From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.32 :: Aug. 11, 2011

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CRICKET / ENGLAND DIARY

A full house at Lord's

Jimmy is the seam-bowling captain, Swanny the spin-bowling captain, Matty the wicket-keeping captain, and Morgan the fielding captain. We're all leaders, says this England team. By S. Ram Mahesh.

AP

Ishant Sharma... sans the mane.

What's this the diary sees as it's stuffing itself into the escalator at St. John's Wood Underground Station? A swarm of fans descending in the other! Has the day's play been called off? Has the diary's mobile switched to sidereal time as it constantly feared — is it approaching Lord's after play instead of at the start? But even as it's considering returning to its over-soft bed in a coffin of a London room to cry its eyes out at violating the first tenet of cricket journalism (thou shalt get in before the start; caveat one: if you're an expert you can go in at lunch), realisation dawns. These poor souls haven't tickets. And there are Lord's stewards at the station's exit directing the traffic: no ticket? no point sirs, it's a full house. David Lloyd, Bumble to his fans, says he heard the queues started forming at 2 a.m. All for a Test match? It warms the cockles of the diary's craven heart.

Bumble, slighted, then feted: Speaking of Bumble, the lovable old man is in a bit of a funk at Lord's. He isn't invited to the parade of former English and Indian cricketers at lunch on the fourth day despite — as he sniffily informs everyone — having made 214 in an India-England Test, more than Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain, and Ian Botham (who were invited) ever did. Michael Vaughan takes particular pleasure in tormenting Bumble: every time he's on camera, Vaughan that is, he puts on the commemorative cap the cricketers were given. Bumble receives his own cap and an apology a day later, but he isn't mollified.

Facebook legend: Kevin Pietersen must be a Facebook legend. Everyone's a friend. Rahul's a smashing bloke, PK's a chum. Enough with the love-fest already! You're supposed to want to tear your opponent's head off you goofball not invite him over to tea and scones. And certainly not let the English and Wales Cricket Board construct headlines that read ‘Happy for PK says KP'. It's the evil IPL, the diary holds. How can you go from mugging around with a chap, shooting for an advertisement that needs the two of you topless and running your hands through your set-wet hair, looking coyly come-hither, to threatening his pet dog with bodily harm just because you're in whites not plug-ugly pyjamas that serve as mobile advertisement boards? KP knows where his bread is buttered, says one cynical journalist. In a cricket world where you are either with us or against us, he's very certainly with us. You don't tweet ‘al vida doston' (translated as ‘Good bye dear friends', flop around like dead fish while I go back to my pop-star wife) before flying out injured otherwise. Keenly aware of his audience, KP says this of the Australians when comparing them to the Indians: “It's totally different to playing Australia. There's a genuine hatred between the English and the Australians.”

Multiple power centres: Remember the good old days when every Pakistani cricketer on the field was a former captain — even the current one? Well, England is the new Pakistan. There's Straussy, who's got the Test job, Cooky who leads the one-day team, and Broady who's perfect for the hits and giggles (certainly the giggles) of Twenty20. There's also KP who has done it all. Including getting a coach sacked as captain. Wait, there's more. Jimmy is the seam-bowling captain, Swanny the spin-bowling captain, Matty the wicket-keeping captain, and Morgan the fielding captain. We're all leaders, says this England team. Pity this system doesn't work everywhere. Apparently it creates multiple power centres.

So sweet: The tea-time spread at Lord's is right out of Famous Five. Rock cakes with clotted cream and raspberry jam; custard tarts; chocolate éclairs: no wonder the dessert plates are spilling over. As are the guts of the cricket writers. What must it be like for these fit, ripped cricketers and Yuvraj Singh to be told how to play by us podgy plodders? They aren't paid those insane sums of money for nothing, you know.

On hairdos: What compels men to shed the locks they've adoringly grown? The diary hasn't the slightest idea, having maintained a neat, close-cut crop at all times, but perhaps Ishant, who appears at Trent Bridge looking like he'll be finally allowed into the Senior Conservative club, does.

“Nice haircut, sir,” calls out a gentleman in a three-button suit. Perhaps Ishant will schedule a fitting with Saville Row's finest now. A gentleman must keep up appearances after all.



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