India Tour 2012
In Between Tests
Most people departed for exotic Indian pastures such as Goa or the ‘Golden Triangle’ after the Mumbai victory, but no such frills or luxuries for the Addis Army crew.
Once the game finished early on day four, we were sentenced to another three days of sightseeing in Mumbai due to Midnight’s sheer laziness in planning the trip.
However from the following I think you may agree that we made the most of our predicament.
The day after our epic victory found us wandering along the Mumbai ‘promenade’ in 30 degree heat with massive hangovers.
Ilfracombe this place is not. The sea is toxic: only those without regard for life and limb venture in, although astonishingly we did see at least one hardy Indian family happily paddling amongst the flotsam and putrid garbage being swirled around by the tide.
Hugh Morris had told Tremers that the England Performance Squad were playing against a Mumbai XI at the Dr D Y Patil Stadium, Navi ( New ) Mumbai, about thirty km north of the main city sprawl ~ and having never sampled the delights of Navi Mumbai, the following day Freddie, Tremers and myself decided to hack it up there in a taxi.
The DYP Stadium is even harder to locate than the Rose Bowl (or whatever that ground in Hampshire calls itself now) and the journey took one and a half hours, involving some Navi-gation by ourselves, as the taxi driver only knew the way to the Mumbai central outskirts and had to be guided thereafter.
On arrival we pulled into the main car park and were directed to the VIP parking area. Once we left the vehicle, we were taken by a butler into the VIP seating area and informed what time lunch and tea would be served – meanwhile, biscuits and bottles of water were brought out to us at regular intervals by a staff of trained domestics.
Joe Root and James Taylor were batting well and scoring loads of runs but the atmosphere in the stadium seemed more than a little subdued, until it became evident that the ‘ crowd ’ for this fixture was – well , literally just the three of us, and one journalist.
During lunch we were invited in for a hot curry buffet, which had Freddie licking his lips, and afterwards hot vegetable soup was brought out to us in china bowls on the terrace.
In the afternoon we were joined in our viewing area by Messrs Graham Thorpe, Mark Ramprakash and Peter Such.
Craig Kieswetter hit a massive six which landed very close to us, almost removing Graham Thorpe’s head, and this broke the ice. Freddie and I were able to have our photos taken with these legends, and this was a highlight of the day.
As an ordinary working class cricket fan without ‘connections’ I can honestly say this is the best treatment I have received at a cricket ground, although Old Trafford and Headingley obviously run it very close with their truly excellent , world class facilities…..
Our taxi ride back to central Mumbai was less fraught although equally chaotic given the rush hour traffic and took nearly two hours. Tremers spent most of the time recording the journey on his mobile phone and this became just one of fourteen such ‘road movies’ he filmed. I can only assume that the High Wycombe area does not suffer from such traffic mayhem.
The following day we had to say goodbye to Freddie who was leaving for his early-morning flight. The three of us were sharing a room and, despite his promise not to disturb us, at 5am he padded round the room doing his packing like an elephant-sized mouse, waking half the hotel in the process, before leaving without paying his bill – due, he said, to a shortage of rupees at the ATM. Funnily enough, he was whistling “How can ye buy Willie Waddell “on his way out.
The remainder of the day was spent sightseeing.
Tremers took me to a street market where he had seen a whole row of stalls selling vibrators – and furthermore, he swore some of these were second-hand.
Next day Tremers and myself had to rise early for our no-frills, budget flight to Calcutta and upon arrival at the airport we were surprised to find Steven Finn, Graham Onions, Eoin Morgan and Joe Root waiting to get on the same flight.
Tremers’ local Aston Rowant club professional Wes Morrick used to play cricket with Eoin Morgan when he was a teenager, and predicted then he would one day play for England.
As the group came to sit near us in the departure lounge Tremers engaged Eoin Morgan accordingly.
I’m very pleased to report that Mr Morgan was extremely polite and charming ~ he must have been scrubbed regularly with a Blarney Stone as a small child ( is this compliment a first on my blog ? ).
The main body of cricket writers then came through the security gate and I tried to engage with Derek Pringle, who also sat down quite close to us.
He didn’t seem very interested, quite aloof and arrogant in fact, which surprised me when considering how truly mediocre his performances as an England player were.
Finally, and to our utter astonishment, the whole England squad came into the departure lounge.
Bear in mind this is a budget, Ryan-Air type flight with no first or business class seating to speak of!
They all looked pretty cheesed off. Especially when hundreds of Indian airport staff in the vicinity rushed over with mobile phones demanding photographs.
KP sensibly sneaked up to the Duty Free shop on the upper floor and stayed there looking at mobile communication devices until the final flight call was made.
We then had to get a bus to the plane (which Tim Bresnan missed) and this drove us about half a mile, round a little roundabout, then back to about five yards away from where we had boarded the bus on foot.
On the plane a kind of pecking order was established in that Pietersen was sharing the Economy Class front seat with Stuart Broad, who ironically appeared to be showing KP his own new mobile phone as I went past them!
The journalists were sat in the middle of the small plane, with Tremers and myself, the riff-raff, near the only toilet at the back.
