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