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'Billy is the best'

October 24, 2006 22:30 IST

Former England fast bowler Bob Willis landed in Mohali on Monday to cover the ICC Champions Trophy as a commentator.

As soon as he landed he was curious to find about the tournament and how the pitches were turning out to be low-scoring ones.

"It is really strange to see such low scoring matches," he said at the Chandigarh airport, as he waited for his luggage to arrive.

Reminded that while the batsmen are struggling, the bowlers are not complaining, he shot back: "Except for Steve Harmison!"

The tall England fast bowler has struggled on the slow pitches in India and not bowled his full quota in the two matches. He conceded 79 runs in 10 overs, while taking three inconsequential wickets.

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New Zealand umpire Billy Bowden, known for his rather strange style of giving decisions, is a popular figure in India.

The 43-year-old has carved a niche for himself with his customary bent-finger decision to give batsmen out. He thrills audiences wherever he goes, whether on the field of play or off it.

The best example of his showmanship was witnessed at the Chandigarh airport when an elderly man shouted out loud: "Welcome Billy. We love you, you are best."

And Billy replied in his own naughty style: "We love you too!"

No doubt the fan was thrilled to bits and couldn't stop singing the praise of the Kiwi umpire long after he was gone.

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The security arrangements at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali have reached unprecedented heights.

The security check-posts start around a kilometer away from the ground. A number of barricades have been placed at all roads leading to the stadium, meaning the general public has to avoid the road and take a long route to reach their destination if they happen to pass the road.

Also, the barricades are being manned by a huge number of policemen and one gets the feeling that the security arrangements match that of a fortress or of the Prime Minister of India.

The Pakistan team plays New Zealand on Wednesday and the authorities here do not want to take any chances.

There were furious protests in Jaipur when Pakistan played Sri Lanka and there is every chance of it happening here.

They say precaution is better than cure. The organisers in Mohali know that well.

 
Harish Kotian in Mohali