There’s never a dull moment

Ishant Sharma and Suresh Raina, the two vegetarians in the side, are so upset with the quality of food served during lunch that they, accompanied by the ICC's anti-corruption unit, walk to an Indian restaurant across the stadium for food of their choice.-VIVEK BENDRE

Tales of ‘unrest’ in the Indian dressing room fly thick and fast after the second Test at The ’Gabba. These dressing room tales... they have a knack of resurfacing. The truth will be out at some stage, writes S. Dinakar.

It’s not for nothing that Queensland is called the Sunshine State in Australia. There is abundant sunlight in this favourite tourist destination.

The Gold Coast is alluring, with its long stretches of sand. Tourists come here in droves. The Indian cricket team, though, has little time or space to contemplate a holiday in this paradise. It faces a test of character on one of Australia’s quickest pitches — The ’Gabba.

The ’Gabba is an iconic cricket venue down under. It is known for fast and bouncy pitches, hard and aggressive cricket, and boisterous crowds. One has heard tales of great fast bowlers from the past steaming in from the Vulture or the Stanley Street end and delivering the perfume ball.

It is also the venue where Australia and the West India were involved in a pulsating tied Test in 1960 — the first time in cricket history. Australia, with three wickets remaining, needed six runs when the big and fast Wesley Hall began the final eight-ball over of the Test. The match concluded sensationally when Joe Soloman, with only one stump to aim at from square-leg, unleashed a brilliant throw to run out Ian Meckiff. The Test, thus, ended in a tie.

The second tied Test happened in Madras (now Chennai) in 1986. The two leading players of that Test are at The ’Gabba. Dean Jones, who came up with a monumental 330-ball 210 in the scorching heat and energy-sapping humidity of Madras, recalls the innings. (Jones was taken to a local hospital after the innings for treatment and was administered drips.) “You know, I told Allan Border (the captain) during the innings that I was so dehydrated that I wanted to retire hurt because my body could no longer take it,” Jones tells Sportstar.

“You know what Border’s response was? He said, ‘Mate, if you go back to the hut (dressing room now) now, I would have Greg Richie in the next flight from Australia to replace you for the next Test.’ So, I stayed put. Border was a very tough captain,” he adds.

The Test ended in a tie after off-spinner Greg Matthews trapped last man Maninder Singh leg before with the fifth delivery of a six-ball over.

Matthews, a bit of a brash man then, has mellowed over the years.

Traditionally, the Aussies stage the first Test of a series at the pacey ’Gabba and often roll over the opposition, who are still not used to the surfaces down under. In that way, Australia establishes a psychological advantage over the visitors and invariably goes on to dominate the series.

The ’Gabba is originally scheduled to host the first Test of the ongoing series, but the tragic death of Phillip Hughes leads to the rescheduling of the matches, and Adelaide stages the first Test.

After the dramatic nerve-wracking Test at the Adelaide Oval, the expectations are high in Brisbane. The press box at The ’Gabba is not among the bigger ones down under, but offers a brilliant view of the action. You have the sense of being close to the pitch.

The weather forecast is a bit worrying though; rain and thundershowers are predicted during the match.

The relationship between India and Australia — it started on an excellent note — has soured. There is plenty of acrimony during the second phase of the first Test, and the mood seeps into the match at The ’Gabba too.

Even as things hot up between the two sides, the temperatures soar too. Due to the extreme heat and moisture in the air, the Aussie pacemen break down on Day One of the Test. Mitchell Starc has a sore back and strained ribs; debutant Josh Hazlewood has cramps all over his body; Mitchell Marsh has a hamstring injury.

Opener Murali Vijay, his methods solid, too plays his part in wearing out the Aussie fast bowlers in searing heat. His century is high on temperament and technical expertise on a testing track. The Indian team, subsequently, slips from a position of advantage, and the players’ emotions are stretched.

Suresh Raina and Ishant Sharma, two vegetarians in the side, are so upset with the quality of food served during lunch that they, accompanied by the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, walk to an Indian restaurant across the stadium for food of their choice.

Then, ahead of the decisive final day, the Indian media manager, Dr. R. Baba, informs that Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli — the two overnight not out batsmen — have been injured while batting on the practice pitch in the morning. Kohli, however, walks out with Chesteshwar Pujara and the Indians collapse in a tumultuous session.

After the match, which India loses from a winning position, skipper M. S. Dhoni talks about “unrest” in the Indian dressing room following the injury to Dhawan. He says, “The calmness of the dressing room goes for a toss.”

Sportstar learns from a reliable source that there indeed was a brief exchange of words between Dhawan and Kohli, who, according to the source, feels the former’s injury is not serious enough for him not to resume his innings.

Ahead of the third Test at the MCG, skipper Dhoni, despite his earlier statements, rubbishes the claims. He says it was not that Kohli chased Dhawan with a knife and then cricket director Ravi Shastri had to separate them. He calls the story a script from a Warner Bros movie.

These dressing room tales... they have a knack of resurfacing. The truth will be out at some stage.