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Cash ready to rock Chennai

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January 01, 2006 21:12 IST

It is difficult to say which of them is more popular -- Pat Cash or Pat Cash's chequered bandana, which also has his signature on it.

At the Nungambakkam tennis stadium in Chennai on Sunday, a lot of stray spectators who had shrugged off two players lugging onto the practice court as just 'two of the guys', suddenly came to life when the Australian strapped the black and white headband and walked onto the court, sporting the cross-shaped earring and an athletic body.

Pure legend.

It is this air that makes the likes of John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and Cash difficult to die. They may be tucked into the senior circuit at the moment, but the colour they bring to tennis refuses to fade.

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Making a comeback to pro-tennis, Cash will pair with India's Karan Rastogi in the doubles event of the Chennai Open. And it was the 19-year-old from Mumbai, who was now the target of Cash's still-sharp volleys.

Not surprisingly, the Australian set the rules for the practice session. And if you thought that at 40 he'd be a little easier on the body, here was the 1987 Wimbledon champion running hard, training hard, till Rastogi was left to catch his breath when he was not looking across the net awestruck.

The Indian teenager, still recovering from the anxiety of being able to partner Cash, was happy being the sideshow, waiting by the baseline while Cash pulled out a wristband or interrupted the game to catch up with an old-time friend.

"He's awesome," was Rastogi's reaction after the session. And forget the number of times he kept reminding that Cash is 40.

We get the point; he doesn't look 40, he doesn't play 40.

But Cash said on Sunday that he is hoping Rastogi would carry the team on his young shoulders during the event.

"I play on the senior tour, about 10-12 events per year," said Cash, "and try to keep fit. But it's nothing like these guys on the tour.

"The senior tours are for players who are above 35, but then people like (Goran) Ivanisevic also come in," he says dryly. "There are a lot of players who are not past 35 but we don't care as long as they've retired."

His senior John McEnroe is planning to make a full-fledged comeback to tennis, but Cash is happy playing the one-off tour like the Chennai Open, where he was asked only two days ago about the wild card entry in doubles.

"There are lots of things one has to do; there's family, there's business, so I am not thinking of making a comeback to professional tennis," said Cash, still dripping in sweat after training.

Apart from family and business, what Cash also does is play guitar in his band, called 'Wild Colonial Boys'. With an image that could give a rock star a run for his money, Cash having his own 'Boy' band doesn't raise too many eyebrows.

Chennai fans better be ready for another rocking performance from this unmistakable Aussie.

Deepti Patwardhan in Chennai