Monthly Archives: March 2013

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 26

Day 5 – Fourth Test – Delhi

Well, it should be Day 5, but it seems like an age since we got rolled and the tour was put out of its misery.  There are a few sore heads around this morning, especially amongst the support staff who were really cutting loose last night at the end of a tense five weeks.  Darren – team psychologist – made the terrible mistake of having a few more beers than he’s used to, leaving his judgement somewhat impaired. He kept angling for information about the location of the “after-after party” – which is strictly “players only”.  It was Rabbit who stepped up to the plate, making his only contribution of the whole tour. He whispered something in Darren’s ear, slipping him a piece of paper. Darren read it and nodded slowly. A few mintues later, he snuck out of the room, and hasn’t been seen since.

We only got Rabbit to confess at lunch time.  Instead of a complicated plan, he had gone done the simple route – told Darren to go to his room and wait for someone to ring him and let him know where the party was.  “Oops, forgot to ring him!” said Rabbit, to raucous applause from the squad.

The members of the team who are about to play in the IPL are very nervous.  There’s talk in the media that those selected for The Ashes shouldn’t be preparing for facing the skillful English swingers by playing hit and giggle on the flat India pitches. No-one wants to give up their IPL contract, but on the other hand, everyone wants to be thought of as so important for the Ashes Tour that they are asked to miss the IPL.  Every phone call is answered as if it’s from Cricket Australia, but so far, only the Captain and his dicky back will be sitting out.

Those of us who didn’t get an IPL contract – we’re not bitter at all – are packing up to return home tonight.  I saw Wicky carrying three large black plastic bags down to the incinerator room himself, shrugging off all offers of help from hotel staff. He obviously didn’t want the contents falling into souveniour hunters’ hands. Or anyone else’s.

It’s hard to believe it’s all over, and even harder to believe that I made it from being a rank outsider to actually making my Test Debut.  I even scored a few under pressure, so maybe I’ve moved up a notch in the eyes of the Selectors – both the current ones and any others who might be appointed in their place. Not that I think that they should be replaced.  Or that any new ones won’t be as good.  You get the idea.

Bring on The Ashes!

Note:  The collected diary entries of The 17th Man will be available as an ebook for kindle and kindle apps from amazon.com shortly.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 25

Day 4 – Fourth Test – Delhi

The Prof and I breakfasted early as usual. The Prof looked considerably refreshed, keen to relate how he managed to rescue his betting empire from ignominious collapse barely 48 hours ago. India was an unbackable favourite last Friday. Things were well under control until the hotel boy the Prof had recruited in Chennai reset the odds at 20:1, backing in his parents’ savings and his uncle’s trucking company for a modest tax free windfall. In one hour, before the Prof found out and closed him down, the lad had accepted USD$700Bn in bets from farmers in the Punjab, Saudi Sheiks, Gerard Depardieu (from his Siberian chalet), Chinese construction companies, and the Bank of England – anyone and everyone.

The Prof said his bankers went crazy when they realised they had guaranteed his liabilities after the Chennai Test to the end of the Tour as full partners in the No. 1 Fund.  “If I wasn’t part of the Squad I would be roasting by the Ganges” he said. “But they couldn’t touch me for fear of ending the Tour and losing everything”. The bankers paid S&P and Moody’s to rate these bets AAA, off-loading them as MBS mark IV into Cyprus, the PIGS, and to California renters saving to re-buy their homes.  Another group sold them forward to the new breed of young guns desperate for a mid-year bonus.

When the music stopped and everyone figured it out, Cameron lit a fuse in the UK and the FDIC had a minor meltdown. “Worse than a front bench walk out,” I stammered, a little confused.

“The only way to balance the books was to reverse the cycle, savers borrowing from their banks and so forth, backed by a balancing bet on Australia to lose on the fourth day, a complex conditional probability problem offered to the same punters at 25:1″

“As reasonable a bet as one could imagine at the end of Day 2… ”

The Freak joined us, hair adrift, dishevelled and sleep deprived, when the Prof left, leaving me to ponder who was in control of this Tour  – the players, the Coach, Team Management, the hotel boy, or the Punjabi farmer.

