Viru's back

Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar particularly enjoy Amit Mishra's stint of batting, which contains the woolliest of wallops. Mishra has the last laugh, however, making much more than what Sehwag scores in the warm-up game.-AP

The messiah has arrived. Virender Sehwag, we've missed you. He's his usual self in the nets, whistling, singing old Hindi numbers, ribbing Gautam Gambhir. Not even a ear problem — he reportedly has only partial hearing in one ear because of the after-effects of medication — can dim his spirits. By S. Ram Mahesh.

So why exactly did Ian Bell do what he did at Trent Bridge? “Cos they're all mad,” says the gentleman who mans the press-box doors at the ground. “They're all blooming mad. He's a professional cricketer. What's he walking off for?” Bell says after play that he thought everyone was off for tea. The thing gets interesting when the detectives are called in. Was it tea? Did the umpire call “over” or did he merely begin to hand the bowler's jumper back? Graeme Swann reckons it was tea. He had begun eating a cheese sandwich: ergo, it was tea. Fair point, Swanny lad. One can always count on him for some sense. He was always that way apparently. The diary runs into a chap who claims to have kept wicket to a 14-year-old Swann for the Northampton Saints. “He was quite good then. Smart lad. Batsman who could bowl a bit. Now he's gone the other way.” The chap, squat and stubbled, refuses to give his name — “I'm not important mate” — but he's wearing the club shirt. ‘Keepers are a lovely lot; they're known not to let the facts get in the way of a good story, however.

Scary dude

Even at his nicest, Wasim Akram is one scary dude — his craggy face easily creases itself into a fast-bowler's snarl. He's taller, bigger, and broader than he appears on the telly, and that's something, for he towered over most of his team-mates. How does he fit in the commentary box? Well, perhaps the diary exaggerates. Ravi Shastri is the same height. But he tossed up left-arm slows; he didn't bowl wickedly quick with a liquid whip of the left arm. Akram is scarier than a clown at a house of mirrors (What? Like that never scared you. Weird, warped clown reflections have tormented many). But when Akram sees the diary pick uneasily at its peas, the milk of human kindness overflows. “I used to have a bottle of Tabasco sauce at all times in my locker when I played at Lancashire,” he says. “Pour it all over and you can eat anything. Salt alone is not enough here.”

Attention please!

The diary keeps posh company, but neither its indubitably august presence nor that of two of India's most widely-read journalists can get someone to take our order at Northampton's finest Indian-cuisine restaurant. M. S. Dhoni is in the building. The hotel staff are falling over themselves — at one point, four of them carry one, yes one, napkin to the table and place it appropriately. The enterprise takes a mere 10 minutes. Don't lynch the diary if these facts aren't entirely correct. It had its back to the scene, and got its information from the hoary journalists mentioned above. Like always.

Hit and win

The messiah has arrived. Virender Sehwag, we've missed you. He's his usual self in the nets, whistling, singing old Hindi numbers, ribbing Gautam Gambhir. Not even a ear problem — he reportedly has only partial hearing in one ear because of the after-effects of medication — can dim his spirits. The diary is reminded of a practice session in Cape Town, when, thoroughly bored, he told the net bowlers they could have his gloves if they hit him on the pads. Sehwag eventually got bored of the game as well — he was too good for any of them. All of a sudden he missed a straight ball, smiled, gave the kid — who was the youngest at the session — his gloves, and walked away, saying, “Tomorrow you have to hit my helmet”. He and Sachin Tendulkar particularly enjoy Amit Mishra's stint of batting, which contains the woolliest of wallops. Mishra has the last laugh, however, making much more than what Sehwag scores in the warm-up game.

It isn't fair

Sports journalists are snidely seen — unfairly, the diary protests — as overgrown fans, armchair critics who haven't done an honest day's work. No truth in that. Why, the diary stands for half an hour in spitting rain waiting for details of the Northamptonshire squad. Which never comes because the bosses at the county have gone on a golf holiday. And you thought the biggies at the BCCI were the high watermark of professionalism. No word on the format of the game either. At the indoor nets, a kind lady, who has her hands full dealing with a Jamaican cricketer who claims he trained Chris Gayle, says they'll probably make it up on the go — “it's just a practice match innit?” The Jamaican is adamant — he wants to bowl to the Indians. “They no be wanting lovely lollipops. They be wanting good quality bowling. I gave that to Gayle. He's my boy, Chris. I trained him, man, I trained him.” The lady rolls her eyes, shoos the diary upstairs, and returns to work. There's a lot of it with the bosses off swinging clubs.