From footballers on airplanes to cricketers in white coats. Sandeep Dwivedi pieces together the tournament with notes from his daily diary
September 20: After being airborne for nine hours,wake up to the sight of planes with football players painted on them its not a dream but Johannesburgs way of saying its ready for the 2010 World Cup. Run into Rohan Bopanna while checking in at the hotel. Its Indias chance to make the Davis Cup World Group after 11 years,so head to tennis instead of cricket. Somdev Devvarman doesnt disappoint; the tour starts with an ace.
September 21: A giraffe is grazing on a highway farm en route to the Indians nets at Potchefstroom. Team manager Anurag Thakur bowls loopy off-spinners and gets hit for the first of several sixes of the tour.
September 22: Opening night,and Centurion is excited as South Africa are playing Sri Lanka. Jonty Rhodes is jumping around catching tennis balls on the sidelines for a promotional event. Later,Mumbai Indians fielding coach tells a Sachin Tendulkar story. Tendulkar once asked him to throw down a ball at full pelt from close range. He let it rip,but it returned from the middle of the bat at an even greater speed.
September 24: Tense faces in the Indian camp as an internal dossier is leaked to the media. All other teams are too busy making fun of the advice on sex given to the Indian players in the document. Worse,Yuvraj Singh hurts his finger during practice and is ruled out of the tournament.
September 25: Undergoing rehab here,Zaheer Khan drops in at nets on the eve of the game against Pakistan. He has a long chat with Ishant Sharma,but things dont work out for the troubled pacer the next day.
September 26: A crowd invasion after Pakistans win brings back memories of ODIs glory days. Encroaching fans are grounded by rugby tackles from the security guards. As those crossing the line are escorted back,they wave to the crowd like heroes. What a reprimand after a favourable result from an Indo-Pak game!
September 27: Beggars at traffic signals called robots here carry cardboard sheets on which theyve written why they need money. I dont steal,I request for money, says one; I lost my job,Im hungry, says another. But there is a more direct appeal too: I want to get drunk,I want money.
September 28: It starts raining towards the end of the Aussie innings against India. The slanting sheets of rain make the pavilion roof ineffective. Umbrellas are irrelevant and the Meat on Braai becomes soggy. In the media centre,reporters hide their laptops below the desk to file Indias watered-down show on the field.
September 29: Find myself sitting next to a rugby player while waiting for Mark Ferguson,the doctor who has healed several Indian cricketers. The player seems like a perfect specimen of the human anatomy,but his subdued expression is evidence of physical frailty and the unforgiving nature of professional sport. On his way out,he has a prescription in his hand and a smile on face. Not as bad as I thought, he nods.
September 30: Sachin Tendulkar pulls out due to food poisoning,Ishant is dropped,and Dhoni ends up bowling his gentle seamers against the West Indies. But Pakistan lose to Australia in the most exciting game of the tournament to knock India out.
October 1: Most of the Pakistani players are in the bus after a hectic net session but the Akmal brothers stay back for extra practice. Umar gives throw downs to Kamran,who later returns the favour. With the semis against New Zealand 48 hours away,the two arent taking any chances.
October 2: Venture to Gandhi Square in downtown Johannesburg on the Mahatmas birthday but see no sign of festivities. Ironically,the English are knocked out as Aussies Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting hit violent centuries in the semi-final.
October 3: The reason why Simon Taufel didnt get his fifth successive Umpire of the Year award is clear as he raises his finger after the ball hits Umar Akmals bat before striking his pad. Many consider it as the turning point of Pakistans loss to New Zealand.
October 4: When Ponting and Vettori pose with the trophy for the pre-final photo-op,its a perfect David vs Goliath frame.
October 5: Nice guys fail to finish first as the slow and steady doesnt quite win the race. The Aussies posing on the podium in white coats could be mistaken for a group of surgeons celebrating a successful operation.