The Red Cross was nearly summoned to the Belfast Hilton due to a medical emergency on Monday. Well, that's just a joke. The fact, though, is that there indeed was a medical emergency, with nine of the Indian players being hit by a flu that originated with MS Dhoni. Ten men did land up at the ground for a short practice session, but five of them were rendered immobile, left in the care of professionals.
SOS messages were sent out, one of them to Baroda medium-pacer Rakesh Patel, playing league cricket in England. Late on Monday evening, Narasimha Rao, the former Hyderabad captain and now a club professional in Ireland, drove Arjun Yadav — the current Hyderabad captain — to the hotel for a meeting with Indian manager Chandu Borde.
“This is a good opportunity for some of the young guys to play,” Indian captain Rahul Dravid had said earlier. Could Yadav have been among those who were in line for a completely unexpected call-up to the team?
Though the Indian TV channels seemed to go wild with speculation that the 25-year-old could get an India cap, HT learnt that Yadav was going to be used only as a substitute fielder and there was no possibility that he would be drafted into the team. In any case, he bowls off-spin, which would not really have been of much use on this Stormont field, as the need of the day for India — given the sick list — was a paceman.
Russell Radhakrishnan, liasing with the media in the absence of a media manager, confirmed this. “Several cricketers playing here have come here to meet the team and Mr Borde,” he told HT. “Arjun was being looked at only as a possible substitute fielder.”
Apparently, no room was available at the Hilton to house Yadav, who thus opted to drive back to his home in the suburbs of Belfast. There were a couple of Indian players available here from the Irish leagues anyway, according to Radhakrishnan.
In the event, India did manage to dispense with the services of even Rakesh Patel, with several of the players managing to make quick recoveries or choosing to play with the illness.
At least Yadav completely escaped the possibility of contracting the flu!