No publicity is bad publicity

The VIP section at Walk about, where David Warner of Australia clashed with the English cricketer Joe Root.-

The immediate aftermath of naughty David Warner’s late-night misdemeanour, according to an employee of Walkabout, has been more business, writes Shreedutta Chidananda.

The Diary doesn’t mind getting its hands dirty. So when news reaches its ears that cricketers have been getting into trouble at a bar in Birmingham, what does it do but visit the place, just to, you know, gather information and stuff.

Walkabout (“Home of the Awesome Spirit of Australia”) is a busy little establishment in the city’s pub district, themed full with barbeques, kangaroo meat, and Australian beer on the menu, and surfboards and boomerangs on the walls. Its vegetarian burgers are charmingly named Tree Huggers, and the meat section comes with a critical ‘Tree Huggers and Leaf Eaters Stay Away’ warning. The VIP section, where the said fracas is alleged to have kicked off, isn’t much but a bunch of couches and a bar inside a balustrade.

One employee admits that the immediate aftermath of naughty David Warner’s late-night misdemeanour has been more business. As the Diary is often told by wise folk, no publicity is bad publicity.

Losing with respect is what matters

Pakistani fans can be a passionate lot, and can turn on their team in the snap of a finger. “These guys are just happy to take their match fees; they have no shame or pride,” an angry Birmingham cabbie tells the Diary one morning. “We were about to attack their bus the other day (after the loss to South Africa). Maa Kasum, we’d have done it.

“I hear that Australia want to field a young Pakistani leg-spinner in the Ashes and are hurrying to give him a passport. Why can’t we be out there looking for guys like this instead of the same useless lot?”

More than one cabbie the Diary speaks to is convinced Pakistan will receive a proper old-fashioned shellacking at India’s hands. “100% ji,” one middle-aged driver says on the eve of the game. “We’re not upset with defeat in general but upset that we don’t see effort from these players. Haaro lekin izzat se (lose but with respect) .” Even that wish, though, would not be granted.

Away from fan frenzy

Gadding about town one evening in Birmingham, what does the Diary spot but a couple of Indian players at Nando’s, tucking delightfully into chicken wings. M. S. Dhoni and Amit Mishra eat undisturbed and unnoticed, a sight unimaginable in India. “If you see why cricketers are so popular, the reason is the fan following is such, so it’s important that you take it in a positive way because it will be very difficult to change the thinking,” Dhoni would say the following day. The Diary was only there for a veggie burger, mind.

Clear about loyalties

It has always fascinated the Diary that British Pakistanis and Indians have supported their countries of origin ahead of England (or Wales). This manifests itself in curious ways. When India plays West Indies at The Oval, voices from the crowd are not in Hindi alone. The accent is local, with chants even borrowed from football’s terraces. “Are you watching, Pakistan?” “Oh India, we love you,” and “Pakistan are going home,” are all frequently heard from the stands.

When India and Pakistan face each other at Edgbaston, the two sets of fans regularly “Who are ya” each other.

The Diary is not going to say Tebbit.