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Never mind the break

The pundits have cried themselves hoarse about the time-outs, but the ordinary punters don't seem to mind them at all

1st Test South Africa v Pakistan, 26-30 Dec 2002 at Durban
Things to do during the time-out: No. 44 - read a book © Neil Lane

The cricketers don't seem to like the strategic time-outs at the end of the 10th overs. Sachin Tendulkar has said it disrupts momentum, and he has found supporters in the likes of Kevin Pietersen. Even Lalit Modi has now indicated the duration of the breaks might be reduced next season.

When you're watching the game on the telly or even in the air-conned press box, you tended to agree with them. It does look a terrible waste of time. However, when you're lolling on the grass banks or sitting in the spirits-bar at the ground, you actually quite like it.

Last evening in Centurion, I got to see what the crowd does during the breaks. They use the time to get up and stock up on beer, or as I did, walk around the ground, past the families lying around, past the little boy eating his hot dog, past the girl selling t-shirts, past a smiling father getting thrashed by his kid with a inflatable plastic clapper stick, and around the sight-screen to the bar.

You don't need a time-out to take a walk but it's more enjoyable and easier this way. Some people wander around, trying to check if any of their friends have come to the ground. Parents slide over to check on their kids playing cricket in the back. Couples meander along, hands in each other's back-pockets, to nowhere in particular. Some use the time to relieve their bladders. Even if you're really focused on the cricket, you can use the time to have a chat about the game till then.

"We don't mind it at all," Melinda, a mother of two, says. "They say the game is affected, and I guess you've got to listen to them, but we don't mind it. I like to walk around with the kids, show them different parts of the stadium without interrupting anyone else watching cricket, take them to the food stalls…" Her husband adds, "Especially, if there is just one game on, it can all get over rather quickly. This break sort of pauses the action and allows you to take in more at the ground."

Testosterone-charged youth seemed to like it too. "Look mate," said one, "you get the see the girls properly, you know what I mean?" Ah.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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