On the third day of the second Test match the Criclnfo team was close to being eliminated by a severe bout of flu. Both Duane and I had long conversations with each other that sounded approximately like this:
Duane: Cough Cough sniff!
Anand: Sniff Cough Sniff Sniff Cough?
Duane: Cough sniff
Anand: Oh! Cough sniff!
Finally we mustered up enough courage to head to the ground and do some skeletal reporting. Surprisingly we managed to reach the ground in time and watch the action. The only action at the ground was provided by the Kiwis. An Indian batting line up with Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly in the middle order could muster only 118 runs in more than 70 overs. Dravid's excruciating 19 off more than 2 hours proved to be a good cure for insomnia.
Since October 24th was World Polio Day (Wouldn't' World Polio Eradication Day' be more appropriate?) Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble as responsible celebrities helped in spreading the message. The duo administered vaccination drops to the many children present at the vaccination booth just outside the Green Park stadium. Good to see Indian cricket stars using their publicity for things other than selling colas and credit cards!
The match progressed well for the Kiwis who fought back and kept the Indians on a tight leash. For the various journalists in the press enclosure the day proved harder than most. With the Indians playing without an obvious plan or application, the game just drifted on and on. At one of the breaks Ranjan Madugalle, the match referee came down to the press enclosure and regaled us with tales of old. A strapping character with lively twinkling eyes, Madugalle enthralled onlookers with his anecdotes of his tour to England as captain of the Sri Lankan Test team. As a match referee, Madugalle has won the respect of the cricketing fraternity with his consistency, decisiveness and clarity of thought. It was interesting to see a jovial, almost garrulous side of the same man.
Kumble livened up the proceedings at the end of the day by snapping up three quick wickets. From the beginning of this tour an argument has been raging between Duane and me about the wisdom of including a certain Mr. Mathew D Bell in the Kiwi Test team. The utterly irresponsible shot he played just before close of play opened up the flood gates for Anil Kumble. What it also did was give me the upper hand in the argument!
At the press conference after the match, journalists were once again treated to the Indian camp's reluctance to the Tendulkar talk to the press. Kapil Dev turned up and explained that the Indian captain would be available for comments after the match. In contrast Fleming held fort with great poise when subjected to a barrage of questions. The New Zealand captain has won many admirers among the press with his candid responses to questions.
We returned to our room and Duane had enough of the action. He sprawled out on the bed (As well as he could given the fact that the bed is about six feet long and he measures six feet four from head to toe!) and declared that he would remain in that position for a while to come.
Once again it was a return to the one Internet terminal available. And as luck would have it, connectivity was even worse today. There was no way to even check email. After a fruitless one and a half hours of dialing and disconnecting I retired to VV Krishnan's room for the evening. VV as he is known amongst us let slip a CD of Dire Straits with Mark Knopffler belting out all my favorite numbers. What a joy it was to discover Dire Straits in the city of Kanpur! The ace photographer from The Hindu began with stories about his various trips abroad covering sports events and the evening just flew by. At midnight after a quick dinner at VV's room I headed back to my own room.
Few things are more surreal than sitting at the back of an open top cycle rickshaw in a place like Kanpur after midnight. On a day where dominates the cloudless sky, you half expect the rickshaw driver to look up, howl, grow fangs and....