With so many people in India – and an unemployment rate I am told of about 50% – manual labour is very common here. At the cricket grounds, hordes of people will manually clean the stadium in readiness for the next game; groups of women will sweep the ground looking for any foreign objects or to replace divets caused by the previous game. Away from cricket and it is the same – manual labour for building; for cleaning; for repairs. In fact for everything. I am sure that we take our automation in Australia very much for granted. God forbid if the dishwasher should ever break down!

The whole experience of coming to India – not on a holiday but to work – has been very good for me. It is not that I am looking for anything in particular, but it can be very confronting at times. The sheer size of the country. It’s vast population. The poverty. The traffic. The noise. The scale of operations such as the Indian Cricket League (ICL). The day to day lives of Indians.

Some of the more unusual things I have seen include:

  • Well let’s start with today. It is not often that you get woken by the sound of donkeys outside your hotel room. It’s like some mournful laugh but with one look at them, I know they are not even smiling!
  • I loved the street sign that proudly proclaimed that the company had been in the advertising business for 75 years. It looked as if the sign had been there for all of those 75 years!

  • On a busy highway outside of Delhi, we stop in a queue for the toll way. There are 8 lanes going in each direction. I can hear strange music. As we creep forward in the bus, I see the snake charmer coaxing his cobra out of its basket.

  • Transport is anything that moves – bikes, cars, motor bikes, auto rickshaws. Then add tractors, bus rooftops, trolleys and animals ranging from donkeys to elephants to camels.
  • So long as you get the idea, spelling is not always an issue.

  • Occupational Health and Safety is not high on the agenda. Every day, you will see someone clearly putting their life at risk doing menial task such as cleaning, painting or construction.
  • Get a haircut at a makeshift salon on the sidewalk. Whilst you are there, get your knives sharpened at another set up 100m down the street. By the way, the power for the knife sharpener is a push bike that operates when the pedals are rotated.

  • We went out for dinner. The menu proudly proclaimed that all food would be reheated in the microwave!
  • When I walk down one of the main roads in Ahmedabad, I see all of the things mentioned above. No one even glances. When two of us decided to go for an evening run along the street, it was one of the strangest things the locals had ever seen!
  • I went to a phone company in India to get my phone recharged. A guy comes in off the street with a shotgun over his shoulder – it would have been well over 1m in length. No one gave him a second look.

I could go on, but I guess that you get the idea.

In terms of tourism, I can recommend a visit to India. It really is Incredible India (and do not believe all the rubbish you are told about getting sick/water/food/travel etc). If you go about your business with some common sense and respect of where things are at, you will be just fine. Having said that, I have to share with you some comments I got off a tourist poster behind the Concierge Desk in one of the hotels I have stayed at here in India. From a distance, the poster looked like any other tourist blurb. It was about 1m x 1 ½ m and had small pictures highlighting the various attractions of the city. I had a closer look to read the various descriptions. Here are a few that caught my eye (I have excluded the name of the city):

  • ..rich, multicultural and architectural heritage of x is today threatened by encroachment, neglect and vandalism.” And then there is:
  • Water downstream of the x, is largely the water which has been treated and released from the x sewage treatment plant..” – Which is one very good reason I have chosen not to eat fish here, despite the very low cost!. Also, consider this other pearl of tourism extravagance:
  • Only 57% of x sewage is treated..” Which I am presuming means that 43% of the x river is, well you know!
  • “Once, about 170 water bodies dotted x and its environs. Today, most have been filled in for construction or filled with garbage“. And if you still are not enthused to visit:
  • In terms of air pollution, x ranks among the 5 most polluted cities in India” – now that’s a clincher!

After a week without the players we were all looking forward to their return to India. Only Dhiman Ghosh had stayed in Ahmedabad with us – although a number of the playing group kept in touch via Skype and phone messages. With infrequent flights from Dhaka to Ahmedabad the players had to spend Tuesday night in Delhi. By the time they arrived in Ahmedabad, they were exhausted from the early morning starts and travel.

When the players got to Ahmedabad, they learned that we had to move hotel – Bangladesh has been allotted to the Hotel Cama. It is a comfortable hotel on the banks of the Sabarmati River. From my window I look over the river and have views of the city behind. They are putting in levy banks at the moment as the river rises each year during the monsoon season. Along the worksite area is always a hive of activity with families living around the river bank; donkeys; goats and all manner of man labour.

