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Show weakness and you are simply gone

Early morning I am on what is called the (red eye) Virgin Blue flight to Adelaide, the misery of 5.30 reporting largely self-inflicted though. Wasim Akram is also to blame. "Meri baat mano," he told me vehemently, "never make the mistake of taking the same flight as the teams. They carry itna luggage you don't know who gets on -- passengers or their bags."

india Updated: Dec 10, 2003 15:51 IST

Early morning I am on what is called the (red eye) Virgin Blue flight to Adelaide, the misery of 5.30 reporting largely self-inflicted though. Wasim Akram is also to blame. "Meri baat mano," he told me vehemently, "never make the mistake of taking the same flight as the teams. They carry itna luggage you don't know who gets on -- passengers or their bags."

Wasim also had this simple message for the Indian team: Against Australia, khade rehna, girna nahin. That is the only way to play. Show any weakness and you are gone.

Wasim should know, he has been through such situations many times. He was a wonderful bowler, someone with more tricks up his sleeve than Gogia Pasha, a crafty quick who tormented the talented and made them jump like jokers.

Famous for incredible variety, he was always at the batsmen -- no matter if the ball was old, the wicket lifeless and the score an imposing 220 for two. Wasim could always slip one through.

Now, starting a second innings, he is a commentator and a golfer, the latter causing him considerable anxiety. Wasim has balance, an uninhibited swing and sound striking but golf demands much more. Without consistency, it can be traumatic and soul searing. And like others, no less gifted, Wasim is anguished that he can't control this tiny white ball. "It just flies off," he said with obvious pain. "In cricket I knew how the ball moved . In golf I can't say where it will go."

The Indians arrived in Adelaide, dressed smartly in blue travel shirts, Oakleys in place and with music systems on shoulders. Checked into the Hyatt, close to the city centre, its large rooms overlooking the river, some windows opening out towards the Adelaide Oval.

"Terrific place," commented match referee Mike Procter, but he could not resist adding, though with a smile, that it was too close to the casino. Also present in the lobby was a TV producer, wanting to interview Tendulkar for a film on Bradman. We know what he said about Sachin but want to know what he has to say about Bradman.

While some players dissolved into the shopping area to eat, others went up to their rooms to rest taking advantage of this rare off day on the tour. Said one player: "A Test match drains you mentally. Playing is relatively easy but training each day and travelling can be a killer."

Organising team travel is not easy either. The logistics of moving men and material severely tests the mettle of experienced tour operators. For morning flights, players pack bags the previous night and leave them outside their rooms . from where they are collected, marked and taken to the airport in a special van.

The team carries loads of stuff, besides suitcases and kitbags there is equipment to be lugged round -- swiss balls, plastic stumps, portable massage tables, crates of Gatorade -- enough to fill a few containers.

Tailpiece:

Ravi Shastri, only Indian to score a 200 in a Test in Australia, on team strategy: "Adopt Gabbar Singh's policy -- jo dar gaya wo mar gaya. Show guts, stand up and fire. There is no place to hide."

First Published: Dec 10, 2003 01:39 IST