Pigeon, once a team pest

He's on to more respectable things now with the McGrath foundation, but Glenn McGrath's love for mischief hasn't been sucked dry by the vacuum cleaner of responsibility. Nor has his disdain for batsmen changed. By S. Ram Mahesh.

Glenn McGrath, as Steve Waugh wrote in one of his 543 memoirs, was the team pest. He'd squish grapes in his mates' ears, thumb-flick their necks, and do other such things that no one but G. McGrath found funny. He compensated by giving them plenty of mirth with his batting: he could middle a ball with a stump but not a bat. Waugh reckoned that McPidge was a natural left-hander whose talent had been frustrated.

He's on to more respectable things now with the McGrath foundation, but his love for mischief hasn't been sucked dry by the vacuum cleaner of responsibility. Nor has his disdain for batsmen changed. McGrath is asked why only batsmen get to lead the team in singing ‘Under the Southern Cross' after an Australian victory. “Batsmen have to do something,” says Pigeon. “Bowlers do all the work in the game. It just gets passed on. It's up to the previous holder to pass it on to someone else when they retire.” The diary is certain it spots a knowing wink — trust a batsman to pass it on to another, is what's left unsaid.

* * *

Hello again, Arjun Tendulkar. The Australian media can't have enough of the great man's son, who, like he had in England, attends the Indian nets. He bowls left-armers to his dad. There's even talk of the Tendulkars being the first father and son to play Test cricket together, but during the bonhomie happens the sort of moment every son recognises. A stern father tells him to do something he's not keen on.

So he trudges off, sullen-faced. But worry not — there's Shivlal Yadav, the team-manager, to attend to young Arjun. He knows a fair bit about sons, about sons named Arjun in fact.

* * *

Is there a cooler man than Jimmy Amarnath? The diary doesn't know of any. Sir Viv and Immy Khan were pretty damn cool, but here's a man who the great Michael Holding said knew no fear. And though Amarnath was legit, he didn't have to be a snarling sourpuss who'd bounce his grandmother and bite his dog to prove his toughness. He's kindest, gentlest soul around — a fantastic man to have in troubled times.

After the defeat in Melbourne, India can do with a dash of Amarnath, who is in Sydney in his capacity as national selector. “Are you enjoying the tour?” he asks the diary in his rich, gravelly voice. The diary, who partakes of an opportunity to crib with great relish, mumbles something about how the food's tough to find, the travel's a killer, the hotel room's cramped, the writing's getting dreary. “Don't worry,” Amarnath says, smiling his calm smile. “It'll get better.” The diary is happy to say it doesn't. Misery — what's not to love?

* * *

The diary is at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and what does it find there? A hundred Richie Benauds, that's what. They're in suits of dull beige and wigs of grey hair. When the diary gets too close, they wave angry styrofoam Channel 9 mikes at it and laugh when the diary cowers in fear. Mark Taylor and Michael Slater try winding up the original, but all the master says of the impostors is: “Most of them have more hair than I have.”

* * *

Australia has a culture of listening to the radio while watching the match. This is made possible by these useful little devices that you can clip onto you ear. So when Kerry O'Keefe, as much a commentator as a stand-up comic, eats a chilli and begins to exhale furiously on air, a few hundred in the M. A. Noble stand, in need of diversion for the cricket has grown monotonous, turn around and laugh at the poor man in the radio booth. They had slow-clapped earlier, willing him on — trust a cricket crowd to make a man feel special. It was a challenge set by Harsha Bhogle, who's doing work with ABC Radio, and only O'Keefe had the guts, quite literally, to accept it.

* * *

As Michael Clarke approaches Mark Taylor's 334 not out, the former Australian captain mock declares from the com box. “Come in, come in,” he says, gesturing with his arms. Taylor had declared on his overnight score of 334 in Peshawar in 1998, level with Bradman's highest. There was plenty of praise in Australia for Taylor's move, but as he confessed later, he would have taken a run off the last ball if he could — Channel 9 shows footage of the last ball of the day, confirming the event. Taylor says the only consideration for the declaration was whether it allowed Australia the best chance to win the Test (he had to settle for a draw); the Bradman parallel was an added benefit. Clarke doesn't bother with equalling this score or any of the other records he had a shot at. Now that he was captain and triple-centurion, didn't he deserve a more befitting nickname? Wasn't Pup too, you know, un-alpha-male? “I'll take dog,” he says. “I've been called worse so dog's a compliment.”