There is this amazing haze over Ahmadabad as we make our way to the stadium for the game against Delhi Giants. It is almost as if there has been a bushfire with the whole sky whited out and the air at ground level similar to that of a fog in appearance. Before long we are warming up and getting ready for the game. Interestingly, Delhi won the toss and elected to field first. Dhaka went into bat and immediately went into attack.
The 20 overs ends with Dhaka amassing 174 runs. Our break between overs is 30 minutes. When Delhi went in to bat, you could sense real anticipation from the Dhaka players. By the end of the 5th over there was not much in it (at the same stage we were 6 runs more advanced) however, the pressure was growing on the Giants as they had lost three wickets by this time. By the 10th over, Delhi were in trouble. At the same stage the Dhaka Warriors were 44 runs more and had lost 2 wickets compared to Delhi’s 5. Delhi was dismissed before the end of the 19th over for 112 runs.
Dhaka Warriors win the game! It is a very impressive win and pushes the Warriors to 5th on the table. The players and staff are very happy and excited as the awards are made – including a winner’s cheque and also man of the match award to Mohammad Nazimmuddin.
After the presentation I insisted on the players doing a proper warm down. As the rooms were very small we did this near the entrance to the change rooms. The crowd that was at the game surged to the area to watch what was going on. They are all very passionate about cricket and being able to see these star players up close was a big deal for them. The players/teams do not go out of their way to interact with the crowd however, and by the time our warm down was finished the players were ushered quickly under the stand and into the change rooms.
Our team meal followed with the standard fare of curry, curry and more curry. Upon constant insistence, we have finally managed to get pasta onto the menu so the players are eating predominantly pasta, rice, dahl and naan bread. At each game, we indicate which foods a player can eat and which they cannot. I am sure that the Indian cooks think we are food sergeants as we hover over each and every player to make sure that they are adhering to the food direction.
Back at the hotel, there is very little time for celebration. We are to pack our bags and have them outside our rooms for collection. The bus for the airport is leaving in the morning at 6am for a 8am flight to Delhi.
By the time we actually get to Delhi, all of the players are quite tired. On first impression, Delhi is not really what I expected. The streets are quite wide and overall the city is pretty clean and green. It still has the sense of chaos that is India, but it is a big city that is well and truly on the move.
Our accommodation is at a beautiful hotel called the Shangri-La. We are in Connaught Place which is very close to the city centre itself. I am pleased to get to my room and relax. The hotel has a very nice restaurant and Mitch Sturt, Leroy Lobo and I decide to indulge ourselves in a nice steak, vegetables and an Australian red wine. By Indian standards, the price is ridiculous. But it is worth it.
The afternoon has been scheduled as a recovery session and I also need to arrange additional sessions for those players that did not play the previous night. The gym and pool at this hotel is outstanding and it is not too hard to get the players enthused about this session. A team debrief of the last game followed recovery.
The teams coach, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, is leaving early on Wednesday morning for a Indian World Cup Team (1983) reunion in Dubai. As such, we will be on our own for the next few days and will need to ensure that training goes on as planned. The morning session is to be held at the cricket ground at Gurgaon, which is about 60 – 90 minutes outside of Delhi. When we arrived the players did a warm up, nets practice, fielding and finished the session with some agility work. I took them through ladder footwork, a Christmas tree drill, evasive drill, and then introduced them to my first ever cricket drill for agility – an evasive drill with change of direction followed by a body roll and a pickup of a cricket ball before throwing on the run at a target. The drill worked well and the players are more than happy with the session overall. In fact, the players trained exceedingly well in spite of the fact that the coach was not there. Spirits are very high after our win and the focus has shifted already to our next game against Kolkata (Calcutta) Tigers on Sunday.
By the time we got back to the hotel it was time for lunch. I got room service and kicked back in my room whilst watching a video via my computer. In what seemed a very short period of time, I was due in the gym for two weight training and core sessions. I was feeling pretty tired by the end of the session and when the suggestion was raised that we should all go out for dinner, I was not really that keen. I wrestled with the idea until about 8.20pm and finally decided that I could sleep later and that being able to see Delhi by night was an opportunity that I should not pass up.
