Unsung heroes

The first level of the Lillee-Marsh stand at the WACA has two fantastic photos of the portly Marsh in full flight.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Wicketkeepers are under-represented, even if former ICC president Clyde Walcott wore the big gloves from time to time. More power to glovesmen, and any step in that direction must be appreciated, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

Sunday, January 13: The diary departs for Perth this evening, having spent a comfortable half-day in Canberra. For some reason, the diary never warms to the capital city, and is looking forward to leaving. Most enviously, the diary list ens at the airport to a comrade’s exploits in a pool-table sledging competition. It longs to take notes, being hopeless at such mental battles, but is wary of letting on. Speaking of sledges, the best Australian story the diary has heard involves the former New Zealand ’keeper Adam Parore during a tri-series match against South Africa. Daryl Cullinan, in the midst of tormented times against a certain blonde leg-spinner, takes guard against Chris Harris and defends carefully the first ball. “Bowling Shane,” comes the call from behind.

Monday, January 14: Having grown up on a steady diet of Australian cricket thanks to cable, the diary is eager to have a look at the WACA. Of all the Australian grounds, the WACA and the ’Gabba have most fascinated the diary. They’ve been two of the quickest in the world, and although the strip at Perth had changed in the late 1990s, there are signs it’s returning to its bestial best. The great Curtly Ambrose taking seven wickets was one of the most exciting memories of a very young diary. Sachin Tendulkar’s century was straight out of legend — the kind of story school-kids embellish with glee and increasing conviction. So taken with the ground is the diary that it expects the strip to stand apart from the surrounding in-field, raised as a pedestal. Another reason the diary loves the WACA is one of its grand-stands is named after Rod Marsh (admittedly, he shares it with his old mate Dennis, for it’s the Lillee-Marsh stand). Wicketkeepers are under-represented, even if former ICC president Clyde Walcott wore the big gloves from time to time. More power to glovesmen, and any step in that direction must be appreciated. Moreover, the first level of the Lillee-Marsh stand has two fantastic photos of the portly Marsh in full flight, worth the admission money.

Tuesday, January 15: The diary’s lazy cousin, the clueless bloke who writes for the daily newspaper, is off today. If there’s one thing the diary can’t stand (there are plenty really, but this is neither the time nor the forum) it’s working when the other fellow sits around doing nothing. So, although the diary did a great many things at the WACA, it’ll remain silent in protest (the diary notices it’s been protesting a lot — the last week featured some such — but encouragingly, there are no signs it’s being heard — always indicative of a successful protest).

Sachin Tendulkar... popular all over the world.-AP

Wednesday, January 16: Well, what have we here? Kerry O’Keefe, erstwhile Australian leggie, is the entertainment in the lunch marquee. A radio commentator and satire columnist (more palaver than satire really), O’Keefe begins with a story concerning Harsha Bhogle in the ABC radio booths. Apparently, Mr. Bhogle asks how he could be more Australian, to which O’Keefe replies, “Geez Harsha, you’re vegetarian, teetotal and intelligent. Give me something to work with.” This, on debutant Chris Rogers: “He proves you can be colour-blind, short-sighted and a squirt, and still play for Australia. So don’t you all give up on your dreams.” The diary finds far funnier O’Keefe’s snorts when he laughs at his own jokes — a sound a foghorn with adenoids might struggle to reproduce. Pure quality.

Thursday, January 17: Anil Kumble picks up his 600th Test wicket, and it couldn’t have happened to a finer man. The are few men as respected as the leg-spinner — the Australian team admires him as a competitor; Greg Chappell said Kumble was the fiercest fighter he had seen, on par with Lillee; Steve Waugh had this to say in his column: “He is not the type of player who gives you a restless night’s sleep as you ponder his threat, but he is a specialist at ploughing through your dropped guard if you relax for the briefest moment. Indian players are generally not renowned for their fitness but he is. The Australian side greatly admire the way his last over of a marathon day is bowled with as much energy as his first.” The attempt here isn’t to look to Australia for approval, but understand a great cricketer through the perspective of the greatest cricket team of this decade.

Friday, January 18: Casey Dellacqua is the woman of the moment, if these Australian papers are to be believed. The diary, to its great distress, hardly sees any of the Open, and is forced to follow it in the morning papers. The Internet, you ask? — keep in mind, dear readers, that the web is used strictly for work. Anyway, Ms. Dellacqua, whose family has flown to Melbourne from Perth, reportedly floats past Amelie Mauresmo and sheds a tear. Casey, the diary is informed, has “a taste for cricket and muscle cars and a sweetly naive way of talking.” Unfortunately, none of the papers describes how she plays, so apart from a vague image of a left-hander in a cap, the diary has nothing to go on.

Saturday, January 19: “It should be a good day, you boys might kick our a****," says an Australian fan, smiling. The diary isn’t sure if it can categorise the reactions India has provoked here. Some are genuinely happy their team is being challenged, almost everyone loves Tendulkar, but there was one disturbing guy who threatened to burn the Indian shirt if the touring side won. The guy was clearly drunk, and the diary has seen worse. Rabid following based on faux nationalism is a dangerous thing. There’s too much of it for comfort, and, as shrilly as some countries claim they are exempt, no one is.