My dealings with India and the BCCI
As I pen this long overdue account of my dealings with India and the BCCI, I am in Mexico with little idea of how Freddie’s day at Chester le Street has gone, other than that my limited WiFi let me know we were 450ish for 8 and Moeen was gorging himself on the Sri Lankan pies. If the ball hoops again like Headingley you won't need tickets for day 5 but the track/conditions does sound better for batting.
On another continent, the IPL final will be played in India with God knows how much money up for grabs. Initially, the Final would have been in Mumbai but due to water restrictions, the game has been moved to Kolkatta, where I spent a month trying to understand the politics of Indian cricket during the World Cup, I'm still no wiser. However, due to my friend Ashish Bhowmik convincing the powers that be that the wicket is not fit, it has now been moved to Bangalore I believe where the home side are waiting for the second semi-final winners.
My dealings with India and the BCCI started 4 years ago. Over this time I have been building contacts with my partners in India, Vivek and Vikas, who have tirelessly trekked the country to heed the whims of BCCI officials. Eventually, this led to an order for covers for the T20 World Cup in which we supplied each venue a flat sheet for their square and Eden Gardens ordered a full ground cover (despite someone in BCCI wanting an Indian supplier to be chosen).
Although we initially said this size of order would need to be with us by November to reach deadlines, we got the go ahead in January, typical Indian business. This meant we had to fly the goods as opposed to shipping which increases cost but when you are dealing with the wealthiest people in cricket, so what. The goods are ordered, deposits paid and we are in business.
2 weeks before delivery and panic sets in as they now realise they have no idea how to put this cover on (despite already having a full ground cover, they lost international and IPL games last year as they aren't that clued up). The result, I must get a visa quick and book my tickets and bearing in mind we will be touring the country this winter I went for a 12 month multi visit visa. Visa in hand, flights booked, it's off we go to Kolkata to give a demonstration. All I can say is that doing a demo where you need 20 staff isn't that easy, even if you have 50 staff like I had. Mainly as I don't speak Bengali, neither do Vikas or Vivek (Punjabi) so a little joint Hindi is all we had. Amazing how pointing fingers, raising your voice and clipping the odd head gets things done! Despite the frustrations, everything seemed to go well and Mr Ganguly, better known for his batting, was happy, what he says goes as he is now top dog at CAB (cricket association of Bengal).
Off I trek back to the UK to pick up on my busy pre-season schedule only for Mr Ganguly (Sourav now to his pal) to pick up the phone and ask for my services for the warm up and group games. There were a few considerations to make, I had been away in South Africa a month and the wife was getting fed up with me being away versus it was so cold and wet at home and being involved in the World Cup didn't happen every day. 2 days later I was back on the plane to Kolkata ready to wave my arms and shout loudly in case it rained. Forecast 38 every day and no rain, lovely.
I don't know what came over to the UK in the press but there was a situation in India where Pakistan decided not to travel unless certain re-assurances were given, this was a minor political nightmare but it ended up being resolved with the game rescheduled to Kolkata from my personal favourite ground at Dharamshala, great. I'm not saying Kolkata is mad for cricket but 35,000 turned up for the warm up against a country in disarray, West Indies. The wicket was shocking and the 150 posted on a Bunsen should have been far too many but someone called Brathwaite came in and whacked 30 in a few overs and won it for them, who would have thought.
We had no rain or threat of rain, but we still went in every morning at 6am to take the cover off and stayed until the last practise had finished around 10pm to put them back on. That is until the Pakistan game. With the game due to start at 7.30, the gates opened at 4.30 and despite enormous security like you wouldn't believe, the ground was full, all 60,000 of it, by 5.30. It normally gets dark around 6.45 but by 6 it was black, lightning closing in and then it came, a sub-continent thunder storm, 60,000 waiting in pockets of shelter and me trying to evaluate the situation. Although I was the only one who had an idea what to do the head curator (an ex-tax inspector with no experience, but don't ask) was in charge. As it poured he waited in his shelter while I patrolled the ground with my friend Ashish (a BCCI employee) wondering why the hell any of the 4 whales weren't being used. All 50 staff were stood on the sheets to prevent gusts blowing the sheets but with tonnes of water on them it was unlikely. As the rain subsided and nothing was being done my patience snapped and I "had words" with the curator to get things moving. He wanted to wait for it to stop raining so a call to Mr Ganguly soon put paid to that. As the whales started to work the curator decided to give the lads who had been stood on the sheets a tea break.
I was fuming. Another call to Mr Ganguly and I was in charge. To the credit of the 50 or so guys who didn't understand a word of English and none of whom weighed more than 6 stone despite being wet through, we cleared the covers in half an hour. The teams came out to practise, the pre-game ceremony with all the stars took place & an 18 over game took place which India duly won and everyone went home happy. I felt like I had earned my corn.
Group games, re-arranged games and friendlies over I was on my way back to the UK with the possibility of a return if the weather for the Final was not good. Luckily for me, a few thunderstorms were forecast for the Final so Mr Ganguly asked me to return. Despite not being required to do much other than standard covers on and off, I can say I was there when Carlos Brathwaite decided to show his talents at Eden Gardens again, unbelievable. The guy had been a pro at Leinster CC in Dublin where I have done a lot of work and he is genuinely a nice guy. I disagree with a lot of what had happened in WI cricket in recent years and I was in Dharamshala when they threatened to walk out of the tour, but the party after they won was genuine camaraderie and great to see and I will never forget it.
Hopefully the BCCI will pull their fingers out and let us know when and where we are playing this winter so we can get booked on to an Addis tour to a remarkable country with great friends.
See you there