Well the last couple of days has seen a lot of travel. We packed up from Chandigargh on Wednesday morning after I took the players down to a local park near the hotel for an easy run and stretch. The airport itself was pretty chaotic but the reality was that it all worked. The coach of the team Balwinder Singh Sandhu (Balu) knows the tricks of the trade over here! He aproached the head of the security (a police officer) and enlisted his help in not only getting all of the bags through, but all of the players (14) and staff (5) too. Cricket has significant pull over here.
Stepping back to last night, we had decided to go to a restaurant that was probably about 15 minutes drive away from the hotel. The prospect of getting a taxi was similar to finding a taxi in Flinders street on New Years eve! There was nothing and the hotel could give us no guide as to how long we would have to wait. Leroy Lobo (the team physio) said to the doorman at the hotel that we needed the taxi as we were meeting the doctor from the Indian Cricket League.
“Oh, you are with the ICL?” he asked, suddenly more interested in our situation. With that he turned, went to the microphone and called: “ICL car! ICL car! We need transport for ICL staff!”
Within 45 seconds a car has appeared. The driver would take us “wherever you want to go..” And so off we went. But that was not all. The driver also waited – 2 hours – to bring us home. I haven’t had to use it yet, but I am sure that I am going to be mentioning those three magic letters again before I leave India!
Anyway, we had to wait at Chandigargh airport for the best part of 90 minutes. Here I am, the fitness coach of the team, eating a packet of chips (lovely madras flavour – I think the direct translation is crap tasting)and a bottle of carbonated apple juice for lunch. The choice was underwhelming and it was either a losing hand in nutritional roulette, starvation or …..well crap. The plane trip to Delhi airport was uneventful and took about 1 hour.
From that flight we disembark across the tarmac to the airport. We are taken to an airport lounge – which is certainly an alternative approach to the Qantas Club. We killed a couple of hours there before having to make the move through security checks to board our next flight to Hyderabad. I got chatting to a bloke from Amsterdam whom is over here in India on buiness. He told me that he was not into cricket at all. His only sport, he said, was soccer.
When I told him that I had been to Ajax Amsterdam several years back he was beside himself. Ajax was his team. He rattled on about the players and then asked how I got into “the most famous club in Amsterdam?”. I told him that Jacque Schawrdt (one of Ajax’ most famous players) had taken me through the club and to several other key contacts with the footy club. He couldn’t believe it. You would think I was Jacque himself! It was funny being here for cricket but that soccer bug is never far away…
The flight to Hyderabad was about 2 hours. When we stepped into the airport it was like a whole different world compared to where we had been. The airport was brand new and equal to the best of anything that you would see in the world. Absolutely first class. We collected our bags, and the people from the magic three letter company (ICL) were outside to meet us. Even the bus was new. As we left the airport, I could not believe that this was India. Beautiful highway, minimal traffic, palm trees along the way, stylish lighting – I felt like Jim Carey in that movie, the Truman Show. And then reality….the impoverished slums and crowded streets. The closer we got to the centre of the town, the greater the contrast became. And this in itself is a bit about what makes India so intriguing. It is a country of contrast: new beside old; rich beside poor; mega rich beside destitute; Hindu beside Muslim beside Christian; tradition beside modernism; medieval beside state of the art technology.
We drive past shanty buildings before making a hard turn into a magnificent 5 star hotel – The Taj Deccan, Hyderabad. Before the players can check into their rooms, I insist on a recovery and mobilisation stretch. I herd them into the gym and they diligently go through the session. It has been about 9 hours since we left Chandigargh and they are keen to settle into their rooms. Not only that, but we have an early start the next day for a key cricket session.
Later that evening I eat and chat with the physio and the masseus regarding all that is going on and what we are doing, how we can do it better, what is right, what is wrong, what they need and so on.
Thursday sees an 8.30am bus trip of about 90 minutes for training. It is a drive of contrasts and some of the bumpiest roads on earth. I sat at the back of the bus to talk to a few players and couldn’t help but think VibroGym would never sell one unit in India. You just need to drive down this road and the bouncing and vibration would do the lot for you!
The training centre is actually a resort. A beautiful cricket ground is centrepiece. But the swimming pool(s) and accommodation and restaurants etc could have been at any classy resort in the world. Think Phuket, Bali, Fiji. I smiled as I thought about the people back home feeling sorry for me in India!
Training today started with the warm up and some agility drills. The batsmen in particular will need to do some agility before they take the pitch and this was a good opportunity to liven up the whole side physically as well as show them some pre comp preparation work. The players really enjoyed this and despite the hot temperatures, got right into this training. Then Balu took them for cricket practice which consisted of nets, bowling, batting and fielding work. The session went for about 80 minutes after the warm up.
I had my first taste of the dangers of the game today. When the players were out training, I decided to update the files I have been keeping on the players loads. So I fired up the computer and sat in the stands typing away. The players were probably about 90 meters away, with the bowlers firing the balls down the pitch and the batters smacking them, mostly, into the surrounding nets.
For some reason, I looked around and saw a table about 4 rows back and spied a power cable underneath it. At first I thought I was comfortable where I was. But the urge to move was very strong. Up I got and plugged my computer in. I had just settled into the seat when I heard the cry from the field “Watch out!!”. I looked up to see what they were talking about only to find a cricket ball, hurtling in like a scud missile and place a direct hit on the very place I had been sitting not 1 minute before! That would have made the trip memorable! So the morale of the story for me is: When at the cricket, always seek the higher ground.
When the session was over I took the players over to the pool and we went through a 20 minute recovery session. It had been so hot, the coach, physio and masseuse did the session with the players. At the end I had a 15 minute swim too. The setting was fantastic. Lunch followed and before long, we were back in the bus, on the bumpiest road imaginable and heading back to the contradiction that is, our hotel.
Tonight we have the Season Launch of the ICL competition. It is sure to be a good night. I will let you know in the next few days I guess. I am still thankful that I can actually go tonight. So far I have avoided all the trials and tribulations that have come my way. Tomorrow will be a case of “what’s next?” At least I have a part of the answer. The question has been asked of me for a while now – even before I came to India. The answer is complicated, but it includes – look up, move up and don’t give up.