You already know that Sachin is on the front of the cricket sadists’ quarterly. Now I am trying to garner more sales by sucking in more Sachin fans with this taste of what appeared in the last issue. This is long, and about Sachin, so take it or leave it.
Sachin playing in your lounge
In November of 2003 I was a shift worker who spent a fair chunk of the summer watching shield games at the MCG (G). When I found out the Indians would be playing the Victorians at the G I was always going to head down to the match. The first day I couldn’t get to the ground because of work. That day Sachin made 80 odd as India’s top order collapsed to the left arm swing of Matthew Inness and their tail succumbed to Australia’s next white hope of leg spinning (he was then), Cameron White. When I heard about Sachin’s score I thought about how cool it would be to see him play an innings in that great ground with virtually no spectators. Like getting Roy Orbison to sing in your lounge room.
On day two it was all Brad Hodge, a man I had seen make many big scores to empty grounds. There was apparently some tension between the teams about it being a result game. Then there was another problem as India declared and no one seemed to know. Out of spite Victoria decided to then try and bat for the last two days of the game as a lesson to the Indians. Brad Hodge very nearly batted the final two days on his own.
On day two Hodge was just a class above the fairly poor Indian attack, on paper it wasn’t poor, Nehra, Khan, and Bhajji all played, they just bowled lots of rubbish. Hodge was using this innings as a calling card, and once Brad Hodge is settled, not even a family of maniacs with chainsaws can get him out. When Ian Harvey joined him it was a terrific partnership. It isn’t often you got to see Harvey make runs, so for a fan of his (he was my main dude) it was terrific to watch.
I enjoyed the Vics smashing the ball around, and since I had the next day off I decided I had to come back again to see Rahul, Virender and Sachin bat without a crowd. I doubted Victoria could bat the whole two days. On the first two days there wouldn’t have been more than 2,000 on either day, maybe even combined. 2,000 still sounds like a lot, but in the G it feels like five people.
When my girlfriend found out about my plans, she decided to come. She was not a cricket fan; she did like drinking at one-day games, and somehow she convinced herself that this would be like that. Like any good boyfriend I did my best to convince her that if she did come she would be bored to death, perhaps beyond that. Her mind was made, so after the lunch session (I figured the Vics would bat on for a while) we went down to the ground.
The third day seemed to have even fewer fans at it. I could feel my girlfriend’s irritation the moment she arrived. She wanted atmosphere, and instead it was whisper quiet, she went off to get drinks straight away. The crowd was made up of the usual shield cricket sickos (of which I include myself) and Indian students (these were the days they didn’t get beaten). The Vics were still batting, Hodge was now over 200. It took a while but eventually Sehwag got Hodge out and soon after the Indians came back into bat.
My girlfriend was pretty happy with the start of India’s innings as Sehwag played some shots, but he was soon out (a month later he did far better at the same ground to the tune of 195). This left Akash Chopra and Sadagoppan Ramesh at the crease. I have always rated Chopra and Ramesh looked solid. No one wanted them to bat. As the afternoon went on all you could hear was the name Sachin being whispered.
In the first innings Sachin had batted at five; that now seemed like a long way away. In those days Victoria would go in with two front line bowlers and four all rounders. They weren’t rubbish bowlers, but Harvey, Moss, White and McDonald were all more than easy to handle for these two batsmen on a pitch that was pretty flat. Added to that was the fact that Victoria were playing a first gamer, Brett Harrop who never played again, as one of their strike bowlers. Their other front line bowler was Inness, who was notoriously an average old ball bowler. This was all explained to my girlfriend who sighed and yawned through most of the answer even though she asked the question about when Sachin was coming in and why Victoria looked crap.
Ramesh and Chopra were hardly lighting the place up. They were both defining the word dour in what was obviously now nothing more than a net practice. The problem was I couldn’t leave. What if a wicket fell straight away, I’d miss seeing Rahul, or worse still, what if two fell, I’ll miss Rahul and Sachin together. Like most casual cricket fans my girlfriend knew little about any team that wasn’t her home team. Yes she knew Sachin was good, but he wasn’t batting, and she didn’t care about waiting for him.
On one side I had the tedium of two young guys trying to prove their worth against an attack with military medium stamped on it, and on the other was a girlfriend complaining about every facet. This is boring ,these seats are uncomfortable, I’m burning, I’m tired, let’s go see a film, this beer is terrible, can we move seats, why doesn’t he hit that for four, Victoria are shit and no one is here.
Being a cricket sadist, the more boring the cricket got and the more annoying my girlfriend got, the more I wanted to see it through. After all, one wicket and I would see a batting legend; two wickets and I would see an Indian god. It was worth the headache and constant moaning.
So I sat and waited. And waited. Waited.
I know I saw the ball that got Ramesh out, but I have no idea how it happened. The scorecard says McDonald got it; that should be right; but I have no idea. By this stage the game was in its dusk period. It would be over soon. There were still about 300 people left at the ground, and these were the hardcore cricket fans, here for one reason. SRT.
Being that there was no real crowd you could easily look over to the change room. All of us were (except my girlfriend who was looking to see how tanned her arms were). I could see movement, but there was no way to tell who it was. A kid near me asked if it was Sachin; no one answered. Eventually the player came out, and that familiar gait was there for everyone to see.
It was obviously Rahul Dravid. The crowd of 300 hunched or left. I left. I love Rahul, even more so now than I did back then, but there was some perverse thrill to seeing Sachin in this empty ground.
I have seen Sachin bat many times before and since, on three continents, in world cup finals and test matches, but I still feel a little ripped off that he didn’t come into bat that day. Not long after, my girlfriend and I split up; we never used that day as the reason, but we both knew.
Come on, buy the magazine, it has Sachin on it.