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The scene near Anil Kumble Circle half an hour before the game would have appealed to those addicted to chaos
November 12, 2003
Caught in the act: Adam Gilchrist hands out some severe punishment to the Indians © Getty Images
The scene near Anil Kumble Circle half an hour before the game would have appealed to those addicted to chaos. Bangalore's already-stretched traffic network appeared in danger of unravelling altogether. If you were unfortunate enough to be a pedestrian passing by, while thousands of idling vehicles belch exhaust, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were part of some hideous Nazi experiment.
The media enclosure is as crowded as the stands, hardly surprising when you consider some of the dubious characters who have made their way there. Publications which are as closely connected to cricket as the Caesars were to democracy have been granted passes, and many of the so-called writers while away time with idle chatter or leaf through the official souvenir booklet. Yesterday, I saw a United Nations Human Rights Commission employee being given a photographer's pass. UNHRC? What was he going to document? Adam Gilchrist's abuse of Indian fast bowlers?
Corporate billboards and banners are everywhere. The crowd composition also says much about the changing times. A significant number are there just to be seen, and don't give a toss about the game. They can be seen wolfing down the snacks at the restaurant downstairs, or discussing stock options in front of the whisky and beer counters set up for corporate guests. A certain school of thought says that these men and women are a necessary evil, but when you watch them, you can fully comprehend Roy Keane's (Manchester United captain) loathing of the prawn-sandwich types.
Mind you, the bulk of the crowd are fantastic, cheering everything with a spirit that suggests jingoism isn't top priority in Bangalore. Though a Krakatoa-like explosion of noise greeted Matthew Hayden's dismissal, there's a similar outpouring of emotion when Gilchrist gets to his century. A capacity crowd at the MCG would have struggled to match the standing ovation he received when he walked off after a 111 that was swashbuckling enough to keep even the low-attention-span brigade teetering on the edges of their seats.
"At least Ricky Ponting's out of form," said one wag as I waited for a cup of coffee. The scoreboard certainly suggested that - 26 from 49 balls. The carnage that followed opened our eyes. A lot of batsmen would kill for a chance to be that out of form and smashing straight sixes with utter disdain. One that was thumped with awesome power landed 20 yards to my left on the top tier, within a few feet of a lady attired in a white salwar-kameez and tricolour dupatta. By then, the flags had long ceased to be waved.
"I'm more and more convinced that the Australian way isn't for us," said Sanjay Manjrekar when we had a chat midway through the innings. "Our fast bowlers are far more supple than theirs, and don't need the same sort of training or coaching regimen. We should be playing to our strengths." He was clearly feeling sorry for Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, whose flexibility was called into action only so they could crane their necks and watch the ball disappear to all parts.
Certain placards in the crowd mentioned Kangaroo Curry. By the end of the innings, the flavour was unpalatable for most Indian fans. Maybe Indian mincemeat would have been more appropriate. Oh well, the UNHRC guy will be taking Australia to task for such gross abuses ...
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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