Only Mad Dogs And English Batsmen…
I’m trying to cut down on my slating of Americans during my blogs as it must look like I hate them. Of course, I don’t at all, but I seem to attract the dregs of American society wherever I go.
On a trip to Elephante Island, just off the coast of Mumbai an American decided to voice his disapproval of Indian society to the guide.
“I’m not big on India y’know. What you guys need is democracy”
The world’s biggest democratic country, which took up an early form of democracy almost 2000 years before American was even discovered; needs democracy.
“And what’s with all these street stalls? Don’t you have any proper stores? You need some fast food outlets selling proper food. Don’t worry, we’ll bring over Starbucks and McDonalds soon enough, you’ll love it”.
Why do these people even travel?
A trip was then made to pick up our tickets for the Test Match. Priced at a ridiculously cheap £7 for a ticket which covers all 5 days. It almost felt wrong handing over so little money. After years of escalating ticket prices back home; in both football and cricket it felt great to not be ripped off for once. Of course £7 is a lot more money for Indians but it’s still much more affordable to them than our tickets are for us. The trip to India in total, including tickets, accommodation and flights cost less than you would pay to travel to Lords for 5 days and accommodation in London.
Day One of the cricket and despite lining up in a queue the size not seen since Ritz cinema in the 80’s, the ground inside was fairly empty and subdued *insert joke about feeling at home as a Latics fan*.
Not to worry I thought, once everyone has got a few beers down them it’ll liven up right?
The ground was dry. Not once in all my planning of the trip did I ever consider ale would not be served there. For months I’d been waiting for the moment I could sit in that ground in the hazy Indian heat sipping on cold beer after cold beer.
Nobody in their right mind watches Test cricket without getting pissed…what’s wrong with these people??! I’d even not had a drink all week leading up to the Test just so I could properly savour that first moment of sitting down in the glorious sunshine, with beer in hand. Gutted is not the word.
The Indians we met on the streets were all too keen to tell us they think Test Match cricket is boring. They’re only interested in One dayers and to a lesser extent 20/20. England aren’t as big a pull for them as they used to be either. I get the feeling that if they had the chance to only ever play Pakistan in one day internationals for the rest of eternity they would gladly take it.
The locals inside were a respectful bunch. After the quiet start, they were later going crazy for every single run made by India and wildly applauding any decent shot by England. Pietersen and Cook both got standing ovations after their first innings. The atmosphere when Tendulkar walked out for his first innings was electric, proper hairs on the back of your neck standing up moment, in what looks to be Tendulkars last ever Test in Mumbai.
Whilst sat at home watching past away Tests, I’d always thought how difficult it must be playing in hot conditions. Sat in the baking Indian heat, it really brought it home to me. How on earth can the English even be arsed playing in this kind of heat?! To pull off an Innings like Cook did whilst kitted up in pads, gloves and helmet must take ridiculous amounts of willpower.
You could argue it’s even worse for the fielders. Out there for a full Innings, and not having to put in as much concentration as the batters, it must completely sap away all your energy just stood there in the heat, and then having to muster up the effort to chase a ball every now and then. England somehow managed to pull it off though with some fantastic fielding. India meanwhile, fielded more like I would in that kind of weather. Half arsed trotting after each ball that broke through.
Sat there all day in the heat certainly brought about its challenges. Prime one being trying to stay awake. For the first 3 days I failed, nodding off on at least one occasion each day. The third day was the most cruel. Asleep I fell, and actually started to dream that I was sat in the same seat, watching the same match, but awake. The cold-blooded twist being that, in the dream they served beer.
With my flight booked home for day 5 of the Test due to work commitments, I’d been hoping for a 4 day finish, but as Pietersen and Cook continued to pile on the runs during day 3, it seemed all set to go the distance. Before the Test I was expecting another batting collapse from England. I should have realised the inevitable though. Nobody in the history of mankind has ever come to India and struggled to get runs. [if the joke police want to get in touch with Johnny, I’ll gladly pass on the details – Ed]
The batting collapse however came from India after a matchwinning performance from Panesar at the end of the third day. I’m still yet to understand why he was left out of the first Test.
After years of seeing the most awful collapses by England I still had a nagging worry going into day 4 that it wasn’t quite sown up yet, but they finished off in style, and to see England win during my first away Test..in somewhere like India where it’s so difficult to win really was something else.
For those regular readers of my blogs, you’ll know that my trips are never complete without some kind of transport ‘incident’. A recent trip to Germany, we were stopped by the police on the Autobahn in the middle of the night in our hire car due to the rear lights not working and made to wait for hours for a mechanic to turn up. To then find out, they just hadn’t been turned on. Earlier in the year I was stuck on a broken down unheated train in North Korea for 13 hours in temperatures of minus 30. I’d managed to avoid any major incidents this time though, I thought as I waited for my lift to the airport.
I was travelling back on my own and stood outside our apartment at 2am waiting for the car to turn up. And of course, I waited and waited and it didn’t show up. As it’s getting closer to 3.00, panic is starting to rapidly set in. The phone number of the driver who’d promised only a few hours earlier to pick me up isn’t working and no taxi firms are answering their phones. I ask the security guard on the apartment reception what to do, but he’s as clueless as me.
“No chance of getting taxi at this time. No taxis on the roads until morning”
I’m 15km away from the airport and my flight departure is rapidly approaching. Fish, who is panicking more than me tells me he will go and try and find a car or taxi to flag down whilst I wait at the apartment in case the driver eventually turns up.
The clock keeps ticking and still nothing. Until that is eventually, I hear the faint distant whir of what sounds like a car engine. I’m beginning to think Fish has pulled through for me and managed to find me a taxi. I may just have enough time to make it. As the sound approaches, I become deflated when I realise it’s not a car, it sounds like a passing motorbike.
It continues to get louder and louder though until suddenly a rickshaw skids around the corner with Fish onboard.
“GET IN QUICK!” He screams.
An auto rickshaw for those of you unaware is basically a 50 year old, three-wheeled, souped-up golf buggy. I jumped in with my bag and big suitcase across my lap and off he sped before I even had time to sit down. To call it hair-raising would be an understatement. He floored it the entire way, with his foot barely leaving the accelerator. We sped along potholed roads as I hung on for dear life before taking a short cut through some slums, hitting the dirt track and throwing up clouds of dust whilst swerving around sleeping dogs and people on the floor.
It was a scene straight out of the yet to be made Grand Theft Auto: Mumbai. The last leg was on the motorway, which I hazard a guess at rickshaws not really being allowed to drive on. We criss crossed through the traffic, past cars, trucks and wagons as I tried desperately not to be thrown out of the side. At one point I thought we were going to drive underneath a huge articulated lorry to cut through to the other side.
Never have I felt so alive but so close to death at the same time.
We reached the airport turn off and he continued to rattle along at full speed. An armed security check was further along the road with a huge sign asking all traffic to stop for vehicle searches. This was not what I wanted. Stopping would quite likely mean I would miss my flight. What I wanted him to do even less though was NOT to stop and nearly give me a heart attack for fear of being fired upon. To this moment I have no idea how we didn’t get blown off the road by machine gun fire. Quite what they must have thought to have seen a rickshaw hurtling towards them with what could have only looked like a suitcase bomb on the back seat, I dread to think.
We reached the departures gate and he turned to me to ask for the fare. It was £2. I gave him a fiver, darted into the airport and left him to deal with the chasing police cars.
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