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Diary of the 17th Man – March 6

I met the Prof for breakfast early while the spread still looked pristine. My days of salvaging dirty spoons from the yoghurt bowl with the croissant callipers are over. It’s a slippery business. Yoghurt ends up in odd places – that’s before you have to separate it from the oatmeal dust and morsels of scrambled egg suspended where it can be eaten but not seen.

The Prof chuckled, reading from the TOI “‘Was it murder or suicide in Hyderabad yesterday?” “Listen to this one!..Rajiv Gandhi Stadium resembled a ‘cricketing abattoir’ yesterday as a slew of “Australian batsmen batted like meandering Brown’s cows before meeting a swift 237-minute execution’ (Herald Sun)… ‘suicide cults have displayed more resolve’ (The Australian).”

“We weren’t mentioned?”
“No. Your test average is much as it was.”
“That’ll please Dad” I squeaked between leaves of weetbix.
“They’re lambasting the four and grinding teeth over the all-rounders…”
“Maybe it’s good” Darren remarked from the adjoining table, fresh as a dandelion “What else can they say if this continues?”
“Interview more ex-Test stars with 50 plus averages” bubbled Puff
“How long have you been sitting on that?”
“Not as long as this” came the stale retort. Table expletives deleted
“Huss said nah to a comeback…team morale down..”
“Contradicting what Cappy told them yesterday!” 
Everyone exploded.

The Freak joined in “Right next to a photo of the Coach with his mouth open, like he was blowing bubbles (or waiting for a banana), saying they’re contemplating changes.” More laughter and cracked wind.

Lucky had been at the breakfast bar for a while listening to the banter. I wasn’t sure what he was up to until he walked towards us to pour a mountain of creamy yoghurt, and about 5 spoons of different sizes, across the double spread of the TOI. The Prof. was mid-sentence through an engaging quote from former Test swinger Damien Fleming. He lifted his head and just stared at him. Lucky winked at the Prof. grinning. I waved Plopper away. He was more anxious to read if the TOI was floating his boat than clean up the mess let alone confront a volatile Lucky.

On his way out the Captain announced he would bat up the order in Mohali. He is desperate to lose the ‘perpetual rescuer’ brand. The top four hate it.

The practice session was back at the RGS in the middle. The spinners bowled to the four all day, dropping them all over the pitch – game conditions – to draw the bats forward then back. Coach called time when the in-close fielders began to grass as many as they were catching on the shins and mid-riff. Lucky went 60 balls without touching one. The next 30 floated to the slippers. The 91st he swept to backward square. The Freak caught it one-hand behind his back. The 92nd and last went into orbit.

Puff was the first off, chasing a nasty 0-shaped stain on his new yellow spandex. We watched his quivering cheeks leap across the browning turf as fast as he could manage it without shedding all decorum. He was last spotted crab-crawling up the steps to the sheds, two at a time, to escape a bunch of bright-eyed Indian school kids seeking autographs at the gate. Security eventually intervened, clearing a channel for the journo’s to get a clear view.

The Captain pulled the Prof and I aside clasping each of us on the shoulders. Can Lucky’s luck hold?

I spoke to Thea and Dad. Yes, I was having a good time. No, The Captain was not sending me back; No, no ex-player had accepted a call up… yet, and Yes, Shield and T20 players had all received a spam call up from Nigeria – some had provided bank account details for debiting match payments; others had turned up at the Qantas terminal at 4am with a bank of journo’s and TV crews.

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