Mild disorientation leads to a frank tizzy with the start of the Australian Open final, which is sputtering as grainy pictures on my laptop. This means I currently have live access to three contests, aside from the Ranji Trophy final unfolding before my eyes. There’s the tennis. There’s the India-England ODI on a TV ahead. Then there’s a makeshift stick-cricket match between journalists to my back. That all four are providing their own sweet audio almost leads me into a fugue state; still I choose to tune into – at least subconsciously – the entire experience on offer, doing justice, as usual, to neither.
Online fora are abuzz with Cheteshwar Pujara missing out on yet another chance for an ODI debut. Not released to play the Ranji Trophy final for Saurashtra, Pujara is widely expected to feature in the dead fifth ODI against England at Dharamsala. Imagine his shock when he finds himself warming the bench again. At least Ravindra Jadeja is getting games in Indian colours, which sort of justifies his omission from Saurashtra’s biggest match in memory. But Pujara’s – or rather the BCCI’s – case cannot be attributed to reason, quite in keeping with everything else in India’s cricket circles.
It must be akin to exam fever, what Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Shah did on the first day. Demoting himself two slots below his normal batting position on a pitch with some juice, Shah later says the move was warranted by the flu he’s contracted. Popular opinion ventures otherwise, blaming him for developing cold feet on the eve of a big test and resorting to evasive tactics to avoid being shown up. If he hasn’t already been shown up, that is.
Not everybody is as finicky as Sachin Tendulkar when it comes to sight screens, nor are the whims of the rest of mankind taken with as much gravity. Unless something blatantly distracting has parked itself right before the white tarp. Mumbai opener Kaustubh Pawar is undone by an item in red in his line of vision, and holds up proceedings until the lady in question is asked to vacate her spot. Not that it helps. Pawar departs to a tame dismissal soon after, his mind possibly still on what was once present, but what no longer remains. How philosophical is that!
Aditya Tare’s wicket is greeted with loud cheers from his home fans. Why? Because Mumbai’s favourite son is slated to bat next. The maestro comes in and struggles for 14 balls before getting off the mark, the crowd descending into an anticipatory silence each time he takes strike. The faithful are finally rewarded when Tendulkar dispatches Jaidev Unadkat for successive boundaries, an off-drive he leans gorgeously into, and then a disdainful flick, before paddle-sweeping Kamlesh Makvana for four. A sorry run out – the first of Tendulkar’s Ranji career – curtails what was shaping into an eminently watchable knock, and the master leaves prematurely to a standing ovation.