The wrong line by Andrew Ramsey

Andrew RamseyA writer when he begins his touring life with a tour to a tournament which all the teams take lightly, can rightfully say that he began on the wrong line. He talks of being affixed with cricket rather than looking around as all sorts of bookies were involved during the tournament. Thus the book seems to be named well.

He talks of getting into tough situations and also talks of how quickly his views on Hong Kong changed. Initially he comes across as an author who complains a lot. He also introduces us to the division within the team; Julios and Nerds. Julios were named after Julio Iglesias.

He likes to talk about his career as a cricket journalist as though destiny favoured him and he was the right person at the right place at the right time. After the first tour, the cricket that he got to cover was the one day legs of Australian cricket team.

This was also around the time when Australian cricket team started to have different teams for ODI’s and Test matches. So, the newspaper that he worked for thought that it was a good idea to have different journalists to cover Tests and ODI’s

So, his first tour was to New Zealand and it was the first time that he saw the crowd trouble first hand. It wasn’t to be the last time too. It was just to be a curtain raiser for what he was to witness and experience on the caribbean tour.

The writing part in the book goes few notches higher because he decides to infuse the happenings with more than a touch of sarcasm. So, his experiences at the hotels makes you chuckle. While the problems he faces with a dial up connection are unknown to a lot of people brought up in the the broadband era, he manages to strike a chord every single time he talks of internet connection.

After the series he is sent to cover the 1999 World Cup and it’s here that he brings his best ability to the fore – describing cricket grounds vividly. He also starts to talk of the ideas bounced to him from the head office as ‘Ideas factory’. Once he starts talking of the ideas factory, he makes it clear from the outset that he doesn’t like them. It’s on these twin tours that he realised how insecure players can be. They can be as fragile as the next man.

He talks of competition among the journalists – to be the person that breaks a news, to be the person that gets the rare soundbites or to be the person that a player wants to talk to. He says in the book, “In the super-competitive world of modern media, being first is regularly preferred to being right”.

Players can be men of moods depending on the way they perform on the field. They can range from being nice to being surly. If they realise that a same publication or the same person is criticising them more often than not, they resort to the simple question, “Have you ever played cricket?”. Andrew counters this by saying,”You don’t need to have killed anyone to report on a murder”

Warne is a regular feature in the book. Be it describing his abilities or his frailties, Andrew doesn’t flinch. When the whole saga of removing Shane Warne played out, Andrew describes it saying, “The nation’s cricket administrators had made it clear that vice was no longer a prerequisite for the vice-captaincy”

Gilchrist also comes in for some major praise from the Andrew as he presented him with impeccably clean columns, to the comma. The next person whom he ghosted for, did not leave him with good experiences. In fact, towards the end of the book, coupled up with his own frustrations he lets go. He talks of the man he was ghosting for, in a none too pleasant manner.

He is brilliant with conveying his emotions at a moment with few words. When he is sent off to cover the Test series v Pakistan and has to describe Sharjah, he does it by saying, “Western morality may be a crime but western extravagance remains an essential status symbol”

Yes, he does put his opinions bluntly and is off the mark when he is forming opinions, but that does not deter you from the fact that he wants to tell you what he thinks. The fall out with the “Ideas factory’ starts to happen on the return trip from Sharjah.

He gives two reasons that made him feel bad about the job. First was the instance when he was asked for a vox pop piece. Instead of approaching people, he made up names and views and sent it back. Second and the major one was after submitting to the ‘Here’s the headline , give me a story to fit beneath it’ principle, he refused to toe the line. There were many things that brought up the realisation. One of them was him going after Mark Cosgrove. After that, he quit the job

Cricket, friends and fun

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World Cup. I am always reminded of 2003 edition whenever the mention of a World Cup is made. It was, simply, the best World Cup I saw. It helped that, Australia, my favourite team, were undefeated in the tournament. It got off to a worst start possible with the suspension of Shane Warne.

In what was the fourth match of the tournament, they faced Pakistan, a repeat of the 1999 World Cup final. Wasim Akram, the captain from that final, made early inroads. I din’t see the initial part of the game because we friends were busy playing cricket ourselves. I remember vividly that our game could not be ended because one of our friends picked up a fight with a senior. So, we came back to what was the common room, if it could be called so, to watch the game. The score when I saw was 86/4. Jimmy Maher had just fallen to Waqar Younis.

