Sobers radiates grace & charm

Gary Sobers...the pride of Barbados.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Hundreds of Indian fans, most of them from the U.S., who had descended on St. Lucia to root for India are disappointed. By S. Dinakar.

They say in these parts that a pleasant surprise is just around the corner. A genial man, aging gracefully, strode into the media centre to take the elevator. Despite the passing of years, he still walks like a panther, his eyes still sparkle. There is a sense of timelessness about him and his deeds. He is the pride of Barbados.

He looks at yours truly and then adds, “I have to get there quickly. The television people will be waiting for me.” The legend still radiates grace and charm. I extend my hand. His handshake is firm. “It is a privilege and an honour to meet you Mr. Sobers,” I say. Sir Garfield Sobers looks into my eye and then nods.

The finest all-rounder the game has seen — some say he is the greatest cricketer ever — has a wonderfully spontaneous smile. The lift takes time to arrive. I have a few precious moments to put across a question. “Your pick for the final, Mr. Sobers,” I ask. “I think Australia has the edge,” he replies. Then, he remembers visiting Chennai and adds, “that was a long time ago.”

Soon the lift arrives. Former pace ace Ian Bishop joins us at the first floor. Moments later, he and Sir Gary are discussing golf.

Sir Gary rarely gives interviews these days — perhaps he is a touch tired of recalling glorious days from the past — yet the precious few moments spent with him had made my day; even before the first ball had been delivered in the final.

Sir Gary's destination is the fourth floor and I travel all the way up to extend my tryst with greatness and then come down to the second where the press box is located.

The final, contrary to expectations is one-sided. An inspired England dominates Australia. The English supporters with the Union Jack sing and dance. The vocal Aussie fans are silent for a change.

I was in Barbados after a stressful four-hour journey by air that took me, from St. Lucia to Antigua, then Dominica before finally arriving in the Bajan country. I had reached but my baggage was missing.

With most flights heading to Barbados for the ICC World Twenty20 final, the light propeller aircrafts that connect the different countries in the Caribbean are short of adequate space for both the passengers and the luggage.

I have company. Former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja's baggage had not reached as well. Giving Rameez company is former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar.

Says Manjrekar, “My baggage has reached but some of my things are with Rameez and some of his stuff are with me.” Hurray for the India-Pakistan unity! I get my suitcase the next morning, so does Rameez.

In St. Lucia earlier, former India all-rounder Ravi Shastri was fuming when his baggage — this time we were travelling from Barbados to St. Lucia — could not be spotted by him.

His plans of a stint at the inviting beach on an off-day seemed to be dashed. Shastri, however, did not give up. He soon rushed to a shopping mall to buy a new set of clothes including swimming trunks.

The Indian team, meanwhile, crashes out of the event. Hundreds of Indian fans, most of them from the US, who had descended on St. Lucia to root for India are disappointed.

“What saddens me is that the team did not display any fight,” says Ravi, a software engineer from Miami.

The fans flock the busy yet serene Rodney Bay. Here music fills the air in the evenings and ambience is one of joy and celebration.

The Indian restaurant here is a huge draw for those from the sub-continent. I come across Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Aamer. Earlier in the day, Pakistan had gone down in a titanic duel against Australia. Kamran accepts the result in a philosophical way. “We fought hard as a team. That is important,” he says. Sadly, the Indians did not display the same intensity and spirit.