Incidents galore

There is increased focus on the Pakistan tour. Skipper Ricky Ponting is of the opinion that the cricketers, contracted to Cricket Australia, have to honour international commitments, writes S. Dinakar.

February 16: South Australia is called the Festival State. Everything is celebrated here. Theatre and music are big in these parts, so is the Fringe Festival. Capital Adelaide is a serene city of gardens and monuments. It is surrounded by hills and vineyards. In a place of such calm, you would hardly expect speed to rule. But then, these are different times in Adelaide. Clipsal 500 car race has the entire city geared up. The roads of Adelaide warm up to the scorching tyres of the mean machines. The races would be followed by concerts at night. Among the musicians is the legendary Santana. Meanwhile, the Aussies arrive after a long flight from Perth. The Indians have been camping here for some time.

February 17: It’s blazing hot in Adelaide. So hot that the air-conditioners in the room do not seem to work. Cricket under the sun, at least in the afternoon, will be hard. Meanwhile, there is an air of festivity at the Adelaide Oval. Canopies are ruffled by the afternoon breeze that brings down the temperature. During the break between the innings, huge white crystal balls provide entertainment to the crowd. The entire match is presented as a package in these parts, and the involvement of the spectators is spontaneous. Later on, the Indians make a hash of the chase under the lights. The Aussies are closer to finals. The man at the hotel reception commiserates with the Indian plight. He has followed the game on ABC radio. “Mate, your Harsha Bhogle is very good,” he says. The Indians might see Mr. Bhogle more on television but he is an extremely popular radio commentator down under.

February 18: The rumours about the IPL bidding become louder. Who is worth how much? A friend of this correspondent laments that cricketers have turned commodities. Welcome to the Twenty20 age. Are the Indian cricketers more concerned about the IPL bids than the on-going series? Irfan Pathan says ‘No’ at the press conference. “We are focussed on our cricket,” he says.

February 19: This is a big game. India versus Sri Lanka at the Adelaide Oval. Once again, Virender Sehwag fails to make the XI. He is supposed to be having a side strain but bats at the nets and takes catches without discomfort. There is no official word from the physio about Sehwag’s status. In the post-match press conference, Yuvraj, when queried about Sehwag’s fitness, says, “He told me he was fit. I don’t really know. You should ask the physio.” But isn’t Yuvraj, as vice-captain, a part of the team-management that picks the XI? This is Yuvraj’s night of glory. He regains form, whips up a match-winning knock. The fiery left-hander has come under considerable criticism in recent times and is defiant and aggressive while answering questions from the media. Yuvraj will be Yuvraj... as long as he can walk the talk.

February 20: Much about cricket and its development is how you can spread the game among the less privileged. Rebekah Rosser, media coordinator, South Australia Cricket, speaks about the programmes for the aborigines. “You have state cricketers spending time with the kids. It has been a wonderful experience. The response has been great,” says Rebekah. The aborigines have been in the Australian consciousness this summer. Rightly so. From cricket’s humane side to the big bucks. This is also the day of the IPL biddings in India. Things hot up by night here as astonishing figures come to the fore.

February 21: Ricky Ponting appears a little puzzled as he addresses a crowded pre-match press conference at the MCG. “I could have gone for a little more,” he mulls. Australian press take notice of the fact that some of the Aussie legends and greats have fetched less than a few Indian beginners at the IPL auction. Then, the talk veers to the bidding process and how some names that came up later during the process could have earned more. Meanwhile, there is increased focus on the Pakistan tour. Ponting says the cricketers, contracted to Cricket Australia, have to honour international commitments. Australia’s latest million-dollar cricketer, Andrew Symonds, comes in for criticism for his outspoken views on the Pakistan tour only hours before the auction.

February 22: The Melbourne weather can change as quickly as cricketing fortunes. It is nippy in the morning and you pull out your jacket. The temperature can rise sharply in the afternoon and the nights can be cold. It rains when the Sri Lankans chase against Australia at the MCG. The islanders are so far behind that the weather does not matter. Come to think of it, the Aussies are all-weather cricketers.