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Heads, tails, fight

The artillery comes out at the toss these days

Shane Warne at a Rajasthan Royals practice session, Cape Town, April 15, 2009
Shane Warne: Psyching out opponents since 1992 © Getty Images

The Twenty20 game obviously moves at a frenetic pace, but in the IPL the drama now begins at the toss itself. The captains' chat with the TV presenter is relayed on the PA and everybody at the ground, including the teams who are practising on the field, get to hear it. Last evening's game between last year's finalists was also a tactical game between two leaders, Shane Warne and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who sparred at the toss.

Warne went first. He said 160 ought to be a par score, before adding that Chennai don't chase well. Dhoni, who was standing a few feet away, heard him out patiently. As Warne meandered away from the pitch after his stint, Dhoni made sure he got his point across. He said the pressure was on Rajasthan to set a good target and that they would know 130-140 wouldn't be enough on this pitch, and that they would need 170-180 to put up a fight.

Some in the crowd cottoned on to the act, but the reaction from the Rajasthan Royals team, who were practicing, was interesting as well. As Dhoni went on with his repartee, which blared around the ground, some stopped their training and turned behind to look and hear Dhoni speak.

In the late 1800s, Fred Spofforth, the Australian bowler, at least once visited the dressing room of the opposition and told the batsmen how he would dismiss them, thus psyching them out. In recent years Glenn McGrath and Warne used the media to sow doubts in the batsmen's mind. Now, in the IPL, the captains seem to go at each other and at the opposition players at the toss.

It turned out to be an interesting game, with Dhoni's prophecy coming true at the end. The other match of the day too saw a very close finish.

All was well between the players by the time night arrived. The teams, especially the non-Indian players from the four teams, descended on a pub and mingled freely. They seemed to enjoy their night out in the small quiet town.

Kimberley is so small there are only six cabs in town. But there are several busy pubs and the crowds keep stretching their closing time. Some nights they remain open till the next morning.

It might be a small town, but as you would expect from a city built around the diamond trade, there are several interesting characters floating around. I meet one in the stadium. He says he used to be a smuggler of diamonds before he decided to quit. "I used to sell it to the Nigerians. Go and deliver to them at Jo'burg airport. They would put the diamonds - used to be in a gel-like format - in babies' diapers and smuggle them out. Too much risk, though, after the cops started to get smart on me."

Maybe I should dig in the hotel backyard. And If I meet Pam Grier on the return bus journey, give her one.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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