Delhi Diary - 4

The Sachin decoy, a fisticuff and a friend of Arjun Tendulkar.

The decoy exits the Palam Cricket Ground.


A flare up, unfortunately not on the field, although almost as interesting. A Services team official has a strong opinion on the work culture of sports hacks. Asked to arrange for a plug-point to charge laptops, he dismisses the request because he considers most journos to be good-for-nothing chit-chats. “You wiled away the whole morning and remember that you needed a plug-point only now?” A physical altercation is avoided as well-meaning personnel intervene, but the incident caps a most troublesome week for those entrusted with reporting on the Ranji Trophy semifinal between Mumbai and Services.

“I’ll make sure your ground gets an ‘F’ from the match referee,” hollers the offended man of letters. Another incensed opinion maker is aggravated enough to leave his place in the sun and shake a threatening finger at the causative Government servant.  This situation too fizzles out — a most unfortunate turn of events — without blows exchanged. Can’t have it all, yo!


A grey Mercedes right outside the ground indicates big things. Sachin Tendulkar is expected to be whisked out in the vehicle, as a result of which a crowd of hundreds has ringed the car, jostling for space, cameras in hand. Seeing the melee, the car glides out of the venue and out of sight, and is replaced by a white vehicle of a smaller make, the cordon of security — and the crowd — still in place. After 20 minutes or so of waiting, the growl of a motor makes itself heard in the far distance. It’s the grey Mercedes again, speeding away and out of another exit yonder. Tendulkar has left the venue, leaving the disappointed crowd of his followers leaning fondly against the decoy vehicle. Such are the requirements of fame.


It is doubtful if Ajit Agarkar was in such demand even when he was playing for India. A trip to the terrace — which doubled up as the media centre — leads to hordes of cricket lovers following the light-eyed Mumbai captain up the stairs. The 35-year-old has a hard time declining photographs from who can safely be assumed to be die-hard fans, although how aware they are of Agarkar’s debatable career returns remains in doubt. The all-rounder, who scored a crucial century in the semifinal against Services, is badgered relentlessly to pose with a posse of women, who later complain that they were “indecently” shoved and man-handled by “barbarian” media persons. With Delhi’s reputation as the sex crimes capital of India only deepening in the recent past, did they expect anything different from representatives of the fourth estate?


Fourteen-year-old Ayush Barui is over the moon. He has just managed to get Sachin Tendulkar’s autograph after four days of ceaseless pursuit. An eighth standard student of Kendriya Vidyalaya (RK Puram), Ayush is a top-order batsman in his school side, and also claims to have played age-category cricket with the most famous under-14 cricketer in history. “Arjun Tendulkar was my junior when I played Nationals in Mumbai. He is a nice guy and very talented too.” Asked if Tendulkar Jr. carried a chip on his shoulder on account of his super famous father, Ayush, whose father serves in the Indian Air Force, says, “He is just a regular guy and never made us feel that he is from a special background.”  Ayush also betrays wisdom beyond his young years. “If I cannot make it as a cricketer, I would like to become a sports writer. At least I’ll get to watch live matches that way.”

Read more Ranji Trophy dispatches by Kunal Diwan and Skandan Sampath.