Priorities, you see!

Muttiah Muralitharan used to turn the ball square even when he was just 18 years old.-REUTERS

Who’s the vice-captain of the Indian cricket team? The Tour Diary by N. Sudarshan finds out!

Two days prior to the match at the P. Sara Oval, Daily Mirror, a local daily, carries a story headlined “High demand for tickets to Sanga’s farewell Test.” After a barren Test that was Galle, the Diary was ecstatic at the opportunity to catch some civilisation at the ground. At least, when you are out for coffee, the roar of the crowd can tell you that something has happened.

On the first day, it saw a looong… queue of 50 odd people at the counter. It cut the queue and bought itself two cheaply priced tickets — for memorabilia sake — without even a whisper from the guys behind. Then on the second day it saw two — just two — people. A local scribe informs the Diary that the newspaper has a reputation to ‘stir the pot’. In the days leading to the Test, it hadn’t even despatched a reporter to cover the match. Instead it carried two quarter-page agency reports on Kumar Sangakkara. Christian Benteke and Sergio Aguero got one page each. Priorities, you see.

What turn!

Sangakkara has nothing to do with the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club. He in fact played for the Nondescripts Cricket Club. The Test was originally supposed to be held in his hometown of Kandy but the elections made it improbable. Yet, the Diary nurtured faint hopes of hunting down a ‘Sangakkara side story’. But, as destiny would have it, it instead bumped into someone who would more readily talk about the club’s favourite son Muttiah Muralitharan.

“When Murali first came here, he used to turn the ball square,” says Dileepa Wickremasinghe, the ground secretary at P. Sara Oval. Isn’t that well-known, the Diary ponders. “Much more than what you think and have ever seen,” he adds. The Diary makes itself more comfortable on a teak wood chair.

“On any wicket,” he goes on. “He was 18 when he was chosen to play a practice game against the visiting England ‘A’ team. At that time he was chasing a school cricket record and was within touching distance. He played against the English and skittled out the entire top order. So Sri Lanka ‘A’ picked him in their squad. But he didn’t play as he wanted to break the school record and mind you he broke the record.” The Diary is richer for the experience.

Getting it wrong

Like astrologers, psephologists and weather forecasters are blessed people. In spite of bungling repeatedly they still retain a certain societal status. They are perhaps the Rohit Sharmas of the world. Jokes aside, the Diary found that out first hand, about their frustratingly inexact sciences.

Even prior to its departure, it was warned to watch out for rains. So it packed shorts and floaters and carried an umbrella. In close to a week it spent in Galle, there were thunderstorms predicted for all seven days. There wasn’t a trace. In the subsequent week it spent in Colombo, heavy rain was supposed to disrupt the match. False again.

The parliamentary elections were held on August 17. Everybody expected the incumbent Ranil Wickremasinghe to sail through over Mahinda Rajapakse with an outright majority. The difference in seats was expected to be beyond 30. The final tally was 106-95.

“Nobody believes them here,” a Tuk-Tuk driver tells the Diary. “Like India like Sri Lanka.”

Leadership vacuum

When Virat Kohli left the ground for a brief while, when India was fielding in the second Test, no one knew who the vice-captain was. Finally it transpired that it was Ajinkya Rahane.-AP

The Indian Test captaincy is not up for grabs. But the vice-captaincy is. At least it seemed like on the third afternoon of the second Test. Virat Kohli, fielding at backward short-leg, tumbled on to the ground and hurt his finger. When he went off the field for treatment, people started talking in the Press box. Everybody was busy trying to spot the new captain.

Someone saw M. Vijay changing the field. He was briefly coronated. One intelligent soul chose to send a WhatsApp text of which the India media manager was also a part. The reply from him was Ajinkya Rahane. Before the scribes could discuss his credentials, Kohli was back.

“It felt very good,” Rahane said in the Press conference later. “Enjoyed it for four, five balls. We even got Angelo Mathews’ wicket!” The media hall burst out laughing.