Saturday, February 13, 2010

Brightly fades the Don

That’s the title of the book written by Jack Fingleton, for me the greatest cricket writer who ever lived. Its about the famous post war series, which was Don Bradman’s last series ever, when he led the 1948 Aussies, arguably the greatest test team of all.

So a visit to the home of Don Bradman, is a form of pilgrimage to a cricket lover. I was in Adelaide last week and did something which I rarely do in business travel – took an evening off to go to the Adelaide Oval to see Australia play West Indies in a one dayer.

The Adelaide Oval is one of prettiest cricket grounds in the world. Not the barbed wire coliseums that you see in India. Not even the huge gargantuan monument that is the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground for the cricket uninitiated). A small pretty ground where you can roll on the grass near the sight screen and watch a lazy day’s cricket.

It was a day night match and I could only go after the end of one innings. But then summer evenings are long in Adelaide and it was more like an afternoon’s viewing. The match itself was a hugely one sided affair. The West Indies are no longer the cricket force of yore and Australia specializes in pulverizing anyone who’s not as good as them. But then I didn’t go for the game alone. I went to drink in the atmosphere and to listen to the ghost of Don Bradman.

Cricket is a much changed game these days. Even the one dayers are on their way out – Twenty20 is the “in thing”. In the Don’s days, men wore white. Full sleeves rolled up. The players are now garishly dressed – in red and green with huge numbers on their back and the batsman looking more like the American football hunks. The Don would have tut tutted. The fall of a wicket gave rise to weird contortions in the name of celebrations – do men behave like that in real life ?? The Don would rather have approved a cheery “well done mate”.

Batsmen these days are often wild sloggers – maybe that’s why they are more often called batters. Ugly heaves like a six over third man are met with rapturous applause. One foot is in the air and the other is pointing towards square leg. But then Ponting made a fifty in this game. He still makes those silken cover drives. The impeccable forward defence. The late cut. The straight drive all along the ground …..

As the Aussies pulverized the Windies. I looked around. Rolling on the grass were the usual Aussie types. A river of beer was flowing. Hoots at the scantily clad Sheilas. Wild yells whenever an Aussie hit a sixer. The sun was going down and it was twilight time. The grass never looked greener. The air was still. Not a cloud in the sky. You could hear the satisfying sound of leather striking willow. As if on cue, church bells tolled in the distance. Ponting just delicately glanced for four. All was well with the world. I fancy I saw the Don smile.

PS – Today is Chinese New Year – the dawn of the year of the Tiger. To all my Chinese friends – xin nian kuai le.