From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.25 :: Jun. 20, 2009

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CRICKET / TOUR DIARY

Test cricket is still revered

The ICC World Twenty20 is a big draw, but there still is considerable focus on the upcoming Ashes Series. All the tickets have been sold out, notes S. Dinakar.

PTI

Anil Kumble is into Twenty20 cricket these days. He makes a statement about his bowling and leadership in the IPL. Kumble has also begun his stint as a television expert during the competition here.

The weather in Nottingham is cold, but the cricketing climate is hotting up. The teams, meanwhile, go through the swings in fortune.

At the reception of the Trent Bridge cricket ground, a portrait of Sir Richard Hadlee stares at you. The deeds of this sultan of seam and swing for Nottinghamshire are legend.

Certain cricketers are timeless, much like the river Trent that flows serenely besides the ground. Trent Bridge is steeped in history. It has been the venue of some immortal Test battles. There is considerable disappointment in these parts that Trent Bridge will not be hosting any of the Ashes Tests.

The ICC World Twenty20 is a big draw but there still is considerable focus on the upcoming Ashes. All the tickets have been sold out. “They disappeared like that,” says a fan snapping his fingers. It’s heartening that the sanctity of Test cricket — the purest form of the game — is being maintained in Old Blighty.

Still on Test cricket, I catch up with one of the giants of the five-day variety, Anil Kumble, close to an Indian restaurant near the team hotel. The leg-spinning giant is into Twenty20 cricket these days. He makes a statement about his bowling and leadership in the IPL. Kumble has also begun his stint as a television expert during the competition here.

He retains his sense of humour. “I am the latest addition to the Indian team you know,” he quips.

Come to think of it, Kumble would not be a bad addition. He was niggardly even as he struck during the IPL — he was the most successful spinner in South Africa — and still looks lean and mean.

Meanwhile, Sehwag is in the news even if he barely lifts a willow. During a heated press conference ahead of the game against Ireland, skipper Dhoni parries a question on Sehwag’s fitness — “The BCCI will issue a press release” is his answer — even as television channels back home flash news about the belligerent opener returning home.

True to Dhoni’s words, the BCCI press release follows within minutes. Sehwag is out of the tournament with a Grade I shoulder tear. Speculations abound. Needless doubts are raised about Dinesh Karthik, Sehwag’s replacement in the squad, being cleared by the ICC for the tournament.

The next day, the Indians blow away Ireland, but tougher tests await Dhoni’s men in the Super Eight stage.

Trent Bridge is a blaze of colour as Indian supporters swarm the ground. The Indians will not be lacking in support in London either.

Meanwhile, London is hit by a tube strike. The traffic is severely disrupted in some parts. Lord’s, though, basks under brilliant sunshine as the teams practise. “It’s a lovely day,” acknowledges the guard at the entrance.

Dhoni is more relaxed during the media briefing. He smiles, laughs and talks about cricket and life.

The Pakistan team is training at Lord’s as well. Coach Intikhab Alam is warm and friendly even as he oversees practice. There is a buzz about the Pakistani session.

The following day, the Pakistani and Sri Lankan cricketers send a strong message against terrorism — they stand next to one another in a combined line — during the National anthems.

The Indians stumble later in the day. Bravo is the West Indian hero at Lord’s. We return to cricketing weather and the swings in fortunes.



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