support

The Barmy Army may be called many things but they spend a good part of what they earn on travelling around the world following England, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, April 8: There's no sign of the Easter Bunny at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground. What's new, there's no sign of the cricket fan, says the diary's cynical alter-ego. It's a voice the diary constantly suppresses, but there's no need today, for there are voices in the ground that do the job. Finally. The Barmy Army may be called many things, not all of them printable, but they spend a good part of what they earn on travelling around the world following England. There's merit in that. Not a lot of joy the way England is playing, but merit, definitely.

Monday, April 9: Lasith Malinga is at the Piarco airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The wild-haired slinger has been one of the stars of a grateful World Cup. He indulges what seems unending requests for photos. But, he limps slightly as he goes over to meet a friend. Ah, a story. He should be in Grenada — and indeed, he fidgets near the check-in counter for the flight there. But, pray what is he doing here? An injury-enforced detour? The news break of the century is foiled, for the diary and his colleagues — eminent radio, television, and print journalists — can't break line and go over and ask him. What an equaliser airports are. The diary almost misses its flight to Bridgetown, Barbados, because it's never announced.

Tuesday, April 10: The Kensington Oval in Bridgetown is called the Mecca with good reason. It inspires the kind of reverence that caused Indian cricketers many years ago to walk barefoot, chapped and chattering, onto Lords' chilly outfield. The Worrell, Weekes and Walcott stand even resembles the spaceship media centre at Lords', a structure that was likened to Tony Blair's smile. Except, it's classy. The slopes in the stands are gradual, so nose-bleeds aren't risked. The setting is intimate and inclusive unlike the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, which was impressive but just a shade aloof. The drainage system, like many in the Caribbean, is state-of-the-art though the sprinklers are rather rude to the diary's attempt at scarpering between the Hall & Griffith Stand and the Garfield Sobers Pavilion. Most of the old Kensington Oval was torn down, and cricketers who played on it can't recognise the new stadium that's been given the highest rating by the authorities assessing venues across the Caribbean.

Wednesday, April 11: Thumbed thesauruses and dog-eared dictionaries lie on desks at the open press box in the Kensington Oval. The diary finds that it's Derek Pringle and Angus Fraser, former members of the seamers union, doing their utmost to be professional journalists. Most former players take the high road: glitzy TV shows, mixed metaphors, disparaging comments on the current lot. But Pringle and Fraser sit through pressers where the most tired cliches are rolled out — cliches they once rolled out themselves. Binoculars are squinted through, pen caps chewed, and laptops hammered. Both make diligent notes on the match. Pringle's in particular are a sight. Done in multi-coloured ink with a certain flourish, they cause the diary to hide its primitive, monochrome scratched-out scraps.

Thursday, April 12: Barbados is cricket country. Just 166 square miles in area, it has, as we are reminded everywhere, given birth to legends. The 3Ws, Sobers, Marshall, Greenidge, Haynes, the list is long and illustrious. Bridgetown strikes the observer in ways no other Caribbean capital does. Super Market malls have oil on canvasses of Worrell, Sobers, and Marshall; basketball courts host cricket matches; roundabouts are named after cricketers — so you take a right at the Worrell to make the Cave Hill bypass; beach cricket is de rigueur. Radios everywhere are tuned into the World Cup. The conversations on cricket are calm unlike the rowdy debates in Kingston and the sing-song block and tackle in Port of Spain. Enthusiasm often borders on over-kill: concrete barriers are erected along the roads leading up to the Kensington Oval without consulting the police. The law isn't amused.

Friday, April 13: Just how much garbage does a cricket match belch? The early finish to the Australia-Ireland game should mean an early night for most. But, the guys in charge of cleaning up work well past evening, shifting mountains of beer glasses, used plates, plastic bottles, banners, signboards, paper, klaxons, cardboard trumpets, conches, bugles, disposable binocs, and the odd false beard. Giant plastic bags are filled in minutes. The party stands are particularly taxing.

Saturday, April 14: Well, the big one tomorrow. The organisers — with no ulterior motives — tried to stick India-Pakistan on a Sunday. As one writer puts it, not without a touch of condescension, the largest crowd of the World Cup may watch Ireland and Bangladesh slug it out. Cricket's deeper than all of us; and seemingly has an excellent sense of humour.