This proved to be one of the best decisions I have made since being in India. The players had arranged the team bus to take us to the old part of Delhi City. The bus could only go in so far however, at which point we had to travel the rest of the way by a rickshaw powered by a man on a push bike. Through the winding streets we went – past shops, bazaars, mosques and people. Weaving through traffic, bikes and pedestrians we finally arrived outside a small alleyway. If I was here alone as a tourist, I never would have given it a second look. But the players were ushering us down this winding cobbled alleyway, past open air cookers, people and shops. At the midpoint of the alleyway was a restaurant called, Karims. It is a famous restaurant that has been in operation for generations.
Again, to look at, you would not eat there. I decided not to look. Not to ask what it was. Not to worry about the consequences. Just eat and enjoy. It was a great night with great food. Fortunately, I overheard the waiter mention that the next dish was mutton brains done in a special curry sauce. Special curry or not, I draw the line at mutton brains! I really enjoyed the night here with the players and thought that if I was to get sick from it, that it was worth it. If you are going to have food poisoning you may as well get it eating something you enjoy and then have to recover in a beautiful five star hotel.
Well I waited for the impending signs – but they never came. I was fine and enjoyed the rickshaw trip back to the bus. Just two small footnotes to this story: 1) the cost of dinner with dish after dish after dish came to the grand total of $9. One can live very cheaply in India by Australian standards if you are prepared to live a little… and 2) I have attached a new page called Lessons from India which came in part from this night. If you are interested, look along the tabs at the top of the home page.
Thursday was our designated day off. Mitch, Leroy and I thought we would take the opportunity and venture south to one of the world’s seven wonders: The Taj Mahal. We were able to arrange our own driver and when we arrived we also had our own tour guide. The drive up was uneventful but very long – close to four hours in total.
It was well worth the trip with the Taj Mahal more than meeting expectations. It is a most magnificent building which attracts up to 50,000 visitors each day. The Taj Mahal was built by the Emperor as a tribute to his wife who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. It took 22 years to complete using more than 20,000 labourers and artisans from India and central Asia. It is truly a most impressive building.
When we finally got back to the Shangri-La I was well and truly ready for bed. It had been a long couple of days and our next competition is fast approaching.
On Friday morning we go back out to Gurgaon for a training session – warm up soccer game, nets and fielding. We left the training ground around 5pm and it soon became obvious that this was going to be a long trip back. The Diwali celebration has begun and the traffic is horrendous. At one point we just sit stationary on a 18 lane highway with cars as far forward and back as the eye can see. Sitting. Creeping forward. Horns blasting. If ever one was to see road rage, this would have to be the place. I was anxious to get back as I had been invited to the Australian High Commission for an informal function – due to start at 6.30pm. Well, 6.30pm came and went. We finally arrived back at our hotel at 8pm.
Taking Mitch and Leroy along, we caught a taxi to the Australian High Commission. The function was to watch the International Rules Series with Australia versus Ireland (held in Perth). We just missed the game in which Australia lost by 1 point. We did however have a few drinks with the people that are working for the Commission here in India and it proved to be a very interesting and enjoyable night.
One thing that the Commission is looking at through the Department of Trade, is sharing ideas and techniques relating to coaching. When you think about it, that is really what I am doing here in India for the Dhaka Warriors. The Australian Football League (AFL) is looking to play a game here in 2010 – unfortunately it could not get off the ground earlier due to the current economic climate. I have been asked if I would address a group of businessmen here in January on the concept of Intellectual Property. Of course I would love to do this – so it looks like another trip to India in the not too distant future.
And that brings me to today. Saturday. It is a day of preparation starting with urine tests, activation sessions by the pool, team meetings, strapping, more buses and final warm up before taking on the Kolkata Tigers at 7.30pm tonight. It has been a good week and I believe that the players may well just be up to win their second game in this Indian Cricket League competition.