The day's special: Kumble No Tikka

CHEERING INDIA: Khushboo is `Khush.' She did not boo. — Photo: R. Ragu

CHEERING INDIA: Khushboo is `Khush.' She did not boo. — Photo: R. Ragu  

CHENNAI, OCT. 17. The contest on Day four of the India-Australia Test Match at Chepauk was not on the field but in the stands.

``You might be FANATICS, but we Indians are LUNATICS,'' read the chart from the Indian fans sitting right below where the Australian cheerleading squad, Fanatics, was positioned in the Pepsi Stand.

The Australians responded with the thumbs down gesture and broke into one of their many songs, which, amidst the din in the stadium, was difficult to comprehend. But the tit-for-tat continued through the day.

Only a few rows away, another Indian fan sported a red-tee shirt that said: One good thing about bad reputation is that it is easy to maintain.

``Contribute Rs. 5 towards Gillespie's haircut fund,'' read another as the lanky paceman dropped anchor, steering the Aussies out of trouble in the company of Martyn.

Much later in the day, when Darren Lehman and Martin Clarke came together, the banter in the stand continued.

Just after tea, an Indian fan with a video camera rushed to the edge of the Terrace T-3 stand as if to cock-a-snook at the Australian `fanatics' in the nearby stand.

He challenged the Australians that India would win the Test tomorrow. Soon the Australians were cheering: ``Look at the scoreboard ... Look at the scoreboard'' punctuated by three claps, pointing to the giant screen.

The score was 347 for the loss of six wickets.

Anil Kumble answered the fan's call by claiming two wickets in three balls. Now it was the Indians' turn: ``Look at the scoreboard ... Look at the scoreboard.'' The sportive Fanatics rose from the seats to give the crowd a series of bows.

What's cooking?

Food at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium has been unbelievably good. Among the most popular food stalls were the ones managed by Fruit Shop on Greams Road, Galloping Gooseberry and Frankie's.

Back in the stands, there was a different kind of `cuisine' lined up.

The Australians put up a yellow banner that read: ``Today's menu: Butter Gloves Patel, Kumble No Tikka, Harbhajan Masala. Warning: Very Expensive. Will give Aussies the runs.''

After the loss of a couple of Australian wickets, the Indian fans struck back: ``Today's Indian Menu: Kangaroo Burger, McGrath Biriyani, Warne Pizza, Martyn Masala, Gilli Roast, Aussie Meals.''

Birthday boy

Indian and Australian fans found ways to wish Kumble on his 34th birthday today.

The Australians broke into a birthday song during a drinks break and completed their tribute with their trademark series of bows.

Another Indian fan, meanwhile, came up with a poster idea: ``How about Kangaroo Kabab for your birthday?''

Another person came up with a gift idea. The poster carried names of the Australian batsmen who fell victim to the spinner today, who ended with a match haul of 13 wickets.

The climax

The Indian celebrations were restricted to three small spells through the day — twice when two wickets fell in an over and once when Sehwag came out to bat.

The last 15 minutes of play, however, was what Indian fans hoped would be a sneak preview for the final day's play.

Passions of the Indian cricket fans were fuelled when the close-up of verbal exchange between Virender Sehwag and Glenn McGrath was flashed on the giant screen. The last ball of the day was smashed for a boundary.

As the fans were leaving, plenty of them were scheming how to stay away from offices on Monday.

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