The Prof, Rocket Man, and I walked the streets of old Delhi in the afternoon steadying ourselves for the traditional end of Tour Awards dinner. The evening went off without a hitch. AB was the surprise MC. He never submitted homework during his career he said through a cheesy grin, the first of many one-liners he pumped out between drinks and the awards ceremony.

I recorded the awards on the back of Plopper’s dirty napkin.

Batting
The Bowlers’ Batsman Award: Mr Darcy, highest almost ton (99)
The Captain’s All-rounder (joint): The Freak “only Australian batsmen cannot bat in India”, and Jacka “only bowlers can bat in India”

Bowling
Most injuries caused: Rocket Man “I bruise batsmen, ours and theirs”
Most wickets: Plopper “At my best in long spells when the game is beyond reach” Ripples of polite applause
Most Expensive Wickets: Mr Darcy, “I should bat at 4″
Most pies: Gipper “These wickets don’t take spin”
Bowlers’ Award to Batsmen: “We prefer to bowl with a new ball, not face it. Do your homework.”

The Golden Hand Award: Wicky “I caught the one’s that really mattered”

General
The Players’ Player Award: Rabbit (wild cheering and kisses), the only player not to play a Test
The Bunny Award: The Captain, scalped 5 times by Jadeja. Plenty of guffawing from the XI
The Global Capital Markets (GCM) Award: Prof, for the largest intra-day rise in the UK 10yr bond rate since 2007
The Wisden Statisticians Award: Lucky, most balls faced and wickets lost without scoring a run (not even a sundry)
The Indian Hoteliers Award: Puff, most sandwiches eaten in 60 seconds at an official team function (10)
The Chirper’s Award for the Best Send-off: Plopper, for using the same word thrice in one mouthful
The Chirper’s chirping Award: Rocket man “I read Shakespeare a lot”
The Brass Bands of Australia Award (by telephone): Puff, loudest report in a public place
Most Annoying Roomie Award: Mr Bean’s matchbox Leyland P76, for crawling up Ploppers inside leg at 3am
The Coach’s Award: Darren, for his paper ‘Swimming Between the Flags: Batting on the Subcontinent under the Influence of Equine Stimulants’

The award ceremony was suspended for 15 minutes while security restored order. The girl from marketing found Darren in the back stalls, his award stuffed in his mouth next to a few lines scrawled on the wall in red lipstick. “I’d do anything for a few days off, but I won’t do that” groaned Darren. She added her own artistry before tying his shoelaces together. “Mum’s the word”.

The place was held at fever pitch (and a round of drinks) for the final most prestigious Tour award

The Times of India Award: Coach, for the best Coach to Tour India since 1984

After that we all broke wind in time to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band laughing all the while –  for although Tour player bonuses are as rare as hen’s teeth, dividends from Prof’s betting syndicate No.2 Fund in which we all have a 1/17th Man share are more reliable.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 24

Day 3 – Fourth Test – Delhi

It’s hard to know whether or not to be relieved that it was all over so quickly.  Even though there were brief glimpses today of how we could have won a consolation Test, each time they were snuffed out by a rampant India – with the ball, and then with the bat.

In spite of the on-field heat yesterday, the Indians were very magnanimous to invite us to their rooms at the end of play. It was a real eye opener – the visiting team dressing rooms had been good enough, but the home team rooms were palatial.  The BCCI had obviously decided to reward the players with a big celebration.  It was like a Bollywood set in there, with wild dancing and music – MSD told Hollywood this was just the warm-up act and urged us to stay longer. Even the stand-in Captain knew we could only take so much force-feeding of humble pie, leading us away after a polite few drinks. We really needed to lick our wounds in private. The ground staff knew this and thoughtfully refused our bus entry into the security area.  We had to drag our sorry arses and kits out past to celebrating crowd – who let us know who had won the contest with a solid round of chirping and flamboyant hand gestures.