All of them had said that Pakistan would win the game. I had this blind faith that Australia might find a way out. That the way was named ‘Andrew Symonds’ was beyond my wildest dreams. Shot after shot, run after run, he just drilled fear into the Pakistan bowlers. We were all mute witnesses to the carnage unfolding before our eyes. He was awesome that day. The fact that he scored 97 runs on the off side stands testimony to the utter domination unleashed on the bowlers.

They were in trouble in two other games. One was against England and the other was against New Zealand.  Against England, they were reduced to 130 odd for 8 before Bevan and Bichel saw them home. It was a chase and till Bevan was around there was hope. This match too, like many others, was seen in the common room.

The match against New Zealand was a tense one as they were reduced to 84 for 7 before Bevan and Bichel, again, started the repair work. It was a huge help to them that Shane Bond’s quota of overs were done by the 29th over. McGrath got the early wickets for them and Brett Lee ran through the tail in a matter of four overs. The sight of him signalling five with his palm after the match ended will stay forever in my memory. This match was seen at the college canteen. The dominating feeling, at that point of time, was sympathy for Shane Bond- he bowled his heart out and ripped through the top and middle order of a famed batting line-up. The fact that they lost by 96 runs was a surprise.

And then there was the mother of all matches- India v Pakistan. Played on the 1st of March, a Saturday, it was a bonafide holiday for all of us. We were all crowded in front of the small 14 inch TV like our lives depended on it. The knock by Saeed Anwar was a dampener. Sachin Tendulkar ensured that all that negative feeling was washed away by a pre-determined assault on Shoaib Akhtar. It won’t  be an overstatement to say that each one had ‘the hair on the back of our neck standing’

The final was the clincher. It seemed as if the entire population of Vizag was in our common room and the noise had to be heard to be believed. Soon the noise turned into groans and groans turned into moans of disappointment. All through I was watching the game because Australia were dominating. When it rained, a few of my friends  resorted to heckling me, but going by the result you would know who had the last laugh

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I came to Bangalore in 2005 and remember being close to tears when Australia lost to England by two runs at Birmingham. I saw most of the match at an internet cafe in Jayanagar. With that friendship made, I saw most of the games at the same place. I didn’t even need to surf the net to be there.

My best memories of watching cricket involve 2008 IPL and the 2009 Australia India ODI series. During the 2008 IPL- the game between Deccan Chargers and Kolkata Knight Riders. We were watching the game at a pub called ‘Sherlock’. There was this gal who was a supporter of KKR and was vocal about it. She was spoiling our experience of watching the game. Well, our own shouting and the comments ensured that her evening was a bad experience though KKR won. Trust me when I say that there were no lewd comments and eve teasing involved. That’s the joy of watching cricket with friends.

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The 2009 series between India v Australia was a brilliant one. On the day of one of the matches, me and my friend decided to venture to Vellore- a place 207 kilometers away from where we stayed. We didn’t know that. We thought it was only 116 kilometers. Our foolishness was so stubborn that we refused to ask people and see milestones. So, at the turn we need to take at Krishnagiri to get to Vellore, we thought of having breakfast and had our fill. A Kilometer after that, when we expecting Vellore to be around 20 kilometers, imagine our shock when we see that Vellore was 100 odd kilometers away. We were at that point where we couldn’t go ahead nor come back. As luck would have it, it started to rain. Well, we did go ahead to Vellore … in the rain. While coming back, it was still raining, we stopped at a small restaurant. The shop had a television and they were beaming the India v Australia game – the game played at Mohali. It was a close game and we stayed back till the innings ended. It didn’t matter to us that we came back at 1AM in the morning.

We saw the epic Hyderabad game in a seedy bar in some basement where the stench dominated everything else. We went there only because it was closest to our house. Nothing else mattered to us other than watching the game. It was a brilliant game and I ended up predicting correctly that the game was lost for India after Raina’s dismissal.

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The 2011 WC Semi-final was watched at a friend’s place and we had fun that day discussing the game. I couldn’t watch the final with him because he had gone off to meet his prospective wife for the first time.

I hope I get to talk about similar experiences come the 2015 World Cup