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One fan, wearing a You Indians Give Us the Runs T-shirt - it's a must-have if you're prone to racial stereotyping - grudgingly admitted that the expected walkover might not materialise, "Not like the English last summer anyway"
December 5, 2003
Living on a beer: An Australian fan with the staple diet during the rain delay
On the bus over to the stadium, several Australian fans were reading the Brisbane Courier Mail, which asked the question, "Indian Summer Over?" There's much to admire in Australian cricket writing - indeed, contrary to what the English think, the best cricket writing now comes from down under - but there's also an ugly triumphal streak that is wholly unnecessary for a nation famed for its athletic prowess.
You can forgive the English their trumpets and fanfare because they've been useless since Ian Botham's halcyon years, just as you can forgive the Indian media its Tendulkar hosannas - after all, readers that have to endure the performances of mediocre teams need something to cheer them up. What excuse do the Australians have? There's enough to celebrate about their own record-breaking team without putting the boot into the opponents. And when was the last time a series or summer was decided by 62 overs on a rain-hit day?
The Indian players weren't taking the papers too seriously though, and were in a relaxed mood as they killed time during the first rain delay. A couple of the batsmen made better use of the time, getting John Wright to have a go at them with the bowling machine. Mind you, it'll take some fine calibration to get any machine to replicate the havoc that Jason Gillespie's likely to create on a greenish, moist wicket.
With rain decimating such vast tracts of the day's play, it was story-telling time in the media enclosure. Sunil Gavaskar's impersonations of Kris Srikkanth's inimitable batting style were closely watched by Geoff Boycott, who pithily said, "that nutter would never make my all-time best team".
Outside, the rain continued to come and go, while fans waited patiently for autographs to be signed on bats, clothes and notepads. Matthew Hayden stretched himself out on a bench to read Lance Armstrong's inspirational It's Not About the Bike, while Steve Waugh - unintentional foot onto wicket notwithstanding - came out to oblige a mini throng just before play resumed.
In the Indian players' balcony, the smiles were back on faces, and there was a real intensity to the warm-up that followed. Both Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh twirled their arms over with Bruce Reid donning the catcher's mitt, but it was Reid's latest protégé - Zaheer Khan - who cleaved through the Australian batting line-up when action replaced speculation.
Zaheer wisely steered clear of any fighting talk at the press conference that followed, where John Buchanan was grilled relentlessly about the Damien Martyn-Steve Waugh run-out fiasco. There were also uncomfortable questions to answer about Brad Williams, who had gone back to Perth - for a Pura Cup game - and mouthed off about how he would have been in the team had he bowled left-handed, like Nathan Bracken. All may not be wine and roses in paradise after all.
One fan, wearing a You Indians Give Us the Runs T-shirt - it's a must-have if you're prone to racial stereotyping - grudgingly admitted that the expected walkover might not materialise, "Not like the English last summer anyway", and then consoled himself by joining his mate in a rendition of the Beer Prayer. For those unfortunates who've never offered obeisance to the Hops Gods, it goes something like this...
Which art in barrels
Hallowed be thy drink
Thy will be drink
(I will be drunk)
At home as I am in the tavern
Give us this day our foamy head ...
Forever and Ever
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India. He will be following India throughout the course of this Test series.
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