Call Centre Brian was on the phone again. “How’s the cricket looking for tomorrow?  I haven’t seen the score…” he lied. I humoured him with “We’ll be pressing for a win. How about the Black Caps?”  What was I thinking?  He fired back with “Pretty much the same.  274 in front, 7 wickets in hand. England don’t have KP for the chase, and Boult has the ball swinging around like a dummy door in a Wellington howler.  We’re doing our best to soften them up before the Ashes. Anyway, best of luck.”

It looks like I might be stuck here until Wednesday – the flights were all booked months ago by someone who was wearing the rosy coloured glasses that made them expect the last test to go 5 days.  Even if they can arrange the tickets, the airline won’t have had a chance to stock up with the supplies they need to keep us well lubricated on the long flight home.  Under normal circumstances, there isn’t that much VB in the city, but with most of the squad staying in India for the IPL, they  should be able to arrange something.

I’ve been appointed to the committee tasked with nominating the team awards for the end of tour dinner tomorrow night. There’s a fine line to walk between having some fun together and rubbing a poorly performing team member’s nose in the fact that their career may be over. That will keep me busy all day tomorrow.

Got back to my room.  All I wanted was to have a long shower and wash away the dust. Sitting on the bed was a plucked shuttlecock.  Must have been Kohli – a good effort, I must admit.  I picked up the plucked bird, pulled the curtains aside and threw it out the open window.  It sank like a stone into the courtyard below.  I looked out to see it wasn’t alone.

Australia 262 and 164. India 272 and 4/158.
India by 6 wickets.
India 4-0

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 23

Day 2 – Fourth Test – Delhi

The Captain left for the airport early flanked by Darren and Coach and a ministerial entourage of injured masseurs trailing ribbons of antiseptic gauze from bandaged hands and swollen arms.

Hollywood called for quiet as he announced a new policy of on-field communication for Day 2 that unleashed a storm of wild approval from the Rejects, the Mohali 4, and some of the more outspoken regulars.  The ruckus drowned out the few squeals of protest from team management at the back. As the marketing girl distributed heavily thumbed copies of the Thesaurus and Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, drawing attention to highlighted one-liners for those wits with thespian pretensions, Hollywood read purple passages from Steve Waugh’s annotated supplement to the Art and Rules of Cricket. “A good session sledging pattern plays with a batter’s conscience and to the crowd.   The object is to add tension usually with oblique references to anything that irritates. Tension takes wickets.”

The squad repaired to the pool for an hour to get in the groove, while the marketing girl sat in the shade with a floppy hat reworking tame one-liners [ for example “(…), if you turn the bat over, you’ll see the instructions on the back”] she suspected the players would sideline for their own simple vocabulary when play began.

The ground was buzzing when we arrived, salivating at the prospect of a 500+ Indian total at stumps featuring a last hurrah at Kotla for TLM. It looked that way at 2/130 when things turned for us on the back of news at the drinks break that the Indian Badminton team was short 50 barrels of shuttlecocks due to a ministerial import ban imposed during the avian flu scare. The Freak related this to the Indian pair with some adjustment and familial reminders when play resumed.

Wickets continued to fall.  Plopper jagged 5 acknowledging each with the type of unique ‘how’s your mother’ salutation most confidently given when you are surrounded by 10 really tall strong blokes devoted to your well-being. Ribald send-offs like that rebound in your skull like a pinball machine every step to the gate.   Plopper was like an Irish setter off his leash – sniffing for the next wicket, howling appeals to anyone who would listen, egged on by Rocket Man and The Freak.

Puff took offense after some banter with Vijay backfired – I think he tried one of the marketing girl’s one-liners – and Vijay offered him his bat.  The crowd, sensing the amusement, began to chant “Loser, loser, loser” at us. It didn’t matter.  All the chatter combined with unplayable scooters and rib ticklers unnerved the Indian bats for the first time in the tour.

At least this is what made most sense until I learned that the Indian team and a billion of their supporters had bet big on a fourth test massacre which threatened the stability of the global capital markets and the US debt ceiling.  The prospect of losing big on a match you are meant to win upsets your radar much more than quick quips about your mother and a few barrels of feathered shuttles.

Australia all out 262.  India 8/266.

