What I’ve Learned This Summer: Avi Singh
The 2011/2012 summer of cricket is quickly drawing to a close, and in years to come, we’ll look back with sepia-tinged goggles and reminisce fondly about Pup’s three-hundred, KP’s return to form, and Doug Bracewell’s spell at Hobart. At The Sledge, we get nostalgic about things very quickly; as such, we’ve asked some of the brightest cricket writers from around the world to put together pieces on What They’ve Learned This Summer.
The BCCI’s lackadaisical approach to administration is best summed up by one man…
Sitting in Auckland a few days before flying out to Australia to cover the Boxing Day and New Year Tests for CricHQ.com, I was discussing ideas for stories with my editors. We were all hopeful that I would manage to wangle out an interview with MS Dhoni, or even the great man himself, Sachin Tendulkar. Alas, it wasn’t to be as the Indian team were gagged from speaking to the print media outside of the press conference interactions.
There was one member of the Indian entourage with whom I spent a fair deal of time though – their incredibly incompetent media manager GS Walia. My attitude towards him gradually shifted from initial frustration to eventual amusement as cricket’s equivalent of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movie series staggered through each day with increasing cluelessness.
As the team’s media manager, he might have been expected to know how to operate a simple device such as a mobile phone. As I was soon to learn, despite ‘media’ being in his job description, Mr Walia knew nothing about either its physical manifestations or how to deal with the people in said industry. The iPhone, mastered by young kids the world over, proved impossible for him to crack. Yet he would insist on entering journalists’ phone numbers (incorrectly) into the contraption himself. Sigh.
I also asked him to place me on the distribution list for BCCI media releases. Apparently, I had to ask Cricket Australia about that. The impossibility of the suggestion did not appear to dawn on him at any moment, nor did the idea that he might be required to conduct a press conference after India’s practice in Sydney on New Year’s Day. While Mr Walia was off enjoying the festive season, Cricket Australia’s Philip Pope bravely stepped in. He was good-humoured enough to laugh off the ‘briefly a BCCI employee’ taunts afterwards, although the experience may haunt him for the rest of his life.
Calling a press conference about the Virat Kohli middle-finger incident and only inviting one member of the media was another Walia masterstroke, as was walking up to the press box ten minutes later to repeat exactly the same insipid statement he had just read out. His bizarre routine of hand signals during press conferences was a rather creepy addition to the usual dribble on offer (see photo), and his overall function was best summed up by the brilliant Gideon Haigh in The Australian, who remarked that Walia’s presence was designed ‘mainly to fill a blazer and to consume oxygen’. A fitting description of quite possibly the most useless human being I have ever met. And I never did get on that media releases list…
New Zealand can beat Australia in a Test match in Australia in my lifetime
“There it is! There’s the win for New Zealand!” – I was never more pleased to hear the screeching of Michael Slater on the Channel 9 TV commentary, as the Bellerive Oval in Hobart saw a 26-year barren run for the Kiwis in Tests in Australia come to an end in the most dramatic fashion.
The seven-run triumph and levelling of the Trans-Tasman Trophy was scarcely imaginable after another limp batting effort on the opening day had seen the New Zealanders rolled for 150. But Phil Hughes succumbed to the Martin Guptill-Chris Martin combination before stumps, and long-suffering Kiwi fans were treated to the delightful sight of Aussie batsman after Aussie batsman succumb to a four-pronged pace attack made up of Martin, Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell.
But even after bowling Australia out for 136 and then making 226 to set the home side 241 to win in the fourth innings, doubts lingered, particularly when Hughes and David Warner wiped 72 runs off the target before stumps on day three.
Yet again, Hughes’ dismissal to his nightmare fielder-bowler pair early on day four renewed hope. But at 159-2, needing only 82 with eight wickets in hand, it looked like the gallant fight was over. No one told Bracewell. In the space of three overs before lunch he forced Ricky Ponting into an awful lob to cover, before nicking out Aussie skipper Michael Clarke and trapping Michael Hussey lbw for the plumpest of ducks.
Five wickets to get after lunch. Southee busted the tail open as he sent Brad Haddin and Peter Siddle packing. 47 to get with three wickets in hand. The game was New Zealand’s for the taking. Five runs and one over later, the lion-hearted Bracewell snared James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc, and at 199-9 the home side were done. They still had Warner unbeaten with a hundred to his name, but playing in only his second Test, the task seemed too difficult.
But Nathan Lyon battled where his team-mates hadn’t and slowly, the pair chipped away at the target. And then GONE! LBW, it was all over. Or so the jubilant Kiwis thought. The much-maligned Decision Review System controversially overturned the decision, and the match continued. It wasn’t until Australia were just eight runs away from victory that Bracewell steamed in and castled Lyon, causing not just Michael Slater, but an entire nation to erupt in ecstasy as the big bad wolf was toppled in their own backyard. Heroic, but fading images of Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe could now be replaced by Bracewell and his cohorts. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take as long for the next instalment of Kiwi bragging rights over the Australians on their own patch.
Sitting next to Gideon Haigh in a press box for four days should be mandatory for all journalists
Some pictures of Gideon make him look every bit the dry, humourless academic. Such a description could not be further from the truth. Intelligence and humour are combined in equal measure to produce a person who mixes an encyclopedic knowledge of the game with a streak of the larrikin. And what a privilege it was to be placed next to him in the Sydney press box.
My words fail to do him justice, so I will conclude with the note that being in his company proved to be the highlight of my summer. The emails will continue to bounce back and forth, but I will look forward to reprising our meeting from this summer in the not-too-distant future. Others looking to sharpen their craft would be well-advised to try and chance upon a meeting of their own. Not one person I have spoken to says they are the poorer for a meeting with the redoubtable and erudite Gideon Haigh.
Avi Singh isn’t a famous face yet, because he’s too busy being a set of famous fingers. Ahem. You probably know him as an ESPNCricinfo scorer, or an avid CricHQ writer. And he tweets with the best of them.
For more “Things We’ve Learned This Summer”, click here.