Jelly-Bean incident and all that

Of all the ridiculous bits of gamesmanship, jelly-beangate is undoubtedly the most moronic, writes S. Ram Mahesh in his diary.

Sunday, July 29: The diary is posh when it comes to digs, but even so splendid a nob as the diary can scarce believe its surroundings in Nottingham. Infra dig from the outside, the Castle Hotel’s cosy interior boasts reproductions of Monet, Manet, Picasso, Gogh, and err, Munch. Speaking of artwork, the diary chances upon a canvas of Jack Russell’s at the dining room in Trent Bridge. It’s from a day at the world’s third-oldest cricket ground — the rendering is delightful, but shouldn’t a wicketkeeper promote his kind? Instead, the ’keeper in the painting is a by-stander, looking on as lousy third slip takes the catch. Clearly, the pre-soaked Weetabix has done nothing to lighten Russell’s melancholy; the diary has maintained the trouble lies in the moustache: the droopy tache isn’t conducive to a sunny disposition. Best trimmed or curled upwards like the legendary Billy Murdoch — Australia’s finest batsman between 1880 and 1884 — and the less athletic Hercule Poirot.

Monday, July 30: In exalted literary circles, the diary is looked on as something of an underling, owing, no doubt, to the fact that it’s seen as a chronicler of cricket, that great juvenile pastime; as Scott Fitzgerald said to R ing Lardner — paraphrased inadequately — why spend time on a game whose intricacies a boy can master? (though, to be fair to Fitzgerald and to cricket, the game he referred to was baseball). Anyway, the point is that it gets tougher to explain cricket’s grand arc when its players act like poops.

Exactly how does chucking confectionery make one a tough competitor?

Matt Prior speaks of hunting in a pack and creating a hostile environment for the batsmen. Unless the batsman in question is a sugar-rush-wary diabetic — in which case the stunt would be in even poorer taste — it’s tough to see how jelly beans create a “hostile environment”. It’s an irritant, no doubt, but so is Prior’s hiss between his mouth guards.

Of all the ridiculous bits of gamesmanship, jelly-beangate is undoubtedly the most moronic. No wonder, everyone has an alibi ready. Kevin Pietersen says, “you got the wrong man”, when Zaheer Khan, bat raised, looks to administer some vigilante justice (‘Bat-brandishing Zaheer’s ugly gesture’, is how the tabloids report it, though it is less vehement than made out). Prior protests his innocence saying he is a wine-gum man, while Alastair Cook says he prefers fruit pastilles. This outbreak of sweetie confession is too much for the Trent Bridge crowd, which showers the outfield with jelly beans.

Tuesday, July 31: India wins the second Test, and the celebration in the balcony takes the form of Bhangra. The diary hears that the response to the poll it floated last week jammed Sportstar’s database. It has been warned agains t such ill-advised yahooism — so it will tread carefully this week. No polls on the best dancer; please don’t all write in. But, the diary can’t help itself. M. S. Dhoni, the diary recalls, appears in some advertisement where he pirouettes sharply (An apology: he has been in so many, the diary forgets exactly which; sorry, the diary couldn’t fit in the shameless plug). Sreesanth, on the other hand, was part of a televised dancing contest — a show, which keeps entire families spellbound, the diary is informed. Then, there is the wild-card: beer reportedly flowed, and men, who pride themselves on holding their drink, have been known to do the odd tie-breaking posterior jiggle under its influence.

Wednesday, August 1: The diary has, on principle and snobbery, declined the cab driver’s rich, coarse vowels. Such individuals like a chat — and often turn out to be former cricketers or evil overlords. So, the diary is ple asantly surprised when the cabbie from Nottingham to Leicester cuts off all talk with, “I don’t like Sport, Religion, and Politics. I have no views on them; all sorts get in this cab, and I don’t get into trouble when I don’t have views”. Sure enough, he’s chatting away ten minutes later about how Nottingham Forest has lost money, and how the Clough glory years will never come back. At least he tried. He was up against a formidable force: Cricinfo’s Dileep Premachandran, entertaining, endearing, and a damn good writer, is insufferable on football.

Thursday, August 2: The press pariahs are shocked to find that the Leicester county ground has no Internet facilities. The media representative tries helping out, but the most he can do is organise one computer. The diary and its colle agues slouch away — dark mutterings comparing the ground to the most inhospitable stadiums do the rounds. In the press box, a stray wireless network comes to the rescue. It’s far from reliable, but beggars can’t be … ; it is to cause a lot of trouble in the following days.

Friday, August 3: The Indians are made to feel right at home ahead of the practice match against Sri Lanka ‘A’ by the local talent. Bollywood numbers are danced to, walks around the ground waving the national colours undert aken, and tents serving naan and chicken tikka masala set up.

Saturday, August 4: The weekend is here, and sure, enough the inflatable slides — Bouncing Castles, they used to be called — follow. Located at strategic points around the ground, these pneumatic fun houses draw kids from a ll over. But the promise of five slides for 1 pound turns out to be hollow: the diary barely gets one before being rudely asked to “Clear orf, you giant oaf!”; what’s that great line about young promises and tender, dewy stems? The diary can’t remember and gets bullied away by a five-year-old. Just like in school.