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 22

Day 1 – Fourth Test –Delhi

The Bob Kater look-alike physios were putting it away at breakfast this morning, and I assumed that meant they’d been up all night working on The Back.  Prof was looking very nervous, and not about whether he was going to be playing today.  Maybe he hasn’t been able to cover an exposure here or there overnight.

In the end, the Captain was out of the team due to a non-homework related back issue.  That meant two things.  Hollywood would be filling in the team sheet (Mr Bean helpfully offered to sharpen his crayon for him) and I would be getting another Test.  Does that make me a two-test veteran, or, as someone in the press corps said, the owner of the Baggy Green least likely to wear out from over use.

Hollywood kept the run of successful calls at the toss going, and really, that was all that was required of him apart from scoring some runs.  Instead, he did a cartwheel in celebration on his way back to the dressing room, ripping the arm of his team blazer. When he stumbled a bit on landing I thought he might have ripped his ACL as well, but he was fine.

As far as the cricket goes, it was not a good day.  There were several low scores, and of those who got a start, only The Freak managed to make it to 50.  Twitter has been alive with the idea of reversing the batting order based on form, and today will give more fuel to that preposterous proposition.  I’m kicking myself for getting out just shy of a 50 after working so hard, something Dad hammered home when he rang while I was still at the ground.

We were back at the hotel when my mobile rang again.  I answered it without thinking – there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to talk to anyway.  It was Brian the New Zealander from the call center at the telco that Warnie recommended.  We’d talked about cricket when he fixed up my phone last week, and at first I thought he was just checking up on how things were going with the phone. But no, he was ringing up to gloat about how well the Black Caps were going against England.  “We were sent in and got 1 for 250 on the first day.  How did you guys go?”

I didn’t want to engage, but I guess our 231 runs was okay if you didn’t count the wickets.  Then I thought he said “It was fun taking no wickets that made the difference.”  I was about to ask him if they were batting or bowling, but it was obvious something was lost in translation.  I’m sure Finn will strike back tomorrow.

As we need to.

Australia 8/231

 

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 21

Test eve – Delhi

“Said I one night to a pristine seer
(Who knew the secrets of whirling time)
“Sir, you well perceive
That goodness and faith,
Fidelity and love
Have all departed from this sorry land
Father and son are at each other’s throat;
Brother fights brother, Unity and federation are undermined
Despite all these ominous signs,
Why has not Doomsday come?
Who holds the reins of the Final Catastrophe?” Mirzah Ghalib (Urdu Poet 1797-1869)

The fortune-teller uttered not a word more, lapsing into some sort of transcendental union. “An Urdu poet…what the hell does that mean?” whispered Rocket man.  The Prof. pushed his cap back across his curly mane “4-0 for sure”, thinking harder about the overnight message from his banker than unraveling hidden forebodings from a long retired mystic.  “I’m more comfortable with the steady meter of Shakespearean sonnets” Puff incanted as they left.  The cool night air stilled further banter, wrapping each of us in our own thoughts.

The team meeting late in the afternoon focused on the three C’s: Commitment, Capability and Composition.  Commitment to winning 15 sessions.  Capability to carry net form to the middle (of the bat). Composition to “swim between the flags” – don’t do anything stupid before you get to 10 or at any other time.  The Captain then gave an update on his back.  He could balance on his midriff like a rearing cobra – at this point Coach’s temple started throbbing as if in nuclear alert – but he was not sure if he could bowl.  We oozed sympathy for Hollywood, given the obvious bulge in The Captain’s back and obfuscating press references from team management about his form and leadership capacity.

The unnatural parallels to Australian events add spice to the pre-Test tension.  Four Condemned have been relegated to the back benched awaiting reinstatement, the incapacitated Leader is protesting good health although she has more knives in her back than a fifth day pitch has cracks, and The Future (an accidental tourist?) is leaning against the pillars of September to catch up to the past.  Is this a vision or a waking dream?

Hollywood wrapped up the session leading us in solemn prayer.  As befits this city, which has been ransacked and rebuilt so many times over the last 2,500 years, he paid homage to every form of religious devotion.  It was evensong by the time we finished rubbing our eyes and reinstating our pulses, as Coach cleaned up the Oija board – it had a thick join where The Captain had broken it early in the Tour.  We joined shoulders moving in and out in a square dance, knocking hips, elbows and the occasional head to the martial cadences of the team song.

