"If West Indies win by Wednesday, you can never die. The spirits you know …" He is clutching a crumpled paper-bag of peanuts, his eyes are bloodshot, saliva drips out from the corner of his mouth, his head is tonsured, he is dishevelled, probably homeless, and he was just chased away by the cops from the boundary line. The kids call him Danny Germs. He used to be Richard Austin. A West Indies Test cricketer. He even represented Jamaica in football and was by all accounts a good table-tennis player. He was one of the cricketers who went on the 1983 rebel tour of South Africa and found himself ostracised on return. These days he is high on cocaine, wasting himself on the streets of Jamaica, and in general drifting his life away.
"Bishen Singh Bedi is going to die," he mutters before he pats me on the back and says, "I am just f****** with you man!" Austin smiles. He leans across to speak to an old lady sitting behind us. He is polite, courteous and gentlemanly to her. He doesn't ask her money. He does ask me. "I don't know how he gets by," Tony Cozier says when I ask him about Austin. "Some time back, Robin Jackman and I met him at a bar. He made intelligent observations about the game, you know."
"Platinum can pass through hydrogen. No other metal can go through it. White metals yes. You see this line running through the eye of this man?" Austin is pointing out to the line in the Jamaican currency note that I had given. He had asked for 100 us dollars. I had just 100 Jamaican dollars. He looks happy. Someone tells me later, "Yes it's sad that a West Indian cricketer is living like this but there are so many other people like that in Jamaica." And in India and around the world for that matter. But then, this is a Test cricketer.