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Mumbai's Azad Maidan early in the morning, surprisingly empty apart from eight men lying under a tree, in deep slumber. On closer inspection, we notice they are Virat Kohli, Kevin Pietersen, Chris Gayle, Saeed Ajmal, Ross Taylor, Dale Steyn, Mitchell Johnson and Kumar Sangakkara. The crack of leather on willow wakes them up.
Kohli: "What the f***! Where am I?"
Pietersen (looking around): "Oh no! I hope this is not one of those nightmares where I am one in a galaxy of stars."
Gayle (groggily): "Boy! These new-age parties can really get out of hand."
Sangakkara: "What is this place? It reminds me of a more idyllic time, when corruption was a bad word and you could still invest in good faith."
From a nearby net, four men walk towards them: Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis.
Kallis: "That's right, I'm always an afterthought."
Tendulkar: "Ugh! Someone please bring him up to the front of the queue."
Ponting: "Hey! We had a gentlemen's agreement on the order of queue. Now you'll tell me you didn't hear me when I spelt out the details."
Dravid: "Guys, can we focus on the bigger issue of why we are all assembled here?"
Taylor: "Yeah. I really don't like surprises."
Tendulkar: "Gentlemen, we have forcefully brought each of you here because today our game stands at the cliff's edge. You eight are the finest players of your teams, and ambassadors of the game."
Ajmal: "Isn't there anyone here from Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Ireland and Afghanistan?"
Ponting: "Um, they couldn't be brought here. Financial constraints etc."
Sangakkara: "Woe betide the marginalised."
Gayle: "Dude, youse a poet."
Dravid: "Look guys, Cricket Australia, the BCCI and the ECB are eating away at the game from the inside. It's time we got together and did something about it."
Pietersen: "I'm in! There is a "k" in cricket!"
Sangakkara: "In differential geometry "k" is the curvature of the curve."
Ajmal: "Are you trying to make an insinuation about chucking here?"
Ponting: "No one is making any insinuations. We are just trying to find a way to protect the game we love from these greedy administrators."
Gayle: "We could go on strike?"
Taylor: "No, they'd just replace us. Trust me I know how these conniving, good-for-nothing…"
Steyn: "Let's feed them to crocodiles."
Johnson: "Or I could just snarl at them. That would frighten them, wouldn't it, KP?"
Pietersen: "Please, I got out to you in the Ashes only because my coach was a cold-hearted fish who wouldn't say, 'Kev, it's an honour and privilege to work with you…'"
Dravid: "Hey! Is that a dig at me?"
Tendulkar: "God, why are all of you so insecure? Did you ever see me whine about the immense pressure under which I played most of my career? About the millions of adoring fans? How the country stopped to watch me bat? All the records and accolades I have collected? Did I ever complain?"
Pietersen: (mutters) "And they call me self-obsessed."
Kohli: "What if we set up our own rival team? That would teach those b*******"
Kallis: "That's not a bad idea. How do we go about it?"
Ponting: "Well, there's 12 of us here. Even though some of us are no longer in our prime…"
Tendulkar: "Why did you look at me when you said that?"
Ponting: "…we'll make a pretty formidable team."
Steyn: "So we invite other teams to play us? Why would they?"
Gayle: "Because the broadcasters would love us, wouldn't they?"
Dravid: "But we'll need to set up a rival board too. A strong administrative set-up and a strong financial base, if we are to compete seriously. How about each of us contributes 10% of our most recent incomes into a kitty?"
There's deep silence. All you can hear is the noise of honking cars, rumbling trains, construction work, hollering traffic cops, vendors, pedestrians, and other Mumbai sounds.
Sangakkara: "Not all of us are as rich as you Indians, Australians and Englishmen, you know."
Gayle: "Yeah, we should probably contribute a smaller percentage."
Kohli: "Well, then you should get a smaller salary to play for our team. And a smaller cut of the TV revenue."
Gayle: "No way. I'm just as big a crowd-puller as you are."
Kohli: "Are you kidding me? Five thousand people will turn up to watch you in the Caribbean. Five times that number will watch me anywhere in the world."
Taylor: "That's true. You should see the number of Indians out supporting their team in New Zealand grounds. Kiwi fans are as rare as a pay cheque from Sri Lanka Cricket."
Ajmal: "Where will we host our games?"
Tendulkar: "I'm sure the boys at the Wankhede will let us play at the ground. They'll do anything for me."
Johnson: "Wait. Why in India?"
Tendulkar: "Where else do people watch cricket?"
Kallis: "If you mean Test cricket, then England, Australia and South Africa. Certainly not in India."
Kohli: "This is a f****** waste of time! You guys need to appreciate what we bring to the table before you come begging for help."
Johnson: "Who's begging, punk?"
Kohli: "Who you calling a punk, poser?"
Johnson: "The punk standing in front of me who came and lost 0-4 in Australia."
Kohli: "And what was the scoreline when you visited? You think your moustache scares me. I've seen grandmas with bigger."
Dravid: "Guys, we aren't representing our national teams. We are trying to represent the game of cricket here."
Tendulkar: "That's right. Brothers, we must stand united against these forces of partisanship. This is the day we say enough is enough. This is our game, our legacy. No one will be allowed to toy with it. This is the day we fight for our FREEDOM!"
Gayle: "Nice speech. But I liked the previous one better."
Tendulkar (sighs): "See, the pressure I'm under to live up to that one…"
Ajmal: "Freedom eh? It's interesting that we are in Azad Maidan, which translates to 'Freedom Ground'."
Dravid: "Thanks. I was worried it might be too subtle."
Ponting: "Hey guys, fancy a game of cricket? I see a bunch of school kids whose spirits we can crush… I mean, nurture."
There are whoops of joy and all the players, other than Dravid and Tendulkar, run in the direction of the children
Dravid: "Well? There goes our legacy."
Tendulkar: "Nah, don't worry. Our legacies will remain intact: mine as the one whose records will never be broken and yours, er, as a great ambassador of the game."
Dravid: "Still, it's depressing, isn't it?"
Tendulkar: "You know, I quite liked Dale's idea."
Dravid: "What do you mean?"
Tendulkar (shrugs his shoulders): "Just saying…"
Newspaper headlines the next morning
"ICC board members eaten in bizarre multiple croc attacks"
"Having teething trouble with the investigation - ACSU"
"No crocodile tears from us at the loss, say fans"
"Environmentalists demand urgent medical care for crocs now suffering indigestion"
"Dravid and Tendulkar accept ICC roles; promise a better future"
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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