‘It’s off the hook’

The dancers were kept busy during the India versus Pakistan match. The artificial excitement of the bowl-out was made to seem worse by the chronic hyperactivity across the dance floors at the stadium.-AP

A group of dancers with the gift of breaking into a jig whenever the cameras were focussed on them formed a part of the T20 package. Some of the fielders would do well to learn about reflexes from them, writes Nandita Sridhar.

September 9: My first taste of T20 at Johannesburg had a little of its caricature. Bleary eyed after spending close to eight hours in the company of an apologetic, restless gentleman in the aircraft, I spotted Graeme Smith’s face plastered on a pillar in the airport’s parking lot. On that carefully plastered paper was the catchphrase of the tournament. “It’s off the hook”.

September 10: Having collected my media pass, I hoped to have a glimpse of the Wanderers before heading out to the Sandton Convention Centre for M. S. Dhoni’s press conference on arrival with the Indian team. The stadium’s greenness was somewhat blotched by a stage set up for the opening ceremony. ‘Teeeeeeeeeee Twenteee’ had to kick-off with music and dance. God forbid if all the elements that worked towards building its brand weren’t perfectly aligned for the big day.

And in case you didn’t know, Dhoni dealt impeccably with the media. The first test passed as captain, it’s now down to winning.

September 11: The Indians had their first practice session at the Centurion. Practising at the same venue where Sachin Tendulkar cut Shoaib Akhtar for a six helped. The balls found the meat of the bat, as the local fast bowling hopes were treated with disdain. Virender Sehwag was caught up in a cautious Q & A with a group of journalists. I was nudged from behind and wasn’t pleased at being interrupted. It was Irfan Pathan with a couple of articles from my expensive bag that mysteriously found their way out on the ground. Who said gentlemen were extinct?

September 12: Durban is intoxicatingly beautiful. Only that the beach is difficult to sight from the air-conditioned media centre. The hard-working journalist in me chose India versus Scotland over the frothing waves. The teams were practising at the Kingsmead Oval. Watching M. S. Dhoni swivel and swipe the ball from within a few feet was enough to keep all thoughts of the beach away from my mind for now. A few minutes later, it was the 360-degree vertical shot. Clearly, normal geometry doesn’t apply to the Indian skipper.

September 13: India is set to take on Scotland. The match was washed out and those unfortunate to handle the covers were left to do some mid-field ballet of their own. A part of the T20 package was a group of dancers with the gift of breaking into a jig whenever the cameras were focussed on them. Some of the fielders would do well to learn about reflexes from them. It’s all part of the ‘Teeeeeeeeeee Twenteee’ game.

September 14: The dancers were kept busy during the India versus Pakistan match. The artificial excitement of the bowl-out was made to seem worse by the chronic hyperactivity across the dance floors at the stadium. There were even disco lights. Thankfully, fireworks were dispensed with after the opening day — they seemed tame when compared with those in the middle.

September 15: The team hotel is a busy place. Cricketers are spotted posing for photographs and R. P. Singh and Lalchand Rajput are busy addressing the media, much to the amusement of the other hotel guests who don’t seem to understand the presence of the cameras. A few others just stare at the cricketers and us, the pressmen and women. There was something vicariously thrilling about it.