Drove to the Dr. DY Patil Stadium for our first practice in India, and I have to tell you that the 10min trip was one to remember. I trust that all of you know the automobile manufacturing company called TATA right? Well we got issued the first two buses that TATA ever built as concept experiment busses back in 1936. The only way that I could tell that the busses were operational, was by the fact that we were somehow, by divine intervention, moving in a forward’s direction. On route, while dodging four near death incidents, it struck me: why does India only have one up and coming F1 driver in Narain Karthikeyan? Surely amongst the billion residents in this beautiful country, lies a few Sebastian Vettel’s, or Alain Prost’s? All Indian drivers like speed, are gifted behind the wheel when it comes to avoiding accidents, and they are especially good at staying calm amongst all this chaos. Born naturals if you ask me. Anyways, moving on…
The most interesting part of the bus that I was in, was the paraphernalia on show on the dashboard. The old digital dashboard clock, was replaced by two strapless time pieces that came out of the same era when TATA was founded as a company. Our driver was clearly a heathen, or pagan of some sort, as he had three of these of sort of mini statues that I guess are mini gods for various things. One was with a beautiful topless Indian lady with two other ladies standing either side of her, all surrounded by one cow. The other one was a dude standing on one leg in a very “zen” like position. Staring at it, and trying to figure out what is was, I immediately felt a sharp pain shooting straight through to my glute muscle which got me to thinking that it could very well be a voodoo doll of sort… Aimed at unschooled foreigners like myself.
Jokes aside. We eventually got to the stadium, and immediately put the boys through a good session in the nets, and ended off with a bit of fielding. So far so good it seems, with no complaints about guys damaging the “Royal Doulton” (a type of ceramic toilet) so to speak. Its kind of strange when the first thing you hear in the morning is everyone talking about what food they ate and that they are still feeling no side effects whatsoever. The chatter then quickly shifts to the driver and his amazing skills, or lack thereof, behind the wheel. Once we are in our safe zone/happy place, ie the cricket stadium, talk soon returns to normal.
I absolutely love walking into a dressing room or pavilion that is clustered with cricket photos and memorabilia. It just gives the place a lot more class, and shows that the people are proud of their teams’ performances. The under 19 Youth Coach, Roland Lefebvre, and myself took some time and went through some of the pictures, and of course stumbled onto one that was of a local lad called Sachin Tendulkar. Don’t really know who he is, but they seem to love him over here. They even had a picture of his dad hanging on the wall.
Our net bowlers were awesome local youngsters, who were always keen to bowl to our guys and give it their best. I felt a bit sorry for them when Mudassar Bukhari starting pumping them to all parts of the ground, and one by one they had to spend some time looking for their balls. It took me back to when I was 16 and bowling to Lance Klusener in the nets at SuperSport Park in South Africa. The press photographers asked me to carry on bowling as they were getting real good action shots of Lance pumping it down the ground. Not a great feeling really.
While all of this was going on, I couldn’t help but notice the look on some of the boys (net bowlers), security guards, and local on-lookers’ faces, when they saw a 7ft2 tall black man in Daniel Doram (aka Johnny Cake) stride to the nets for a bowl. Bred in St. Maarten West Indies, Daniel not only holds a Dutch passport, but also bowls very useful left arm spinners. Add this together with his height and we have oursleves an up and coming star in Daniel at the ripe old age of 15!! Yes 15. Great guy, great character, who adds a touch of island swagger to our squad.
For lunch, I took down some stir-fry chicken bathed in black bean sauce. This was accompanied with some fried rice on the side, and was nicely complimented with some fruit for dessert. I didn’t quite have time to look and see what Micky Swart had, but my guess would be that the cheesecake took a hammering.
For dinner, the Head Coach (Peter Drinnen), Eric Szwarczynski (or Turtle as we call him, but he also responds to Viking), and myself went back to what we had the night before. As the Coach says, if you have found a good settlement with good tucker, you have to stick with it. So we went the safe option of ordering the same meal. Just as good as before, I have to add, but I have promised myself to go a wondering in a tuk-tuk with Roland Lefebvre, and venture into the unknown and feast on the local Mumbai cuisine. God help us in the tuk-tuk…