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   My friend, who lives on the 21st floor, is to Indian cricket... (February 16, 1996)

My friend, who lives on the 21st floor, is to Indian cricket, what Vijay Mallya, to a smaller extent, is to Indian racing. He has booked himself seats in every stadia in the sub-continent and is Sri Lanka, and flies from venue to venue in his fleet of private jets to wath the games.

I met him at his apartment in the city this morning. The butler was trying to get the Pakistan weather bureau to know the conditions in Rawalpindi. "We had a rough time in Rawalpindi yesterday," my friend said. "I lent them the service of all my helicopters to dry the ground, but it was no use."

"You are flying back to Pindi today?" I asked.

"Yes," said my friend. "Originally, the plan was to stay back in Rawalpindi overnight, but the best hotels were booked by the visiting South African and UAE teams. The alternate plan was I should either fly to Johannesburg or Dubai and spend the night there, but then I thought I had better come home."

"How has the tournament been so far?" I asked.

"Oh, not bad. I notice there has been some criticism in the press about the opening ceremonies at Eden Gardens, but I am not claiming money back for my tickets."

"You mean, some people want their money back!" I said.

"Nor really," he said. "Nobody else bought tickets. You see, I bought all the 120,000 tickets the day the bookings opened and distributed them to Calcuttans, so they could have a free show. After all, it is cricket's biggest year."

"True," I said. "What about Ahhmedabad?"

"What about it!" my friend said. "England should not have lsot that match. Out of sympathy, I made a small donation for that losing team. Then, I thought, it was a good practice, and henceforth will be making donations to all losing teams."

"What they say is correct, there is no place to play cricket like India," I said. "Sometimes I wonder what would happen to the game but for generous patrons like you."

"Everything is becoming expensive," my friend said. "I have stopped buying food at different venues. Instead, I carry a team of chefs on the plane with me. Whatever they cook in the galley, I eat between innings."

"What about the fuel for your planes, that must be casting you a packet," I said. "And they have not even bothered to organise the programme properly, morning Rawalpindi, evening Hyderabad."

"Yes, but I will be flying to Hyderabad via Hong Kong. I want to have a word with Farokh Engineer. Still, if you have to travel. You can't watch the World Cup otherwise."

"At least, when India plays Australia at the Wankhede Stadium, you will not have to travel," I said.

"Yes," said my friend. "But to you have an extra ticket for the match."

 
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