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India: the 'Marmite' tour that affronts all the senses

I first travelled here in 2006 to follow the 3 tests - Nagpur, Mohali and Mombai - before hitting the trains to try to catch the players as they jetted from city to city for the ODI tour. In the Marmite debate, I very much loved the place. The cultures, the foods, the sights and sounds plus the history and physical beauty contrasted with the obscene poverty and a scale of begging that bought pangs of guilt and shame.

I spent most of the early part of the tour with Gilo the Manx, West Ham Mike, Gaz and Scummer the Saint before travelling to Mohali and meeting my wife to be, and a larger group of cricketing exiles Saint, Herbie, Midnight Al and Freddie to name but a few.

Trips to Agra, Amritsar, the Border crossing, Simla by toy train and of course a week on the beach in Goa made this a tour of a lifetime.

The cricket itself was a mixed bag, and by a mixed bag I mean pretty indifferent. A draw at Nagpur and defeat at Mohali after rain of biblical proportions set us fearing the first in Mumbai. We needn't have worried: to the tune of Ring of Fire, England romped to victory in the Gladiatorial stadium, home to a certain S Tendulkar. The noise as the prodigal son arrived at the crease only to be met by an equally deafening silence as he returned to the pavilion a few balls later, was one of those moments in sport! The man of the match was a certain senior country pro, a 38 year old spinner by the name of Shaun Udal. Perhaps Batty's inclusion is a nod to history and not the head scratching decision some have thought it to be?!

On the pitch in 2016 there is still much to play for. The issues at the top order for England still haven't been resolved since Strauss retired and the 4/5 man seam attack - when Stokes is fit - still lacks consistency. This is before you consider the recall of Batty and the missed opportunity of playing a 2nd spinner at the Oval alongside Ali. We are several tours away from feeling confident about what 11 players England will name and this is surely an area of concern.

So what chance me returning in 2016? Sadly the schedule and venues chosen don't make it as an appealing option as you might think, and I'm currently sitting here in October, undecided!

PC TinTin

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