India Tour 2012
Today was the first day of the Calcutta Test and feeling very rough indeed we managed to make our rendezvous with Five-O at Gate 11, Eden Gardens, at 8.10am.
This, despite a sudden onset of Delhi belly at 5 am earlier that morning.
I broke the Olympic record from bed to bathroom today – only 1.46 seconds as I felt a Fireball XL5 like projectile passing through my intestines.
The England team featured one notable change. Finn was in for Broad, who was suffering from a bruised ego.
Our tickets for the game were once again in the Indian section – in the top deck of the Raja Biscuits Stand, in fact.
The crowd was quite large and built up steadily as the game progressed until we were pretty much surrounded by aggressive and volatile young Bengalis, who regarded us with some amazement, in all honesty.
The young chappie in front of Tremers, about 10 years old, was particularly inquisitive.
“Uncle. Uncle. Why are you so white? Why are you so smooth?”
At this stage Uncle Tremers kept his cool. I gave the lad my treasured Brisbane Pig & Whistle hat and binoculars to try to shut him up.
His dad ended up with the hat, and I ended up with a pair of broken binoculars.
On the other side of the ground we could see the Barmy Army contingent, increased for this game certainly but still well short on numbers compared with other tours.
They were replete with Billy the Trumpeter, in good form as usual, and we had heard rumours that Billy was being ‘groomed’ to replace the missing Jimmy Savile.
Sorry, Billy, I should have used the word ‘trained‘ there!
Uncle Five-O was doing a bit of ‘grooming’ of his own in the Raja Biscuits Stand.
By just after lunch he had been surrounded by a plethora of local lads, one sat on his knee dressed like an extra from “Oklahoma “with a chequered shirt and bandana.
Five - O was actually encouraging an unhealthy degree of fraternisation here by feeding this young lad buns from my rucksack, purloined earlier from our hotel breakfast buffet.
In return his young consort, called Randiv (we called him Randi) brought out a sliced white loaf and offered Five-O pieces of this -- to our great amusement.
Thankfully, India did not do much to encourage the explosive crowd to react against us that first day.
However it was obvious that the noise level would reach manic proportions once England batted and our wickets started to fall – each time the Indian batsmen hit a boundary that afternoon, this was accompanied by frenzied cheering and throat-cutting gesticulations in our direction and this began to interfere a little with our enjoyment of the cricket.
I have christened the noise level at this ground “The Gunga Din”.
Uncle Tremers had finally had enough. As the little varmint in front of him jumped up and down like a jack-in-the box he let rip.
“F*ck off. I’m trying to watch the cricket. Now f*cking sit down! “.
Uncle Five-O was also beginning to tire of his new friend Randi and used similar invective, although not before he had promised to buy him a ticket for the following day.
After the game we walked through the vast crowd, which resembled a scene from “Gandhi”, into town to meet our good friend Steve “Crete’s Got Talent “and a pal of Tremer’s called Bottey.
Imagine a nice version of Ray Winstone, with some class.
Bottey had arrived at the last minute and ended up staying in a very expensive hotel. He also had an interesting story to tell about his taxi ride in from the airport.
“I asked the taxi driver how much it would be and he said 950 Rupees. When we got to the hotel, the driver said ‘that’s 1900 Rupees please Sir ‘.
When I challenged this, the driver said I had to pay for him to go back to the airport again”.
Ha, ha, ha!
A heavy drinking session followed at the Olypub, a local’s hovel in the centre of Calcutta specialising in cheap alcohol.
A bottle of Kingfisher 70 Rupees (80p). A measure of ‘Smirnoff’ vodka 50 Rupees. And so on.
By the time we had finished drinking, just Bottey, Steve and myself were standing.
The pub had called time long ago and the number of bottles on the table made it resemble a skittle alley. Still – a great night, at very modest cost.
Day two of the Test next, and another great innings by Alastair Cook kept the locals fairly subdued.
There was no sign of Five-O’s little friend from yesterday and after stumps we repaired once again to the Olypub, this time also for food, which I think was called
"Olypubgrub” on the menu.
Five-O had found some other friends of his, a young couple who he introduced to us as Phil & Teresa.
Apparently he had met them at a Buddhist Monastery in Bhutan on an earlier holiday.
Phil & Teresa had just themselves returned from Everest Base Camp and were clad in Gore-Tex clothing.