I observed that being an England cricketer must be good for your bladder, because not one of the players needed to pee during the entire three hour journey.
Derek Pringle is a huge unit nowadays and he was clearly in some discomfort despite having an aisle seat. Every time the trolley dolly came through, his knee got a good seeing to, which for some strange reason made me giggle a lot.
And so it was on the 30th November Tremers and myself had our first glimpse of Calcutta.
Apparently, it is called ‘The City of Joy’
I’m sure that once, it must have been quite a magnificent place, but the only word to adequately describe it now is ‘ruination’.
Large Victorian buildings literally melting into decay due to lack of upkeep.
Massive air pollution, fly tipping not just rampant, but the norm. A cough, and cold, are inevitable, and spitting phlegm is the local pastime.
Dirt roads clogged with all manner of traffic both vehicle and animal.
A taxi fleet consisting entirely of clapped out yellow Austin Ambassadors without wing mirrors – although I’m sure they left the British Leyland factory with these intact.
Only half a mile away from the airport we pass a large KFC franchise, with Colonel Sanders smiling down benignly on this squalid, ugly scene.
Pent-up tension in our taxi to the hotel grows as we engage with the main vehicle flow into the city, but is soon dissipated by sight of the following billboard:
“PRE-MARRIAGE VERIFICATIONS….TRUST BLACKBOY DETECTIVES…..18 HEYSHAM ROAD KOLKATA “
This cracks us both up in laughter.
Fortunately I had anticipated that Calcutta might not be a great place for a pub crawl and whilst expensive, our hotel was of a high standard and had an English pub, the Big Ben, on site.
The following day we walk 4km to Eden Gardens to obtain our match tickets from a slit in a metal gate.
5,000 Rupees for a 5 day pass ( £6 ).
If by any chance the Commercial Director at Lancashire CCC is reading this, then Geoff, I hope you will now fully appreciate why I still think your 2013 Ashes tickets are massively overpriced.
Having obtained the tickets we stroll down the ‘Beautified River Ganga ‘riverside walk. At the end of this we get lost. Suddenly we find ourselves walking round a huge concrete road roundabout complex similar to Spaghetti Junction with families living under the arches of the underpass. Mother has a pot boiling on a wood fire containing dinner, and the tiny kids are running around unclothed in amongst the garbage and detritus. Truly heartbreaking to observe ~ I’m actually filling up as I recall & type this.
This is the contradiction and problem with India for me. Either you have, or you haven’t got, any money.
It is not difficult to see why Mother Teresa set up her own particular franchise in Calcutta.
“Bloody hell, cheer up Midnight” I hear you say. So here’s a piece especially for our golf-loving Addis mate The Saint.
Tremers is also a keen golfer and so we arrange a round at the fabulous TollyGunge Kolkata course the following day.
We have hired (we have no choice in the matter) some helpers to guide us round the course.
A caddy each to carry the clubs and advise – 200 Rupees per man.
A spotter each to stand 200 yards up the fairway and locate our drives – 200 Rupees per man.
And a guy waving a stick and saying “ good shot Sir “ to Tremers or in my case “ unlucky Sir “ - 100 Rupees.
My caddy distinguishes himself at the twelfth hole. I hit my drive into a toxic polluted lake. This must be the “Gunge “part of the course.
Jokingly, on the tee I offer the caddy a 200 Rupee bonus if he swims into the lake to find my golf ball.
He sprints off and by the time I have walked up to the point of entry he has his shoes and socks off and his strides half – way down and it is all I can do to persuade him not to go for a potentially fatal swim.
Tremers chips in from 40 yards and sinks a 90 foot putt during his round. He buys a bright orange TollyGunge golfers cap to celebrate.
I make a mental note never to play golf with the lucky bastard for money.
The next day we visit the Victoria Monument ~ the grandest building in Calcutta. Built of white marble in the 1920’s to commemorate the reign of our beloved Queen.
A real tourist puller. You can tell that the Indian Government are still grateful to us Brits – the admission prices are as follows:
INDIAN 50 Rupees : FOREIGNER 150 Rupees. Is this racism or is it just my flawed perception? We built the bloody thing for f*cks sake!
Our good Addis Army mate Five – O is due to arrive this evening from Kashmir via Delhi with his beloved collection of Hawaii shirts in his suitcase so we repair to the local Astor Hotel bar to await his arrival.
Calcutta is packed out with the Test due to start tomorrow. All the decent hotels are crammed. We are aware that Five-O has no hotel booked.
One Tuborg leads to another and incredibly we are joined in this small bar by a group of lads who crossed the Nullarbor Plain with us in camper vans on the last Australian Tour – enjoying the delights of the Aboriginal Xmas Party at the Nullarbor Roadhouse.
This reunion prompts the downing of many more Tuborgs.
Finally at about 10pm in a beery haze I receive the following text message:
“Hello Midnight. I’m staying at the Hotel VIP International, 51 Free School Street – I think it’s near you. Air India have lost my f*cking luggage in Delhi, so I only have the clothes I stand up in, my computer and credit card – the necessities of life”.
Five – O had arrived.
More to follow……….