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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.

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”

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”

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

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