A walk up the sun-washed steps of the Federation Square in Melbourne revealed a riot of yellow. About 1500 people had packed the small public square on a hot day. It was the morning after the euphoric night, and people patiently awaited for their World Cup champions for an event of public celebrations where they could mingle with the cricketers, take photographs and collect autographs.
Dads with babies, moms with their daughters, couples, Australians, Indians stood next to each other, chattering away.
“Brendon is a sort of Martin Crowe kind of figure, isn’t he,” Harsha Bhogle’s voice crooned out from the speakers even as a big screen mounted above a stage replayed the final, replete with commentary. By the time the pixelled Australians had taken out Kane Williamson, the heroes arrived in flesh and blood.
Hungover eyes hid behind sunglasses, a smile of success curled on the lips, and a roar of delight went through the crowd. A lady served fish and chips at the adjacent outdoor pub, a blind kid waved a Australian flag, there was lot of clapping and screaming, and beyond this square, down the road, a tram chugged along the bridge and people flocked out of the adjacent Flinders Street train station.
A public event playing out almost privately, in a corner of a busy junction.
James Faulkner, the man of the final, spoke first, strengthening the impression gained in the press-interactions before. He is not the man for big speeches, a quiet muttering of thanks to the people, some chuckles and he was gone.
Mitchell Starc, the man of the tournament, was more forthcoming. Less shy, more smiles and the crowd seemed happy. Sitting behind Starc were the Australian players in their official t-shirts, barring George Bailey, who had the 12th man bib over his t-shirt. Starc mentioned Bailey’s name and the bib and the crowd laughed.
A marker pen in hand, Xavier Doherty leaned over to write something on the shiny bald head of the coach Darren Lehmann, triggering more laughter.
Michael Clarke came next. He thanked the crowd, Australian public across the country, his team-mates, and mentioned how “hungover” his team was after the inebriated night of success. More laughter.
A short while later, even as the players went around the cordoned area – a rope separated them from the adoring crowd – singing and posing for pictures.
One ran into Brad Haddin. Clarke was right about the hungover, indeed. Heard the comedian Andy Lee had a stand-up session with you guys before the game? “Oh yeah, he did,” Haddin went. Remember any jokes? “Hmmm, no, not now.” He was funny? “Oh yeah, I remember lots of laughter. Think he was funny! I wish I can remember something,” a big smile on his face.
Ever since Darren Lehmann took over this team, he has sought to make the dressing room a fun place to be in. One of his ways was to make a player tell a joke at the start of the match in the team-huddle. So there was George Bailey on the semi-final day, on his knees going around the huddle, telling a joke ahead of the game when India cracked.
On Sunday, Bailey refused to divulge what joke it was. No player would say anything. “It’s for the team, mate, a secret,” Doherty said, who also revealed that sometimes players get tensed up a day ahead of telling the joke.
“All bit of fun. Nice to start a day with a smile, right?” And what a way to start a final too. Laughter in the dressing room, blink, and then Mitch Starc knocks out McCullum in the first over. “That was something, eh?” Haddin smiles as one leaves.
A few feet from him, David Warner picks his baby from his wife Candice Falzon and tosses Ivy Mae up in the air. Down she came with a big smile on her face.
Cameras clicked, the phone gallery filled up and Warner whispered to the six-month-old Mae, “C’mon give a smile for them!”. A wide-eyed smile came forth and the crowd laughed.