Sachin who? and other stories
As I made my way to the Wankhede Stadium this morning, most of my thoughts centered on how Michael Hussey would bat.
It was the first time I was going to see him, Ponting and Symonds at a live game, albeit just a practice match. However, a few hours later with Shane Watson hogging the bowling I began to feel drowsy in the comforts of the air-conditioned press box.
So I decided to take a stroll and found myself in the middle of around 100 raucous fans (there were only about 500 in all) intent on proving that Indians could sledge too. Their favoured target: Ponting. "Remember 434" they chanted, "Gibbs is back" they roared. Ponting had fallen for 24, a sharp low catch at point. "It wasn't out, fight with the umpire" quipped the jeer leader, no doubt aware of Ponting's run-ins with officialdom. Someone even brought up that touchy matter of Ashes defeat last year and they chorused "Flintoff, Flintoff Flintoff".
Most Australians received a curious mixture of jeers and cheers from the crowd. Brad Hogg kindly showed them how to bowl a chinaman and was applauded like he'd hit a hundred. Minutes later he was subjected to cries of "Hoggy is a doggy". But the moment Adam Gilchrist made an appearance, the crowd adored him. "Gilly, Gilly you are the best. Gilly should be captain, Ponting resign," they cried. And when Gilchrist accepted the adulation with a casual wave of his hand, the 50-strong crowd went into raptures. After all he was Mahendra Singh Dhoni's idol. When Ponting acknowledged their presence with a smile and a wave, their jovial hostility vanished. Simply recognise their antics and they'd be on your side.
The crowd wanted entertainment and when Symonds provided just that by hoisting several into the stands, they began to concentrate on the cricket. Soon there was an invasion of school children, a majority of whom pressed close against the railing, standing on each other's toes while the rest of the stands remained empty, to get the closest glimpse of the Australian team. One kid went up to Graeme Vimpani, Australia's media manager who was sitting among the fans and talking about playing with Shane Warne and Paul Reiffel in Victoria, and asked "Where (sic) Matthew Hoggard?" probably meaning Hogg, an innocent mistake from a nine-year old.
When the Australians took the field the crowd got after Glenn McGrath in good humour. "Sachin, Sachin, Sachin," they cheered to which McGrath seemed to mime "Sachin who?" after which he acted out an edge to the wicketkeeper. Come October 29 in Mohali he'll be aiming to do exactly that.
George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo