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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.

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