On the Thursday I flew to Chennai for a conference. I had been asked to present at the Nutrition Society of India and the Indian Society for Parental and Enteral Nutrition‘s combined National Conference. I spoke on hydration and sports performance. The audience was made up of doctors, nutritionists, educators and students – about 500 in total. It was well received and I have had quite a bit of traffic through my web site since the presentation. The trip back to Ahmedabad was a nightmare with cancelled flights and plenty of sitting around. In all, from the time I left the hotel in Ahmedabad and returned that evening, 16 hours had elapsed. I was glad to finally get back ‘home’!

On Friday the 21st the team had a skills session at the ground in the morning. In the afternoon, I had all of the players come to a local gym for a strength training session and a pool recovery session. Saturday morning was a final session prior to our first game in the Indian Cricket League (ICL) World Series.

Our initial game was against a ICL World XI side. It wasn’t so much that the World side won the game – we lost it! The World side were all out for 167 – a very achievable target for the ICL Bangladesh side. It certainly started promisingly with Bangladesh amassing 50 runs by the end of the 5th over. Unfortunately, the runs dried up from that point with the final tally being 155 runs – a loss of 12 runs. The only positive we could take from that game, was that the defeat could have been much greater had it not been for the composure and skill of the players.

Monday saw a light session for the players and of course, recovery. All of the team was pretty flat and disappointed with the very ordinary display the previous night. The talk was of a much improved performance against ICL India. We did not have to wait long – the game was held the following night.

Not surprisingly, the commentators here were tipping a significant ICL India win over ICL Bangladesh. We won the toss – and due to the late accumulation of dew – elected to bowl first. The Bangladesh team had two new inclusions – Farhad Reza and Golam Mahbud Chowdury (Shishir). These additions proved to be decisive in the fact that Reza bowled four overs for a total of 35 and Shishir took 3 catches. Bangladesh looked very strong in the first 15 overs (India 107 runs). However, 35 runs in just 2 overs gave the Indian team a real chance of winning the game. At the end of 20 overs, India was 164.

Bangladesh started the defence slowly but gradually increased the run rate. Outstanding for Bangladesh was Shahriar Nafees who ultimately steered the team to a nail biting finish by scoring 70 runs not out. Bangladesh won the match with just 3 balls to spare. It was a great win and set the team up for a showdown in game three against ICL Pakistani – our nemesis from the ICL Series (under the guise of Lahore). Unfortunately, that game never eventuated..

It was at this point that terrorists attacked several hotels and tourist spots in Mumbai. Ahmedabad is about 400km north of Mumbai. Unfortunately though, terrorism has no borders, and Ahmedabad was itself the target of terrorist attacks just 4 months ago. The Indian Cricket League determined that the game Bangladesh vs. Pakistan should be cancelled. Later in the day, the team was advised that the remainder of the ICL World Series was to be cancelled. That’s it – over. Security around the hotel was increased. No one was allowed to leave the hotel during the day, especially if you were a westerner. If the Bangladesh team was a dart board for terrorism, I would pretty much think that I would make a great bullseye!

I was told to keep my door shut at all times and that my departure from India would be brought forward – as soon as possible. I spent the rest of the day packing and itemising the equipment that will be left behind for the next ICL tournament in March 2009. At around 8pm I had to go to the ground with the Manager of the team to check the equipment in. There were quite a few fans hanging around, bewildered that the game had been cancelled. As I stood waiting for the store room to be opened, a small group of these cricket fans approached me. They did not have very good English and communication was difficult. As I walked away to place the bags in storage, I heard one of the disappointed fans say “I just want to watch the cricket!” Unfortunately, he will have to wait until next year.

I have done a lot of work in setting up my proposed business back in Melbourne. I have had plenty of think time to set up my plans going forward. I am really looking forward to getting back and moving it into reality. I am a bit surprised that I have rarely thought about AFL and Essendon Football Club in particular. For now, that (AFL) is a chapter of my life that is closed and a new and exciting chapter is underway.

I am sure that I will have one last blog to put some closure on this trip to India. After that, I hope that you continue to drop in from time to time to check out what is happening. Bye for now.