The Prof walked out with Gipper, arm in arm.  Gipper clearly had been holding something back.  “This reminds me of King Lear Act III, Scene II.” “Huh,…yes. Indeed!” Prof replied recalling the scene “King Lear, with the Fool, in a storm.”  The bowlers behind guffawed adding a slight tailwind to Gipper’s spirited recitation:

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!”

The Captain, Hollywood, and Puff, a media scrum in tow, went to the Ferozeshah Kotla to inspect the wicket declaring it to be a typical weary end-of-season dust bowl with more under-surface fissures than a hot springs – “a fine batting wicket for three days” Puff was reported to say.  “Do you support Hollywood” a precocious reporter fired “Unreservedly.  On my honour” spoke The Captain.

One thought occupies every waking minute: Can we win at the Kotla?  I imagine the Leader is praying for rain in September as much as Coach is praying The Captain is fit to play tomorrow.  Frankly, I put more store in the pocket-sized anthology of Ghalib’s poems I picked up at the bazaar.

 

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 20

The phalanx of physios looking after the team has been bolstered by three new arrivals from Australia, who were waiting for us when we arrived in Delhi. The Prof has a theory about why they are dressed up to look like Bob Kater, but he refuses to share it with me.

There is a round the clock roster of them working on the Captain’s back – he hasn’t been off the massage table since we got to the hotel, apart from fronting a news conference to say he was hoping to be right to play.

It seems natural that the existing Vice will captain the team if needed, but the whole issue of who will be playing in Friday is still up in the air.  With The Reject Club performing with some distinction when they got a run replacing The Condemned in Mohali, the manouvering to impress the Captain (who’s horizontal) and the Coach (who is trapizoidal) in their capacities as selectors is on in earnest.  Gipper in particular is running an enthusiastic campaign, but Prof’s pretty sure he won’t get enough votes to get his deposit back.  The team spirit is improved, but the individual insecurities are coming to the fore.  The Freak has no worries about his spot in the team, but Mr Darcy, Mantis and Rocket Man are all keen that a) there are three quicks in the team and b) they are one of them.  The good natured competitiveness is being taken out on the batsmen in the practice nets, and I’ve got the bruises to prove it.  Lucky was felled by what the late and great Tony Greig would have called a “norsty delivery”, and took no further part in procedings. His parts were subjected to ice therapy, and there will be no procedings there for some time.

When we got back to the hotel, I passed one of the physios in the hall.  He was off to have a break, rubbing his throbbing muscle-bound digits, having been subbed-off from duty on The Back. Trained not to give anything away under scrutiny, he was stoney faced, but I did manage to get out of him that, unlike in Canberra, there were no knives in the Captain’s back.

Test Eve tomorrow, and 0-4 is looming.  Something’s gotta give.

 

What’s Plopper’s theme song?  Vote now on Facebook.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

 

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 19

Losing a third test match (or falling just short, again) by six wickets at the end of the 4th day of play, when you score 400 by midday on the 2nd day, is hard to fathom.  I expected harsh words from home this morning and was not disappointed.  Dad accused me of swinging the bat like a fairy’s wand spraying curry dust everywhere to no effect, an opening salvo in what became a Shakespearean soliloquy that contained all the spice but none of its linguistic tenderness.

“You are in the Australian side, son. It’s a badge of honour YOU need to take seriously…”

Thea was friendly, but cool.  Even non-cricket lovers expected better.

The Freak said this is rock bottom. “The GFC we had to have”.  His Dad has refused to speak to him despite his 5 fer.

Gipper reckons you can’t understand it unless you are playing.  His Dad sold up yesterday and moved interstate.  He lost it when a load of old cricket balls was dumped on the front lawn overnight.  The pyjama wearing crowd that congregated at daybreak looked like the second day of a marathon petanque festival.  Mum fronted the journo’s who turned up later to say her son was a great boy, really.  That was the last straw.

