From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.13 :: Mar. 28, 2009

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CRICKET / NEW ZEALAND DIARY

Of sports shows

‘The Crowd Goes Wild’ is a popular television programme in New Zealand, and it’s often very funny. It features as anchor Mark Richardson (in pic), who is well past his days as a dull-dog opener. By S. Ram Mahesh.

V. GANESAN

Sunday, March 15: This is something from last week, Saturday, to be precise. The Auckland crowd, which consisted largely of Indians (or those of Indian origin), was vibrant and energetic. But after the fifth ODI ended, some ‘fans& #8217; disgraced themselves. After abusing commentator Ravi Shastri, who thankfully was in an enclosed booth, they tried getting the attention of the Indian team, which was boarding its bus. “Losers!” they screamed. Admittedly, it was only a small fraction, but this desire to gain attention at all costs isn’t healthy.

Monday, March 16: India practises at Seddon Park, and they are a most entertaining side to watch, for the skill on display is immense. And there’s all the by-play, particularly when Virender Sehwag is in a chatty mood, which is often. Sehwag’s got a succinct turn of phrase, and a ridiculous eye, for not only does he smash all-comers, he knows what’s happening in all the adjoining nets. When Zaheer Khan keeps it well outside off-stump, Sehwag wants to know if the left-armer is training him to leave deliveries. “No, I’m testing your patience,” says Zaheer. “I’ve plenty of patience for you, but for no other bowler,” says Sehwag.

Tuesday, March 17: A wonderful note is struck as the Test series is in readiness to begin. R. Kaushik of Deccan Herald and Sunandan Lele of IBN-Lokmat will have covered Test cricket in all Test-playing nations come tomorrow, joining an elite club of cricket journalists. Two nicer men it couldn’t have happened to — both have helped the diary greatly, much as they have helped most others on the circuit. M. S. Dhoni hands over commemorative medals, which the chief cricket writer of a leading daily thoughtfully procures. Unfortunately, both Kaushik and Mr. Lele refuse to answer questions on how it feels — so the diary will make it up, as it always does, and attribute to them the quote, “It’s an honour and a privilege.” There’s talk that Sony, the broadcaster, and New Zealand Cricket are in discussions to see if the start of play can be delayed by an hour. This to help viewers in India catch more of the action, but all sorts of conspiracy theories are bandied about, including the old favourite about India’s power making New Zealand bend. The 11 a.m. start stays.

Wednesday, March 18: Several times, the diary has been asked what it does on tour — as in, what’s done on a typical day — and although the first ground rule is there is no such thing as a typical day, in the spirit of public service, the diary will describe today’s activities. There wasn’t time for an elaborate breakfast, so the diary grabbed a buttered sandwich to go. The 10-minute walk to Seddon Park though Ward Street offers a slice of urban New Zealand life: roadside cafes and bake-houses; shopping malls; fusion food joints; the bus exchange. After waiting long to cross roads — jay walking is frowned on, although it’s still attempted by school kids who wear their uniforms like it’s the Versace’s Fall Collection — it gets to the ground. Entry isn’t difficult today. Several cups of tea are consumed as the game is played out. Proving the theory that most sports journalists are kids who haven’t grown up, the diary plays during the lunch break with a purloined rubber-composite ball. As the day ends, the diary gets busy. 6 p.m. for instance finds the diary in a strangely meditative mood: the milk’s run out, and the creamer just doesn’t cut it. How does one start writing without a fortifying cuppa? The press conferences are done by 7.15 p.m., and the diary decides to return to the room to finish work. Ward Street — bustling at 9.45 a.m. — is quiet. The shops have shut, and barring the odd car that has gangsta rap on its music system, there isn’t much by means of incident. The pavements are being cleaned — high-pressure water jets are directed at the crevices of the brick-cobbled pathway. Nimbly avoiding the spray, the diary begins work. It retires to bed just after midnight.

Thursday, March 19: Chris Martin is that rarely seen type in cricket these days — a truly woeful tail-ender. When he walked out yesterday with Jesse Ryder on 98, the odds that he would survive five deliveries from Harbhajan Singh were, as the saying goes, slim to none. “I was sweating bullets,” admitted Ryder, but Martin survived. Tom, as the gangly seamer is called, apparently has a good strike-rate when it comes to getting partners to three-figures. “Tom’s never let anyone down for a hundred,” said Daniel Vettori. That’s how it worked out. We got a plan for him now. Just send him in if someone needs a hundred.”

Friday, March 20: “When Tendulkar retires, I will stop loving cricket” reads a banner at Seddon Park. That’ll be a pity — both Tendulkar retiring and cricket losing a fan, although if one’s fandom is fickle enough to cease with the retirement of a cricketer, its authenticity is questionable. Anyway, Tendulkar gets to his 42nd Test hundred, and he just seems to have upped it a bit. His last years in cricket may well be his best.

Saturday, March 21: The television industry may have progressed remarkably in India, but there still isn’t a really good tongue-in-cheek sports show. The Crowd Goes Wild is New Zealand’s, and it’s often very funny.

It features as anchor Mark Richardson, who is well past his days as a dull-dog opener. What the show does really well is give what happened in the day of sport, but manage humour without it being terribly contrived. Sometimes it features a succession of in-jokes, but one soon gets a feel for it. It’s the perfect way for sports fan to end his/her day.



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