Keen to regain form

Yuvraj Singh hasn’t had the best of times in the Tests here but one hopes he turns it around in the ODIs, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, January 20: The diary has in the past adopted a supercilious air with the cab-driver entry. From its dealings in the murky world of sports journalism, it knows the best stories are often made up. Come on — it must quite be a coincidence that someone hails the exact same taxi a former Test cricketer, pithy analyst, colourful character rolled into one has decided to drive. But the diary realises it has been unduly untrusting. It happens to be in the back seat of Tim Zoehrer’s cab and finds the experience stirring. The former Australian wicketkeeper doesn’t introduce himself, restricting himself to saying he played Test and one-day cricket, and was part of the tied Test in Madras (as it was then). “India should be winning the Test series 2-1, if not for all that nonsense at Sydney,” he says. “The umpires blew it. You guys have a great chance in Adelaide. The team must push Hayden for every blooming run. Make him stretch that hamstring and it’s going to ping. But, they must be willing to work their backsides off, backing up and attacking the ball.” There’s a certain sharpness to his tone. Bitterness perhaps? Zoehrer was a maverick who lost out when Bob Simpson and Allan Border looked for men that were ‘all steak, no sizzle’. He was then displaced from Western Australia by a young Adam Gilchrist who made the trip across from New South Wales. Zoehrer was a cult figure (still is) in WA, and Gilchrist’s early years weren’t easy — the home crowd minced no words in letting him know what they thought of his talent. It’s another matter that Gilchrist eventually won them over. Of great allure are tales of exiled kings — and Zoehrer wears the cloak of one. Unfortunately the ride lasts less than 10 minutes, and the diary leaves unsatisfied.

Monday, January 21: A day of no significance in the grand scheme of things. Then again, what is?

Tuesday, January 22: The television product does cricket a disservice. It makes the game look too easy. Watching the Indians and the Australians practise at ground level gives one a sense of how skilful the cricketers are. The diary positions itself behind the batsman to get a feel for reaction time, and whistles knowingly to itself: despite maintaining duplicitously that it can play this game at a reasonable level, it’s made aware again of its utter inadequacy. Even Russell Radhakrishnan, the portly baggage handler with the Indian team, looks too dangerous to consider batting against.

Wednesday, January 23: The diary takes a tram from near the Adelaide Oval to where it’s staying. Trips between North and South Terrace cost nothing, and predictably, there’s a pile-up when the brightly coloured tram stops. It’s a good way to take in this busy, pretty city, the buskers playing their music, the many, many extravagant fountains, and the exotic birds that throng the trees. Unfortunately, with the games starting between 10.30 and 11.30 a.m. and going on till 7.30 p.m., and work finishing at nearly 10 p.m., the diary finds little time for anything but a meal and the occasional movie.

Thursday, January 24: Press conferences feature all sorts of questions, from the long-winded and unintelligible to the shrewd and subversive to the fawning and sycophantic to the provocative and humorous. There’s plenty of posturing from both parties, and sometimes, it gets a bit too much. Darren Lehman is asked about the race row he was embroiled in. Brad Hogg is asked about the slow over-rate, which he threatens to answer, much to the mortification of the po-faced media manager Philip Pope. Finally, Sachin Tendulkar is asked about his stubble. To think some journalists don’t bother attending and later palm quotes off others! What tremendous character-building experiences they’re foregoing. Meanwhile, Yuvraj Singh is spotted making off although as play is in progress. The diary learns that the left-hander is headed for a rehabilitation session in the swimming pool. The 26-year-old (he’s been that age for two years now) hasn’t had the best of times in the Tests here, a highest score of 12 to his name, but the diary hopes he turns it around in the forthcoming one-day series.

Friday, January 25: The media is looked after superbly by Jenny and Rebecca, the SACA representatives. “It’s gonna be hot today, so slap on the sunscreen. Plenty available at media centre,” they text the journalists this morning. They lay on the best food, and the media centre is stocked with everything a journalist requires. Even us undesirables in the spill-over section get a constant stream of water bottles, thrown from the bottom of the enclosure by a bloke with an excellent aim. One senior writer drops a bottle and is heckled by the crowd behind. His response shuts them up: “When in Australia, catch as Australia.” The best sledge of the tour.

Saturday, January 26: Republic Day and Australia Day: the teams line up for the national anthems, and it’s a solemn, tingling ceremony. In other matters, a 21-gun salute stops play, prompting an unscheduled drinks break barely 30 minutes after the start. It’s festive today — one Australian fan called it “the best day to watch cricket in Australia.” Five degrees cooler, and he may be on to something.