How does one control an excitable, fanatical bunch of fans, roused to a frenzy by the continued glimpse of their gods — and their inability to commune with them through touch or word?
There’s not much you can do, it seems, without getting physical. India’s fans at Leicester have practically laid siege to the pavilion area every day at play’s end, eliciting increasingly desperate exhortations from security officials to ‘go home’.
Every day, even as the Sri Lankan players are allowed to cool down on the ground, unmolested, the Indians have had to be escorted across the turf, surrounded by beefy security men, to the team bus.
On Saturday evening, officials repeatedly announced that the team wouldn’t leave as long as there were people on the ground — the stragglers did not budge, determined to catch a glimpse of the stars. Finally, the players had to be taken away in a CIA-style getaway, secured in a ring of securitymen!
Dhoni learns from Nixon
MS Dhoni on Sunday got further lessons in the art of gathering the swinging ball — Paul Nixon, the former England wicketkeeper and currently the Leicestershire gloveman, spent at least half-an-hour with the Indian in the morning.
Nixon, armed with a racquet and tennis balls, fired the balls at Dhoni, forcing him to move from side to side. As Dhoni gathered the balls, Nixon kept on giving him tips on the correct method of collection. The emphasis seemed to be on not taking one’s hands too far away from the point where the ball was collected — Nixon reiterated through the session that it was imperative to bring the gloves back towards the wicket in a reflex motion.
Dinesh Karthik had kept wickets on the first two days of the match against Sri Lanka A, but midway through the morning session, he made way for Dhoni. Since the lessons were imparted in the morning, the results of the Nixon effect was really not visible — Dhoni kept mostly to the spinners. But maybe at The Oval, we’ll see all that advice bear fruit.
Kumble meets his master
Jack Birkenshaw, the man who was Anil Kumble’s first coach at Leicestershire, dropped in on Sunday morning, advising and chatting with the Indian leg-spinner at nets.
“When I was the Leicestershire manager, I signed Anil as my overseas player,” Birkenshaw later said. “I’ve enjoyed working with him, I want to see him bowl well.”
Birkenshaw said that he had met the veteran leg-spinner on Saturday, and Kumble had “asked me to come in and have a look”.
“And he looks good, he looks good!,” chuckled Birkenshaw, who played five Tests for England in the role of an off-spinner who could bat a bit.
Kumble bowled a total of only 20 overs against Sri Lanka A, going wicketless. So what was Birkenshaw focusing on at the nets? “Anil’s an aggressive spin bowler, and he wanted me to see if he had the same level of energy he had when he was playing here,” said the 66-year-old, who now coaches Durham.
“There will be more bounce for him at The Oval, and that would suit Anil well,” he added.
“And we’ve been working on a few minor alternations to his googly, trying a few different things,” Birkenshaw said, adding that he hasn’t seen much difference in Kumble over the years. “He’s trying a few different things, which could help him pick up more wickets.”
Finally, how does he account for the fact that 17 years after his debut, Kumble is still the premier spinner in India? “That means he’s a great bowler, but it also means there are not enough spin bowlers in India,” he said. Birkenshaw has a suggestion to remedy that, which at least he believes is the perfect thing to do: “It might need me to come over and do some coaching in India!”
Not exactly music to the ears
Before action begins in the morning and during intervals in play, young schoolgirls in colourful clothes have been entertaining the crowd with song and dance. The dances are a blend of classical steps and Bollywood jigs, with a bit of aerobics thrown in. The choice of songs from Hindi films, is a bit raunchy — Choli Ke Peechhe Kya Hai seems to be a favourite. This number is practically dead and buried in India, but here they seem to be clinging to it for some reason.