Everything considered, the mood in the camp is very up-beat.  As The Captain reported, there are many, many positives.  We can take a swag of wickets (9/200) when the pressure is off.  We just need to bust the 250 run partnerships early on.   The Condemned have been freed.  Lucky is back scoring well through slips.  And it’s the year of the Snake.

Coach offered his analysis of the match at the team meeting, to which we listened attentively because we love him.  He kept it brief recognising that the bell for recess was about to go. “Bowlers scoring more runs than the top 4, again.  Top 4 wanting to bowl, again.  Spinners taking no wickets, again. Only a few oil patches amongst a sea of positivist plenty”, he said.  “Oodles to work on before Delhi.”   Coach released the marked homework.  No surprises here.  The Captain failed and had to write 100 lines about gold and ducks, which he delegated to Hollywood – after all, that’s what the Captain’s aide is for – as he raised his hands like Caesar for quiet.  He had received a note from MSD requesting us to join the Indian team for afternoon drinks.  Knowing this might be a sensitive point, he wanted our views.  Were we up to it?  No unease at all – all proper smiles and breaths of wind.

Drinks was an elaborate affair.  The India top six had showered and were in engaging spirits titillated no doubt by the prospect of slipping in a few kind words amid the diplomatic chatter.  Dharwan talked us all through his 3 or 4 balls of nervousness before he got into his natural game.  “I was in no hurry” he smiled, swinging a hand around Puff’s waist “no strategy…I was just middling it.”  Puff smiled back, a hand around a shoulder “I’m in no hurry either.  How is your hand? Can I show you how to dive properly?”  Across the room, The Captain and MSD were deep in conversation, MSD very animated as he explained his approach to homework.  “I drop the work bit,” he said.  “It’s still about respecting your home, your honour, your sponsorships, respecting your boss and his boss’s boss… When we lost 4-0 in Australia, the homework was only to find a faster way home. We also placed calls to the pitch curators. The BCCI did the rest organising as many tests here as they could to let our averages recover. Cricket is a big industry.  It’s a 20 year career here.  TLM is still a brilliant Harvard case study. I see you spinners and ours are talking”, pointing to a gathering of 6 on the patio.  “There are no secrets in our camp.  Spinners learn to spin on hockey pitches; bats learn to bat with a ball and stump” he said winking.

The Prof and I occupied our time moving in and out of these conversations, Prof taking bets mainly from the Indian spinners on behalf of MSD and the top 6 (TLM apart) on the prospect of a 4-0 sweep, prompting another security-escorted trip to a local bank.  As the hazy sun began to dance above the Chandigarh skyline – to be frank we were all at that stage – The Freak and I nipped away to put our finishing touches to the Indian bus with spray paint, animal glue, and a bunch of tacks from the hotel boy.  Nothing like revenge.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 18

Day 5 – Third Test – Mohali

The match dragged on to the inevitable result, with a slight hint of drama near the end masking the fact that we had managed to throw this one away in under 4 days of play. Coach was encouraging when we came off, saying we fought well at the end.  “Pity about the start and the middle,” Prof said under his breath. He took his whites off and scrunched them up in his kit. “No point in even having these washed. The Condemned will all be back in next match.  Where’s that Reject Club t-shirt?”

The LBW stats for this series are a bit mysterious, given how many straight balls Plopper and Gipper have attempted to slip in.  One thing the umps haven’t said to either side is “spinning too much”. Make of that what you will.

There is a rumor going around that you have not been able to get a business class seat on a flight to anywhere near Delhi for days.  The Condemned Who Is Not Firing Blanks is on the way back with his entourage, which will be a relief to us all.  Apart from that, apparently every player who thinks they’re on the fringe of test selection, and is not playing in the Shield final, is trying to get to Delhi so they can send the selectors an email saying “I’m here on holidays if you need me.”  The only thing that prevented an unseemly rush to Sydney airport at the end of the Blues v Redbacks game was that the game finished early, so the Blues players had to wait until the other games had finished to see if they had done a Bradbury into the Shield final.  That and the fact that their fringe players are already in the squad, me included.

