The past masters

The English certainly know how to do nostalgia: on the ticket for the first Test is Graham Gooch’s wagon-wheel of his 333. Over to S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, July 22: Encounters with two great openers. The diary chances upon Geoffrey Boycott in the Lord’s rest-room; now, rest-rooms haven’t the most conducive environs for stimulating heart-to-hearts, but Boycott, for whate ver reason, seems eager. Has the diary’s modest reputation preceded it? Well, the discussion is on cricket, of course, though the diary is having trouble multi-tasking.

A compromise is struck: Boycott meets the diary midway at the basins, where a card promotes the benefits of the pre-match drink (unsurprisingly, it’s a quote from Paul Hogan, who played Crocodile Dundee). For its efforts, the diary gets called a smart cookie — apparently high praise from Boycott — and is forced to listen to why Javed Miandad wants in on the Pakistan coaching job.’ The other encounter happens when the diary is passing the time of the day with Ted Corbett, who Sportstar readers will recognise as the diarist’s diarist. A selection of cakes is contemplated when in walks Sunil Gavaskar. He’s evidently torn for choice. A few moments later he makes up his mind — the carrot cake it will be — and makes off. But, Mr. Corbett’s disapproving nod catches his attention.

“Not good Sunny.”

“Very bad, no? What to do? I succumbed to temptation chasing those ones outside off; I am succumbing now.”

“You didn’t too often, Sunny.” “Well, this isn’t too often either, no?” A true Sportstar moment.

Monday, July 23: The rain saves India, and it’s the diary’s last chance to see the Lord’s museum. The most striking things are the bats of the past. Such flimsy things they look, and it’s a wonder cricketers suc h as Hobbs struck balls 100 yards. On loan are the bat Collingwood scored his double-hundred against Australia with and the ball Darren Sammy took seven wickets on debut with. The English certainly know how to do nostalgia: on the ticket for the first Test is Graham Gooch’s wagon-wheel of his 333.

Tuesday, July 24: On the Tube to St. Pancras, which will, in turn, allow the diary to take a train to Nottingham. The prevalence of CCTVs causes the diary to think. Lifts, stations, restaurants, cubby-holes: everything is fitted with c ameras; little wonder Big Brother continues to be popular. Is security merely the latest pretext to indulge new-age exhibitionism? The diary’s knuckles are rapped for thinking such sacrilegious thoughts, but when a man in soup and fish wiggles his hips at the camera in Green Park station, the diary looks suitably supercilious.

Speaking of Big Brother, the coverage that infernal show gets in dirt rags and talk shows is incredible. Everyone’s on first-name basis, and discussions revolve around who Chanelle really is and whether Brian did wrong in wearing the lilac shirt on voting-out day. Shilpa Shetty was here last week to flag off a month of celebrating Indian culture — she was accorded the kind of respect world heavyweight boxing champions receive. Clearly, a house full of the most obnoxious buffoons is a more overwhelming challenge than lasting a round with Foreman.

Wednesday, July 25: The road to Loughborough is, as noted in The Hindu, pleasingly rustic. The Indian team has scarpered from Trent Bridge to the indoor facilities at the ECB’s National Cricket Centre, and journalists follow in s creeching cars a la the caped crusader. This sudden outbreak of affection for Bruce Wayne’s second-biggest secret is down to the diary passing Gotham on the way.

The town clock even has Batman’s symbol on it. Naturally, the diary gets thinking: which Indian cricketer would look most like the masked man of mystery in cape and cowl? Why doesn’t Sportstar float a poll? For once, dear readers, shift your eagle eyes from unweighting backlifts and load-up positions, and write in your choice. A utility belt for the best answer.

Thursday, July 26: The day is bleak; Trent Bridge is flooded. The second Test, from tomorrow, is in danger, and Christopher Martin-Jenkins, the respected cricket correspondent of The Times, London, reckons it might be a washout. This f ormidable man is rarely wrong, which makes the day worse. CMJ, as he is known, is warm and kind with his time. He flies the flag for the professional journalist in an age when past cricketers are seeping into the space.

Friday, July 27: Some producer — bless his soul — finds cricket writers fascinating and decides viewers do too. So a cameraman prowls around in the press-box, hoping for candid shots. The diary and his colleagues rise magni ficently to the occasion. Laptops are stared into, heads scratched, noses wrinkled. Wisden almanacs are shown off; everyone tries looking intelligent — few succeed. The start’s delayed — and all the effort in starting the match gets to my neighbour, who falls asleep. Finally the candid shot. The diary doesn’t bother nudging its neighbour awake. To do so would be an act of courtesy, and whatever the diary has been accused of, it’s never been called polite. Besides, doesn’t the diary provide a dazzling back-drop?

Saturday, July 28: The diary, being a fan of the Bodyline series, is thrilled to find suites named after Larwood and Voce at Trent Bridge. Larwood also has a stand named after him. Few cricketers have put up with so much with such dign ity as Larwood. Besides, he was the hero of the diary’s hero, Ray Lindwall. And there’s the waiting area named after Sir Garfield Sobers, who gave great pleasure to the patrons here in Nottingham. It’s a struggle working; the black and white photographs are so tempting it’s a wonder the diary gets to the first floor where the press box is.