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Behind the scenes at the final act...

The contest comes alive from the time of toss, but true action actually commences many hours before this ritual, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Sep 25, 2006 20:55 IST

Half an hour before the scheduled start of play, wearing official uniform and team-sheets in hand, the two captains emerge from their dressing rooms to join the match referee in the middle for the toss.

The contest comes alive from this moment onwards, but action on the ground actually commences many hours before this ritual.

Kapil Dev, leading an eminent panel of television commentators, is among the first to arrive, three hours ahead of time. The production staff is already there, rigging cables, checking out camera equipment, fixing mikes, lining up interviews, working out the pitch report and the pre-match studio show.

In contemporary- and commercial- cricket, TV is as critical as the players; together they play a critical role in generating money that drives the sport. For this, it is essential that cricket action is attractively captured, capsuled and delivered to the viewers.

The ground staff is also busy since early morning. They need to mow the outfield, erect the boundary rope (with the advertising), clean the sponsor’s branded mats behind the pitch.

When the Tournament Director inspects the facilities, riding his golf buggy, he watches the main square being carefully prepared, and once the roller has done its bit, only the markings remain to be put in place.

Members of the Anti Corruption Unit (ACU) are checking out the players’ area, their trained eyes wide open. But at this early hour, they find little else except the catering staff, bringing in the supplies. Adjacent to the main pavilion are the VIP marquees, unlikely to be adequately populated, now that India is out.

A little later, Ponting marches out purposefully, accompanied by Australian chief selectors Andrew Hilditch. They stare at the surface, run their fingers along the top and engage in animated conversation.

Hayden is running laps of the ground, taking giant strides even though he is not in the playing eleven. McGrath, his accuracy no less than that of a programmed bowling machine, is aiming gentle outswingers at a plastic stump.

Clarke, wearing inners to soften the impact of the ball, is holding skiers thrown up by coach Buchanan.

Finally, the stage is set for the big battle in the middle.

First Published: Sep 25, 2006 02:51 IST