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And other glamorous outings for a reporter covering the Under-19 World Cup
August 30, 2012
Had gone to watch New Zealand practise ahead of the semi-final against India the previous day. Struck up conversation with a man watching them train from outside the nets. Turned out to be Kim Littlejohn, only a very important man in New Zealand Cricket. Was nice to put a face to a name. Talked about challenges facing cricket in New Zealand. One of the few teams without a sponsor logo on their shirts.
New Zealand captain Will Young had talked about working on his fielding while training indoors during the winter. Takes the catch of the World Cup, flying through the air at mid-on to dismiss Prashant Chopra.
Kamal Passi has become a crowd favourite. "Passi, Passi," they shout as he walks in to bat in the semi-final. Slogs his first ball down the ground and is caught. "No worries, Passi," they shout. "No worries" - they say that a lot in Australia. Hakuna Matata.
School uniforms in Australia are lovely. See kids troop around in the sunshine wearing polos, shorts and a hat. Remember the days of wearing trousers and shirts in the unforgiving Madras heat. And canvas shoe soles that couldn't keep out the heat of baking tar.
Australia are training at Brothers Cricket Club in the silent suburb of Thuringowa two days before the final. It's a large field bordered by a white picket fence with a clubhouse. Immaculately maintained. Wonder if that's routine practice or because the facilities are being used for the World Cup.
Bump into Matt Horne, off duty and in plain clothes, on Palmer Street. Stops to have a chat about yesterday's semi-final and says a reporter quoted him as Chris Harris. Laughs about it.
First proper night out in Townsville and it's at the Yacht Club. A journalist who is late rings another at our table and says he's held up because he's been trying to get hold of Ian Chappell. Ian has been sitting at the next table, five feet away, for the last hour. By the time 10CC's "We don't like cricket, oh no, we love it" plays later in the night, everyone's quite jolly.
Have been asked to be part of the panel to pick the Player of the Tournament. Go to a meeting with match referee Roshan Mahanama and umpire Paul Reiffel at the Holiday Inn on the eve of the final. Roshan calls Paul "Pistol". Realise they played against each other in the final of the 1996 World Cup. Roshan won that. Paul won the next, three years later. Feels a bit odd to be shortlisting the Player of the Tournament with them when all I've won are block-cricket tournaments in college.
The final. Grandstand is full, tents pitched all along the grass banks, about 2000 people at Tony Ireland Stadium. The atmosphere is passionate and friendly, the air full of rival chants from the Indians and Aussies. The Indians are better equipped, with drums.
William Bosisto does it again: 87 not out after Australia are 38 for 4. A second meeting to finalise Player of the Tournament is a short one. Bosisto wins the prize, but Unmukt Chand wins the day.
Delirious celebrations after Smit Patel hits the winning runs. Shirts drenched in fizzy soft drinks. Try to get coherent reactions from wildly excited Indian players. Leave Tony Ireland Stadium at 9pm for the last time like I did the first time - after getting locked in. Go to Flinders Street to see how the Indians are celebrating the night of their lives. They have 9am flights the next day.
Suddenly, Townsville is empty of the people I've been seeing and meeting for the last two weeks. Feels strange, like the morning after a wedding and I'm the last guest to leave. I'm restless to leave too. One final day of stories to write. The home stretch is the hardest. Take a walk along The Strand in the evening, aware that I will probably never be here again.
Tomorrow, Castle Hill will be climbed, 17 days after seeing it for the first time.
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