Rahul Dravid is not a man who wears his emotions on his sleeve; he would rather state his feelings in precise words and even tones, without actually displaying them on his face.
Informed that Muttiah Muralitharan had passed the 700-wicket mark in Tests, Dravid said he was not surprised. “Oh, that’s so?” the captain said. “The way he’s going, the next time you talk to me, he might have taken 1,000 wickets in Tests!”
Dilip Vengsarkar, the chairman of selectors, also expressed his admiration for the Sri Lankan wizard.
“I’ve never played him but I rate him very highly,” he said. “He’s a fantastic bowler and I’m sure he will go on to get many, many more wickets.”
On the first day of the match, seeing the young England Lions pile up the runs, Dravid must have itched to get to the middle. “It’s a lovely track, a beautiful surface to bat on,” the captain said.
However, out of the game due to a calf strain, Dravid had to be content with a knock in the practice nets. Walking away from the practice area, bat in hand, he was confronted by a crowd that shrieked and yelled at his sight. But he walked on with his customary deadpan expression, pausing only for a brief chat.
So how’s the leg now? “It’s improving, it’s much better now,” said the captain. “It was not much, actually.”
A few yards away, Ravinder Bopara’s father is also the centre of attraction, this one generated by TV journalists who have queued up to get a bite from him.
But Bopara himself is not too glad -- a few days before the game, he had evinced a desire to “come in at 500/3 and score some runs” off his idol, Sachin Tendulkar.
Ironically, it was Tendulkar who spelt Bopara’s end with a googly. But Bopara vehemently denied the rumours that he failed to read the wrong one. “No, I read it, I really read it -- pretty easily!” he says. “I just played the ball too early, and it spun too much.”
Bopara ended with a quotable quote: “I’m disappointed with the way I got out, not who I got out to -- Sachin’s my hero since I was very small.”
One man who probably was never small is David Graveney, England’s chairman of selectors. When he stepped into the press box on Saturday morning for a bit, the tiny room seemed to have shrunk.
Graveney came in with a special mission -- he had to inform the press corps that Steve Harmison had aggravated his hernia injury while playing for Durham and was “extremely doubtful” for the first Test.
“He will have it re-assessed on Monday,” said Graveney. “At this stage, he would have to be considered extremely doubtful for the first Test.”
But, Graveney said, Harmison is not yet ruled out.
Even as he spoke, India lost their third wicket, Dinesh Karthik, dismissed by Stuart Broad. The young England bowlers can bite, and it seems Harmison will not really be missed.