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Dealing with the press - the bald and the beautiful (1st November 1999, Ahmedabad)

We both woke up on time and went to the stadium on time. Perhaps the little illness that had been plaguing us was gone after all. The Kiwis batted bravely but couldn't avoid the follow on.

In bizarre fashion Sachin Tendulkar refused to enforce the follow on and came out himself and blazed merrily away. Dealing with the Kiwi bowling as though it were a one day game the Indian captain blazed away. But not for long. He was gone, the usual bits and pieces Indian collapse happened and the Kiwi openers batted out till stumps.

At the end of the day I went down to the lawns to watch the cricketers practice. After standing around aimlessly and watching a rather uninteresting practice session I was surprised to be approached by David Trist, the coach of the New Zealand team. He walks up to me and says "If you want to do an interview, I'm ready now". Hunting down interviews was hard enough, but here was this man ready and willing to give me an interview. So we spoke, not a general press conference, but just Trist and me. We meandered on a bit about the state of the match that was being played, but when I asked him about the forthcoming One-Day series the man had no doubts whatsoever. He said "It will be close, it will be tough but I'll give it to us (New Zealand) 3-2." Now that was confidence. The Indian coach would never ever make a remark of that kind at any stage of the series. The fact that he understood that I was just doing my job - the same as himself or even any of the cricketers was beautiful.

You tend to respect people who act and talk like human beings though they are celebrities and do high profile jobs. So I finished up his interview and we went to the conference hall to hear the Honorary Secretary of the BCCI Jayawant Lele and Chandu Borde talk to the press about the Indian team to tour Australia. Mr. Lele is one of those figures in Indian cricket who naturally lends himself to caricature. Standing at about five feet in 'height', bald and with the shrillest of possible voices, he commands almost no obvious respect in cricketing circles.(Someone once said "I'm so angry that I would wring his neck - if only I can find it!) He announced the team in a few minutes and then handed over the stage to Chandu Borde. Borde in standard beauraucratic fashion deflected all difficult questions and answered only the easiest of the lot. The reporter from The Hindu G Vishvanath had obviously been to a thousand such press conferences and carefully grilled the chairman of selectors. Borde was visibly disturbed as he was trapped into one gaffe after another by all the senior reporters in the room.

The Indian press conference was such a shocker after the chat I had with the Kiwi coach earlier in the day that the whole press box was abuzz with indignation at the incompetence of the Indian 'team' off the field.

With the delay because of the press conference, it was close to 11 pm when we reached our hotel. There was barely enough time to get dinner before the restaurant closed down and we drifted off to tired sleep.