The theatre of the absurd, the script for which was being written the whole of Sunday afternoon, came to its own in the narrow balconies of the second floor of the CCI where the press box was temporarily set up.
When instead of the BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele it was Sachin Tendulkar who decided to speak, the people present, including eager gate-cashers, so anxiously lunged forward to catch the words from the soft-spoken Little Master' that a couple of TV cameras, along with their operators, might have fallen over the railings, from a height of forty feet. Fortunately this did not happen, but in the mad scramble, a few camera accessories and a couple of notebooks and pens went flying.
After Tendulkar had dropped the bombshell of his resignation as captain after the two Tests against South Africa, it was the turn of Lele and chairman of the selection committee Chandu Borde. But hardly anything could be heard in the hubbub that Tendulkar precipitated.
It was a funny way to hold a press briefing, with no microphone worth the name.
To make it worse, the promised copies of Sachin Tendulkar's letter of resignation were not forthcoming, and to this day, no one, except the writer and selection committee chairman Borde can claim to have seen it.
However, the gist of the proceedings was that Tendulkar, through that letter, had announced his resignation and the team that was announced included Mohammed Azharuddin, as also Nayan Mongia. As the team was being announced, Tendulkar quietly slipped out. He could not be found later, even by two officials of the BCCI who desperately wanted to procure his letter. Lele followed suit, wanting to catch a flight to Baroda. Poor Borde was left to hold the fort in the face of a desperate and justifiably angry media squad.
In substance, much less was said than actually happened. With Kapil Dev having decided not to attend the selection committee meeting because he had been "humiliated," Tendulkar took upon himself the onus of confronting the selectors as well as the BCCI secretary. But his coach in Delhi was in touch over the mobile.
Long before the selectors were to meet, Tendulkar had a one-to-one talk, first with chairman Chandu Borde and then with BCCI secretary Lele. He had carried two sheets of paper with him, one on which he had written the team he wanted and the other, on which he had written down his resignation letter. With the first having been rejected by Borde, on grounds that it was only for the entire selection committee to decide and not he alone, Tendulkar then handed over the second letter, of his resignation from captaincy.
Whatever might have been said, officially or otherwise, it was apparent that both Tendulkar and Kapil Dev had got wind of the selectors' decision to include Azharuddin in the team for the first Test and had so planned their moves.
Just the previous evening, in a television chat show, Kapil Dev had more than made it clear that he was ready to put his own job as coach on the line.
So, once again, the Azharuddin bogey has been the dividing force in Indian cricket, the same way it had been when the Indian team was in Australia.
This issue raises many questions.
Why were so many people, both inside and outside the Board of Control for Cricket in India, so determined to get Azharuddin back into the side?
Why did the selectors, through the BCCI secretary, inform Kapil Dev in Delhi that he was welcome to talk to them but not to attend the meeting?
Why did the same selection committee chairman Chandu Borde, (who had earlier justified Azharuddin's omission by saying that they were looking more to the future) and his men change their outlook, even after so many promising youngsters had come into sharp focus after India's triumphant performance in the Under -19 World Cup?
By their own admission, both Borde and Lele had not the faintest clue that Tendulkar would decide to quit as captain. "We are shocked by this decision," said both.
How keen the selectors were to include Azharuddin was clear by the fact that his name was finalised even before getting a medical opinion on the status of his thumb injury. Azharuddin had been taken to hospital for an X-ray. A peculiar medical opinion was obtained by those who had volunteered to take the former skipper for the diagnosis. It said "fit for selection." No medical practitioner can give a report which talks of selection. All that he will say will be on the nature of the injury.
So, less than 24 hours later, when a second medical opinion was sought, it turned out that the damage to Azharuddin's thumb was more serious than shown by the first diagnosis. Orthopedic surgeon Nitin Gajjar diagnosed a chipped bone and advised complete rest for at least a week.
This second opinion has led to a lot of speculation over which of the two diagnoses was in fact genuine. Azharuddin himself has not said anything that might be assertive, but he did say that the swelling was still there and that he was unable to bend his thumb.
Instead of having been wiser after the disastrous tour of Australia, and getting together to look for quick remedies, haven't we created more problems than solved any?
With so much distrust all round and not a little vindictiveness, how can the players, newcomers included, ever be mentally prepared to take on the formidable South Africans?