Phil had a pouch which he kept bringing onto the table and rolling herbal cigarettes from, which he, Teresa and Five-O would then go outside onto the pavement to share.
When I queried this, Phil told me that the pouch contained mysterious Himalayan herbal ingredients which were good for your mental state.
After the third infusion of these herbs, Five-O returned into the Olypub with a large flute, which he had purchased from a street vendor, and proceeded to entertain us with some Himalayan Jazz renditions.
My favourite song was that old Count Basie number “I’m as high as a f*cking kite”.
On day three, we visited our friends in the Barmy Army section for the afternoon session and had fun with Bottey, Posh Margaret and Dave from Wigan.
Five-O was by this time beginning to worry me. He had started falling asleep at odd moments, then waking up and breaking into spontaneous singing. Ommm, Ommm.
Savile jokes continued to abound. I received the following from my good mate Doubter of Dobcross:
“I have just been to the doctors and found out that the birth mark on the left cheek of my arse is in fact a f*cking cigar burn. Ows about that then? “.
After the game it was Friday night in Calcutta and the Olypub was rocking.
Several pissed up local specimens went into the basic toilets, threw up the entire contents of their stomachs, and staggered out while we continued to laugh, slurp Kingfisher, and wade through their vomit to the toilets for a pee.
On the way home Tremers and I got into a taxi, and we could see all the other taxi drivers killing themselves laughing when Tremers offered the guy 100 Rupees to take us the short journey home.
When we arrived at the hotel, Tremers comment was a classic.
“Here’s your 100 Rupees mate. Now tell me – how much is it really to bring us here? “
Having safely pocketed the money the driver shrugged.
“25 Rupees” was the reply. At last, an honest man.
On day four England passed 500 runs accompanied by a stunning rendition of the Proclaimers “I would walk 500 Miles“ by Billy the Trumpeter and his Barmy Army acolytes.
I have to say though, today from where we sat up above, the Barmy Army looked like a small group of Emperor penguins standing firm against the elements.
A vast crowd of local Bengalis had come in to see Sachin Tendulkar bat, filling in the Barmy Army section and also our stand, which was rammed.
Amongst this throng I notice our pal Bury Phil sat just above us, who is not a man to waste either words, or Rupees.
The Barmy Army have their Party tonight – entrance fee 1500 Rupees (£18) including all the local drink you can swallow for about three hours.
Innocently I ask Bury Phil if he will be attending the Party tonight. He does not waste any words with me at all.
“Am I f*ck!! “.
It was soon India’s turn to bat and soon a tumble of wickets brought Sachin to the crease.
The “Gunga Din” increased to incredible decibel levels.
Then – just as suddenly – Sachin got out.
A stunned silence descended upon Eden Gardens.
Except for Five-O. Who got to his feet and shouted:
“Sachin, Sach-out. Time to retire Tendulkar. You’re past it mate! “.
I’ve been scratching my head ever since and I cannot think of a more potentially incendiary comment to that crowd at that moment.
So much for the Himalayan calming herbs. Tin hats, anyone?
Almost everyone in the stand stared hatefully in our direction. A large, moody Bengali man clad in a purple hoodie turned round and shouted to Five-O:
“Shut your f*cking mouth. Do not ask him to retire!! “.
Wickets continued to fall regularly as Jimmy Anderson motored in and further helpful comments from Five-O greatly amused the volatile local support. Such as:
“Stick it up his Khyber, Jimmy!”
I have never been so relieved to escape from a cricket ground.
The disappointment felt at not closing the game out on day four was tempered by sheer relief at being alive to see an hour of day five.
That night, as a final treat for me, Five-O took us all to the restaurant next to his VIP Hotel, where I ate a chicken curry.
Now I understand why Blackburn Rovers fans are so pissed off.
The next day my guts were so bad I expected to see the Grim Reaper every time I visited the bathroom – which was about every eight minutes, once I had returned from Eden Gardens after watching our inevitable victory.
Effectively, then, this was the end of my tour, as we flew home the following day. I was seated most of the way in Toilet Class.
After two great results here in India however I cannot finish this Diary on a negative note.
Regrettably, there will not be a Tour Diary from Nagpur, but a full service will be resumed from New Zealand starting in February 2013 so until then I will wish all readers a Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year.
Any written suggestions about making a curry with the turkey leftovers will be shredded, recycled and used as toilet roll!
Look out for an Addis Army publication in 2013……….!!
Love to all