The real crowd-puller

It's getting edgy…the obsession with Tendulkar's 100th international century gets shrill and no one is spared the agony. The one question revolving around him is unerringly asked at every press conference. “What do you think about Tendulkar's 100th hundred?”-AP It's getting edgy…the obsession with Tendulkar's 100th international century gets shrill and no one is spared the agony. The one question revolving around him is unerringly asked at every press conference. “What do you think about Tendulkar's 100th hundred?”

Whenever Sachin Tendulkar fields in the deep, fans congregate near the fence right behind where he stands. The maestro's movements create a ripple effect on an attendant mass, writes K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

Kolkata has many shades. Stately buildings dot the core area, harking back to the colonial past. Grey remnants of a distant era, when the metropolis was the capital of British India before the power shift to Delhi, are still intact.

Add to it the yellow Ambassador taxis, the kind that ferried cricket writers from the airport, and you have a city steeped in nostalgia and yet seeking to break free into a new world as evident in the energy visible on Park Street.

The taxi, moving at break-neck speed, comes to a crawl as it draws closer to the city's heart. A long-drawn pause at a traffic signal lends an interesting sidelight. To the taxi's left, in a narrow lane, a full-blooded game of cricket is on. It is the usual vignette of a tennis ball pinging on a whirling bat but the unusual bit is the fielder in the deep. He is to the taxi's right, across the road, and the steady traffic is like a ribbon that he can never cut. Yet he stands there, alert, exuberant and awaiting the ball while in ‘Planet Cricket', a taxi in the middle is just a speck that has to be ignored!

Surprisingly the same passion for the game is missing in the stands and that too at the Eden Gardens where India and the West Indies clash in the second Test. The stands are largely empty and the television cameramen, who have the onerous task of beaming images that spell ‘a crackling atmosphere', are left scratching their heads. Cameras somehow capture those rare dense pockets in a few stands. But some things remain the way they are, as every time Sachin Tendulkar fields in the deep, fans congregate near the fence right behind him. The maestro is the real crowd-puller and all his movements create a ripple effect on an attendant mass!

How about some manners?

Ahead of the Test, Darren Sammy speaks about a bus accident in his native island of St. Lucia. The usually smiling West Indies captain talks slowly, measuring every word. “Seventeen people from my community died and our heart goes out to them. The bus driver was a family friend too,” Sammy says.

However, a sombre moment that demanded silence from the rest in the press conference hall, is marred by the incessant beep of cell phones and the chatter of men manning cameras for various television channels. Sensitivity has been sacrificed at the altar of ‘get-a-sound-byte-at-all-cost' preamble and it does not reflect well on the media that is supposed to hold a mirror to the society.

Sach-a-man!

The obsession with Tendulkar's 100th international century gets shrill and no one is spared the agony. The one question revolving around him is unerringly asked at every press conference. “What do you think about Tendulkar's 100th hundred?”

“Tendulkar missed his 100th 100, your views?”

“Tendulkar finished 22 years in international cricket, how do you react to that?”

The questions continue unabated and the grilled subjects have varied responses.

The West Indies coach Ottis Gibson speaks about the enormous pressure that Tendulkar carries each time he steps out to bat. Sammy hopes that the coveted knock will happen in Australia. V. V. S. Laxman stresses that it is an honour to share the dressing room with the great man. The last word though belongs to Rahul Dravid, who says: “It will come in due course, but frankly I don't think he is even thinking about it.”

Middle age moves

The second Test is all about an Indian victory embellished by centuries from Laxman, Dravid and M. S. Dhoni but it has some alternative sunshine moments.

Late on the third day, Laxman crouches low to his left and plucks a catch inches before the ball could graze the turf.

Adrian Barath's vigil snaps and Laxman's delight is visible to all. He emerges from his tumble with a huge grin and an equally ecstatic Virender Sehwag hugs the stylist from Hyderabad.

Laxman and athleticism may sit on opposite tables but he does have a safe pair of hands. He may not be in the league of another man from his city who used to take a 100 catches during practice, but Laxman's catch to dismiss Barath is an effort that will make even Mohammad Azharuddin proud.

Dravid too proves that age is just a number when he catches Darren Bravo and Carlton Baugh on the concluding day. They are superb diving efforts that snub the so-called inflexibility acquired by seeing too many summers!

Candid captain

Dhoni's strength lies in knowing his game and its expansive ability along with its limitations. Reacting to wicket-keeping legend Jeff Dujon's remark that he is a fine package, Dhoni says: “It is good to hear the compliments. Yes, I am a package but I am not an extraordinary batsman or an extraordinary wicket-keeper.”

A day earlier, Laxman says: “Every time he hits a six, Dhoni says that he hasn't connected the ball!”