My Passage in India - An English Cricket fan's survival guide to touring India
It is now almost 2 weeks since I returned from Visakhapatnam and my heart is still there. At times it felt like I was leaving other parts of me too. It was a death defying, stomach churning chaotic visit. Again. Anyone who has travelled to India can tell you that the only thing you can expect in India is the unexpected.
Every day is a battle of near death experiences in auto rickshaws (tuk tuks) and almost near death experiences with Delhi Belly laying open to the danger of a cricket ground toilet. Everyone involved in customer service will tell you what you want to hear, not the truth. The taxi that hasn't been ordered is on its way. The journey will cost 500 rupees, then 200, then 300. The pitch that looks a batsmen's paradise suddenly turns into a raging, unplayable turner of variable bounce. Your airline gate opens in 5 minutes...for the next 3 hours.
So if all this is so predictable, why is India so marvellously unpredictable? That's because there is the old, predictable chaos and the new predictable chaos. Imagine travelling to a country where you can only buy the currency when you get there and you quickly find that every ATM is empty and every currency exchange is closed, out of money or with a 3 hour queue. How do you get to your hotel? Luckily we grabbed the last £50 worth of rupees at Delhi airport and the mind boggling effect of President Modi's attempt to rid India of dirty money was faced again the following day.
So what of the cricket ground? The grounds are massive and never filled for Test matches, yet the 10,000 who do want to attend Day One were all queueing at the same kiosk. This kiosk has one man, taking money, another giving out tickets, a third giving back change after 10 minutes of hanging about because of the lack of bank notes. Obviously being India there are 4th and 5th officials in the kiosk supervising matters with bored detachment. The catering is eccentric, Mountain Dew, Crisps, Swiss Roll and Samosas. 6,000 schoolchildren scream every time Kohli fields the ball, claps his hand or scratches his bum. Oh and England lost a match we all knew they would lose when they lost the toss.
So why do we go? Because beyond the dirt, dysentry, death-defying drives and dearth of England wins, there are the marvellous moments, being asked for 50 selfies after a game, great, inexpensive meals, boozy lunchtimes with 250 fans crammed in a tiny beer garden and that occasional blissful moment when you order a Pineapple Salad and one arrives, on time, to the right person. When simple things going right are so unpredictable, you appreciate it all the more.
I couldn't appreciate India more.