Day 2 at the Railway Ground was much like the first – it was, as George W Bush infamously said, déjà vu all over again: same venue, same result. It was a nondescript game of cricket, more notable for the cricket related events than the match itself.
Lesson I: firstly, we learned about out fielding in India. When the Indian test team comes to Australia, it is always a matter that the Australian commentators raise, how the Indians do not dive or throw themselves around in the field. As a wicketkeeper, you often have to dive and you do it instinctively after a life behind the sticks. Adrenalin kicks in – you just do it. The veil, hiding our understanding, was lifted thus. I hit the ball near point and stood my ground. I had middled it but the man at point was within diving range. He looked young and fit. I did not like the chances of my opening partner scurrying a single, if he dived, collected the ball and threw it to the keeper. We both called “wait’. To my enormous surprise he moved a bit to his right but the ball went passed him and he followed it to the boundary. That was weird, I thought, why didn’t he dive? I thought about our man with no skin on his right arm. The ball’s passage to the boundary was odd, too. It bibbled and bobbled along the ground, bouncing and jumping. It was running over rocks and other impediments. The Railway Ground may be lush in the monsoon or afterwards but this was the middle of the dry season. There was no grass above the surface of the ground, anywhere. It was dry and dusty and stony and suddenly the Indian test team’s refusal to dive became apparent. You would be mad to dive; you learned that lesson young; none of your forebears dive; keep your skin attached to your hips, knees and elbows, that is their lesson and now it was ours, too.
Lesson II: the umpiring was of a high standard. When the Indians batted our left arm orthodox spinner slipped one down the leg side; the batsman overbalanced forward; it was an automatic wide as a leg side delivery but that did not fluster the man at square leg; the keeper held the ball and waited; when the batsman fell out of his crease the bails came off; the man at the bowler’s end had his arms outstretched, parallel to the ground, signalling a wide; the man at square leg had his finger up, signalling a stumping; it was a perfect cricket moment – everyone had got it right at once.
Lesson III: Australia was coming together as a team. Firstly. our camaraderie was partly out of adversity – only one of us had played cricket in India before; only one of us had ever been to India before. Secondly, our camaraderie was also part of the jollity of us coming together – shared experiences and the commencement of social cohesion as well as everything else. Thirdly, we were falling apart physically. We only had 12 players and 4 of us were over 40. We had several severely injured players, who simply had to play, because the others were more injured than them. There was esprit de corps among the troops. We were having fun, in unfamiliar circumstances. It was a good idea to participate in this tournament so far from home, with a group of people none of us knew. By the end of Game 3 we were a proper touring team and, by God, we were going to give a good account of ourselves, or die in the attempt.