I guess one thing we can be thankful for is that there are no pollies on their way over here to catch a publicity shot with us being presented with the Border Gavaskar trophy.   They won’t even be sending a junior ministerial assistant to the airport to meet us at this rate, unless their polling indicates a large degree of sympathy for us among swinging voters in marginal seats.  Judging by the emails and chat on twitter, there would be more votes in gleefully dancing around on our graves.

No-one is game to say it out loud, but there is a feeling that that was as close as we’re going to get, on a pitch that gave just a little help to the quicks but with Rocket Man on detention.  Back to playing in dust on Friday by all accounts.

India by 6 wickets

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

 

Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 17

Day 4 – Third test – Mohali

Post-it MarilynCoach and Warnie facilitated a  structured ‘6 Thinking Hats’ discussion this morning over breakfast  on the topic “Dismissing the Men in Blue”. The squad split into genome profiles: bats, ball-ers (sub-profile spinners), and Rejects.  Team management sent an apology  – they were at a spin class.  When we finished, the front wall was covered in multi-coloured post-it-notes.   Warnie then expertly re-arranged them as a twin pair of floating jocks, drawing on his recent study of pointillist painting in Paris, just to hold our interest.  According to the flyers on our seats, his new briefs had taken hold, prompting him to deliver monographed packs of ten to each of the Men in Blue.

After much discussion, he labelled the first pair  ‘Seriously’, the second pair ‘Man Overboard’.   ‘Seriously’ was conventional yet seemed to shape like a sine wave with a higher thigh cut and deeper slung trough.  I took this to mean greater certainty of outcome yet more difficult for the XI to execute.  The green and white notes were brief, exhorting the bowlers to lift it, swing it, cut it, spin it, catch it, leg it.  The red and black splotches in the trough showed no one was up to another wicketless session.  Yesterday, the press reported spikes in call center traffic from the wives and girlfriends at the PCA ground to check income protection policies and disability payout rates.

The second pair contained the X factor fueled primarily by witticisms from The Freak, Mr Darcy and The Reserve.  Apart from unsettling the Men in Blue with a really hot samosa, tampering with their kits or the ball, or using more subtle psychological terror (sledging, shadowing, mankading, underarming), the consensus was depressingly simple.  “Is that it?” Puff mumbled.  “Don’t think 400 is ‘high performance’.  It’s 800 on this pitch” shot back Coach.  The rumble was on after that. Coach emerged at various points trying to get Darren’s attention, his shirt in tatters, before he was sucked back into the melee. It ended as quickly as it began, by my reckoning as soon as Coach’s pink boxer shorts saw the light of day. The Captain blew his whistle, leading the team onto the bus single file, in the right pressed strip, with not a word to the underage journo’s or the paper boy they were hounding for a quote.

Airing team grievances seemed to work. India was skittled for a comparatively modest 499, TLM, MSD and the spin stable put in their place by simple steady bowling. The Freak shared the applause at the change of innings. His new combination doosra, carrom, in-swinging out-swinger slider (the Bobble Ball) that he crowd-sourced via the paper boy at the Hotel seemed to do much of the damage, although it was clear that the bowlers had all worked hard to give Lucky plenty of game time early in the second dig.

The dressing-rooms were chock a block between showering bowlers trying to slip soaps into spare kits and the top 6 padding up, while waves of dirty water sloshed underneath like a Newfoundland tide.  The Captain had been off earlier – a ‘back complaint’ – as a result of which he was ‘unsuited’ to bat at 3. Lucky struck pay dirt at long last, managing to cheat the percentages to score healthily behind the wicket for a breezy 50. The Men in Blue led by the man with the ‘tash’ and ‘the fastest deb test century’ made an honour guard to celebrate. He came off the ground smiling uncontrollably like a Cheshire cat. The dressing-room door was locked and boarded up. A sign, hanging by a rusty tack, read “Too late”. We were giggling inside with party hats, cupcakes and balloons expecting a bit of fun.  It scared the devil from us when he strolled through the barred door hands apart as if he walked on water.  The Freak said he looked like KP, the English firebrand and essayist.

The Prof has worked out how to use the skin fold calipers.  We should get a sensible result for this test.

Aus 408 India 499 Aust 3/75

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© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley