Uncanny resemblance

Five world-class sculptors have fashioned Adam Gilchrist in sand — a structure that, it’s claimed, can withstand two days of rain, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, December 23: Well, dear readers, you heard it here first. India will regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The diary, having endured a turbulent flight into Melbourne, spots Sunil Gavaskar almost immediately. The Little Master is having a quiet meal with Wasim Akram, erstwhile Pakistan left-arm swing and seam bowler, near where the diary is staying. Had the cricketing gods intended Australia to win, surely they’d have shown the diary Allan Border first.

Monday, December 24: The Federation Square, 10 minutes from both the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Rod Laver Arena, showcases Melbourne’s avant-garde art. Five world-class sculptors have fashioned Adam Gilchrist in sand — a structure that, it’s claimed, can withstand two days of rain. Gilly is chuffed and says the resemblance is uncanny. The diary’s room-mate contends it looks more like Shaun Pollock; soon India’s finest cricket journalists are holding forth on who the sculpture really depicts.

Tuesday, December 25: Who’s that at the Australian nets laying into Andrew Symonds’ off-spin? From a compact stance, the batsman strikes powerful cover-drives. And the top of his fair head barely reaches the dread-locked giant’s hip. It appears that Harry has learnt well from his father, Adam. Only, he doesn’t take up the gloves, but comes on to bowl vigorous medium-pace. It’s family day at the nets, this being Christmas, and there are kids everywhere. Michael Hussey ensures his daughters don’t get too near Ricky Ponting knocking away throwdowns. Matthew Hayden shows a side bowlers the world over have never seen. Children truly are the greatest joy. Err, to most parents in any case.

Wednesday, December 26: Boxing Day and the top story on the news isn’t the Test match. It’s the Boxing Day sale, a slashing in prices that sees the kind of urgency in shops around Australia (at eight a.m. mind you) not always evident in India’s fielding. A reporter, who shall remain unnamed of course (what fraudulence!), mingles in the Olympic Stand looking for that elusive ‘diary item’ that will set the dispatch apart. Spotting a ‘Save the Whale’ sign in a crowd of yellow shirts, this curious soul investigates. No, this isn’t Greenpeace. Apparently Mr. Tom Whale, dressed suggestively in pink, is getting married soon, and his mates feel the need to apprise him of the folly. Well, the diary asks, was the Missus around and was she indignant? The reporter sighs a married person’s sigh — and thinks that’s enough of an answer.

Thursday, December 27: Discriminating readers of the diary will have noted that some of its most illuminating — and indeed, most sparkling — meetings with cricketers have occurred on lifts. The list is far too long to reproduce in full, but take the diary’s word for it, it’s most illustrious. Shane Warne, at the MCG, fits in nicely. The list not the lift. He’s all chivalrous as he blocks the diary’s way enabling a couple of blondes to enter first. Then with a swish of his grey suit he follows them. He isn’t quite as clever with the buttons, for the lift makes the round trip back to level three. Which is where the diary steps in. Now before all ye, fervid of imagination, start wondering, let the diary assure you that Mr. Warne is quite the gentleman. Clearly the man misses the limelight. Barely a year into retirement, he’s calling former coach John Buchanan a goose. He’s back at the MCG after donating his trademark floppy white hat to the National Sports Medium. “I love what the baggy green stood for,” he says of the symbol Steve Waugh sanctified. “To me, the white hat was just more comfortable. Steve Waugh brought in a rule that the baggy green had to be worn for the first session or the first break. It was always nice when a declaration came — there was 20 minutes for the break and we only had to wear it four or five overs and get the break.” Little wonder he’s considered the greatest captain Australia never had.

Friday, December 28: It’s the Heals and Tubs masterclass, time for those lovable pensioners to help out Australia’s young cricketers. The finest international gloveman of the 90s (though the diary says Adam Parore was just as good) and Australia’s most intuitive captain since Ian Chappell are two of the best teachers the diary has had the pleasure of learning from. Ian Healy and Mark Taylor deal with a range of e-mails at lunch, answering every question with the kind of thought that makes this country’s cricketers such fine thinkers on the game. Every suggestion is practical, easy to follow, and — as the diary discovers — outrageously effective. Stripping the game down to its most basic was never this much fun.

Saturday, December 29: The gates have opened at 9 a.m. (for a 11 a.m. start), but the MCG looks empty. The most heart-warming of the sights thus far have been the large and enthusiastic turnouts over the first three days. Test cricket deserves patronage, and today is most disappointing.