Cricket up in the air, Down Un­der


In­dia tri­umphs at Ade­laide and leads the Test se­ries 1­0. But the morn­ing af­ter on De­cem­ber 11 isn’t about goofy grins and the lazy yawn, it is about tail­ing Vi­rat Kohli’s men all the way to Perth, where the sec­ond Test will be held. As the taxi glides to­wards the air­port, the Uber driver asks: “Where to?” On hear­ing that Perth is the des­ti­na­tion, he laughs and says: “Oh! It is al­most out­side Aus­tralia. Not sure if you know, many years back West­ern Aus­tralia wanted to be a sep­a­rate coun­try but it didn’t work out.” And he adds: “You know it is cheaper to fly to Bali from Perth, than to, say, Syd­ney.”

Tran­sit through the air­port is quick but work does in­ter­vene as the home team’s coach Justin Langer speaks to the me­dia. He talks about Test cricket’s time span and how mod­ern crick­eters should first fac­tor that. He quotes an­other rugged south­paw, Al­lan Bor­der, to drive home that point. In the Qan­tas flight to Perth, Yours Truly delves into Bill Bryson’s ‘Down Un­der’. A lady from the next seat, quips: “Lovely book but be care­ful, no chuck­les.” There is laugh­ter and then the in­clu­sive na­ture of Aus­tralian cricket comes into view. Two lads, clutch­ing minia­ture bats, are keen to get au­to­graphs from their na­tional crick­eters but they are hes­i­tant. The stew­ard guides them to Tim Paine and com­pany. In­tro­duc­tions are made; their bats are soon coated with blue squig­gles as the play­ers etch their sig­na­tures. No fuss, just a pure ac­knowl­edg­ment of a fan’s worth in sport’s value­chain. Pasta and a po­tent liq­uid brewed from grapes are con­sumed, the plane lands early at Perth and the jaunty pi­lot says: “We are quick eh, caught them by sur­prise, I guess. Let’s wait for the air­port guys to get our park­ing bay sorted. Mean­while, here is wish­ing our awe­some Aus­tralian team all the very best for the game start­ing on Fri­day.” The squad re­sponds with: ‘Hear, hear, thanks.’

The se­ries bal­ances at 1­1 but what lingers are the lousy words caught on the stump mi­cro­phones, the tele­vi­sion cam­eras that beam un­flat­ter­ing vi­su­als of Kohli’s vol­canic anger and even that need­less fo­cus on Ishant Sharma and Ravin­dra Jadeja get­ting em­broiled in an ar­gu­ment.

The old or­der changeth

Perth’s Op­tus Sta­dium is a mas­sive ed­i­fice. It’s sighted from afar, as In­dia and Aus­tralia slot their maiden prac­tice stints at the nearby WACA, the city’s pre­vi­ous venue for big­time cricket, an oa­sis for fast bowlers, and a night­mare for quiv­er­ing bats­men. There is an old­world charm to the WACA, its largely open stands help­ing the breeze ti­tled Free­man­tle Doc­tor to sashay across from the nearby Swan River. This is the ter­rain of the great Den­nis Lillee but one name catches the eye from the West­ern Aus­tralian all­time squad — Kim Hughes, fine bats­man, but also a skip­per who quit in tears af­ter con­stant de­feats at the hands of the then mighty West In­di­ans.

For­mer Kar­nataka bats­man Ar­jun Raja

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