Aiyla, we have done so badly on this Australian tour that I often wonder what actually went wrong. Luckily, on the fourth and fifth day of the Perth test we did not lose any wickets (when the game is over that cannot happen, or so Viru said when black humour came over him)! As for me, I had this rather amazing encounter after the game at the WACA. Well, I was whiling away time in the hotel lobby listening to Mark Knopfler’s Sultans of Swing when a Sardarji accompanied by a woman came up to me. “Sacchin, what are you listening to?” he enquired, in a curious accent. Out of politeness, I told him the name of the track. “The Indian team is in dire straits...so how appropriate,” he said rather sarcastically. Anyway, I pretended to take the Sardarji’s caustic remark in a lighter vein and hoped that he would go away and leave me in peace. But he didn’t and was quick to introduce himself. “I am Rajan from Kerala. But I have worn this turban to disguise myself. And this,” he said pointing to his companion, “is Geeta. We are operatives from RAW and we have some information to share with you. We have cracked the secret formula of Australia’s winning ways.” That aroused my curiosity. I told them we could go to a quiet cafe and have a chat.
Over Pepsis, Rajan began talking. “Sacchin,” he said lowering his voice to a whisper, “did you know these Aussies release anti-gravity and gravity-plus paste on the pitch when they are fielding. The former makes the ball rise and the latter keeps the deliveries low. No marks for guessing which paste they used in Perth.” According to him, the paste (stored below the pitch in a secured container) is released when a device (a micro button in the bowler’s backpocket) is pressed. Here Geeta butted in to say that the Australian Cricket Board got the idea from the 1901 novel, The First Men in the Moon, by H.G. Wells. In it, a mad scientist develops an anti-gravity paste which helps him fly. “The ACB took the concept from Wells and did years of research at a secret lab in the Australian outback.” Geeta added that the next part of their mission was to get the ingredients of the wonder paste right. “We are yet to make any headway but one of our operatives noted that large volumes of Bhoot Jolokia—a very pungent chilli from Nagaland— is regularly imported by the lab. Also, one particular variety of cactus from the Great Victoria desert is sourced by the lab. But we cannot confirm that the two goes into the making of the paste although biting into a Bhoot Jolokia is known to make people jump.”
I mulled over all this information and was left quite speechless. But Rajan had some comforting words. “We could have stolen the container from under the pitch but it is well guarded. But Sacchin, don’t worry, the drdo is trying to make its own magic paste for the good of Indian cricket....”
(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)