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Following the drum

The bar in the Jon-Jen Guest House here looks like a war zone. Mattresses, clothes, suitcases and shoes are strewn all over. One blanket has a foot sticking out.

india Updated: Mar 03, 2003 01:23 IST

The bar in the Jon-Jen Guest House here looks like a war zone. Mattresses, clothes, suitcases and shoes are strewn all over. One blanket has a foot sticking out. A right foot, we observe, too tired from an early morning flight to investigate further.

The foot, we discovered later, belonged to one Rob, and by the time we actually met him he was too tired to give his second name. Rob and his crony Stewart are members of the Barmy Army that follows the England team around the world, and they are here for the game against Australia. There are no more rooms in the guesthouse, so the proprietors have kindly allowed them to spread out in the lounging area.

It has not been a happy outing so far. England have done badly, and Stewart is faring no better, suffering from indigestion and dehydration. But that has not stopped the duo from keeping up the song for England.

“I hope you guys win," Rob says feebly from a prone position on a mattress thrown into the far corner of the bar, referring to the India-Pakistan match at Centurion on Saturday. “That way if we (England) beat Australia, we have a chance of making the Super Six,” he drawls.

“But can you beat Australia?”

“Nooo,” moans Stewart from another corner. “We can only pray.”

At that moment on Saturday, however, we were all transfixed in front of the telly, watching Sachin Tendulkar carry a game leg and India’s hopes, on his shoulder. When he got out, at 98, we weren’t sure who was more disappointed. Tendulkar, or our friend Stewie.

“Aw, you might just lose now,” he said, popping an antacid.

But India did not lose, and Yuvraj Singh made many new friends, including Jon-Jen owner John Martin. John is a nature and live-off-the-land freak, just 56 years of age, with a mean forehand on the tennis court. He was absolutely bowled over by Yuvraj.

“This guy is class,” he said. “The way he batted, with such authority, it was really great to see. Did you see those cover drives?”

But the focus here quickly shifted to Sunday’s match. England must win and Australia cannot lose, so it is getting pretty tight around here. There are neutrals, but they all want England to lose. Australia is Enemy No.1 here.

“Its bad to lose to West Indies or New Zealand, but nothing like losing to Australia,” John said as he also prepared to head for the cricket.

Rob and Stewart were also prepared on Sunday morning, their royal blue and red England t-shirts washed and flags properly furled. But these two are no tattoo-sporting skinheads who put the fear of god in all concerned (we met a few at the Waterfront in Cape Town), so there’s no harm in wishing them luck. Look at it from India’s point of view as well.

If England, or Pakistan make it to the Super Six, look at the number of points we carry to the next round!