Today at the Kensington Oval the day was pretty much like the locals live it every day: laid back, relaxed, and not much rush to get things done. As expected, I did have a good night sleep, so much so that we (me and my mates) were all late getting up in the morning and thus arrived late to the park. However, a late start had ensured that we didn’t miss much and were actually in our seats while Praveen had just began operating the first over. By the time we settled down the cloud cover was making its way towards the ground.
Though the day lacked much of Cricketing action, in whatever little that we got, MS Dhoni pulled out another master stroke from his hat, proving what a genius leader he is. It was about 20 minutes in to morning’s session and the night watchman Bishoo was still hanging in there. Ishant was generating quite a good pace and getting nice bounce from the surface as well. It was at this point MS deployed a n unique close cordon: 4 slips, 2 gullys, a Point, a Silly Point, along with the keeper. The Short leg was the only man at the on-side, making it 7 fielders behind the stumps, all of the off-side and no one behind the bowler. After two deliveries that tested Bishoo’s reaction to “Chin Music” he moved the short leg fielder, also to the off-side, making it a rare instance of all off-side field and Ishant got his bunny on the next ball, caught by Virat at the second gully.
Praveen and Ishant Bowled well in tandem, with former applying pressure through accurate line and length along with great swing and later using nippy pace to get two scalps. Mithun was a bit erratic and Bhajji was yet to get into his rhythm when the sky started pouring down. Samuels and Chandarpaul had built a useful stand by then as WI reached 5/98, still very much in trouble. After the rains there was not much action out in the field, so the crowd was interacting with each other and also with some players who would come out. Me and my mates got our second consecutive day of fame on TV as we received a call from our buddy in USA who caught us supporting the boys in blue.
The Crowd interaction brings is also a lot of fun. You get to know the fans from different parts of the world. The young kid next to me was a die-hard Chandarpaul fan to whom the southpaw was what Tendulkar is to any of his Indian fans. There was a family who flew in from USA to celebrate their son’s graduation. Locals were generously offering us food, snacks, other goodies that they had brought with them. Of course the underlying common thread to most of the conversations was rum, vodka, or the local bank’s beer. Rum and Vodka at the cricket stadium was being consumed just like Beer and Nuts at any Baseball field.
Players were friendly too. Bishoo was seen chatting with a group of young locals for almost an hour. Sarwan, Bravo, Rampaul, and Barath joined in later. Desmond Haynes (batting Coach) actually walked into our stands and was chatting with one of his friends and was only a hand’s distance away from me. None of the locals seemed to be mobbing the players, something that would unthinkable in India. Once the game was officially called off, the Indian team came out for their practice session of soccer. They seemed to be enjoying that dearly. Praveen, MS, and Laxman acknowledge us fans in stands, almost every time we called them out. Kohli and Raina are always jovial, in fact when our stand started cheering Praveen Kumar during one of his overs, Raina turned around from third slip to check out: “who are these guys”?
The rains may have played spoil-sport in the progress of the play, however, out there at the oval, us fans had another entertaining day!!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav