England Cricket Tour to India 2016-17
Tour Managers' Reviews
If it's culture and cricket you are looking for, not many tours can top India. With five tests, taking travellers to all areas of India, as well as some incredible sightseeing including 'the Golden Triangle', Shimla and the Foothills of the Himilayas, as well as a trip to the beautiful Kerala. We have had many comments saying this was one of the best tours ever, so see below to reminisce and hopefully bring back some great memories!
Des' Tour Review
Jonathan Agnew opened his Q&A session in Chandigarh by saying that India is a tough country to tour. Generally by the time you leave its shores you think “That’s enough now”, but after a few weeks at home you think that you would like to go there again. It has a certain fascination. It’s different but isn’t that the point?
Different is the weather, the climate, the temperature, the food, the beer, the people, the social hierarchy, their attitude to animals, most religions, the scenery, the bureaucracy, the demonetisation, and the traffic rules and driving styles. Going anywhere by coach, taxi or tuk-tuk was sheer adventure.
When we arrived in Chandigarh we were told the population count stood at 1,300,000,000 souls. When we left Chennai a month later our guide said there were 1,400,000,000 people in India. The numbers don’t gel but it gives you an idea of one of the problems facing the world. Was this visit giving us a glimpse into the future of our planet?
We were surrounded by so much history, so much culture and the huge diversity of the land and architecture and scenery and wealth and poverty at all levels of survival. I miss it already.
We lost the test match in Chandigarh easily. The Punjabi/Bengal tiger had not lost its bite. The Rock Garden and “Beer Café” proved to be happier venues to visit.
The morning City Tour of Delhi turned out to be informative and compelling. After a visit to a huge mosque, big enough to accommodate two thousand worshippers, we enjoyed a unique bicycle rickshaw ride. We went through the narrowest of alleyways seeing close-up the way a trading area works. The smallest of shops with a frontage about the size of a normal door seemed to be making a living. We travelled along missing pedestrians or carts or bicycles by millimetres. Our rickshaw peddlers returned happy clients to the coach with a memory imprint of an intimate view into the tough conditions of ‘earning a crust’ that these folk take for granted with optimistic smiles.
Our coach journey to Agra on the freeway was again an experience. Not much changed regarding the rules of the road but the circus now took place at 120 kilometres an hour. At times I couldn’t look! We dodged buses, cars, carts, tractors, tuk-tuks, bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians, cows and a camel drawn wagon. The purpose of our journey was to undertake the Golden Triangle Tour, one of the most renowned in all India. Our first port of call was the Great Agra Fort sitting on a hill almost surrounded by a river. It is a huge structure and equally impressive but this was a mere warm-up for the main event: a visit to the world famous Taj Mahal.
One walks through a very crowded, dark ten-metre long arched passageway, almost jostling for position in anticipation before being spewed out into the bright sunshine revealing in perfect view the magnificent structure of the Taj Mahal. It mesmerises you for a long moment. It takes a while to break your reverie and take some photographs and then visit the memorial itself. This was an empty site on a river before an honourable grief stricken man, Shah Jahan, built this shrine for his beautiful deceased wife. (India owes the glories of Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra to Akbar and Shah Jahan). Twenty two years later and thanks to the labour of nearly twenty thousand men the world can admire the work of these skilled artisans with absolute wonder. The whole building is covered in the best marble and the result is exquisite. It was difficult to take one’s eye off this beautiful and unique memorial and the walk around the tomb inside reveals the most detailed and intricate patterns, all in solid marble. It was a privilege to have visited the Taj Mahal.
We travelled across absolutely flat plains until we eventually saw the hills ahead. We ascended into a beautiful mountainous landscape until suddenly reaching the City of Jaipur nestled between the natural fortresses of rocky hills. It is also known as ‘the pink city’ due to the light pink colour of the sandstone or granite, signifying a loyalty to the Commonwealth. Very pretty. Our Trident Hotel was superbly positioned beside a big lake which added to the view and was good for strolling around.
Who will forget the elephant ride up the steep pathway to the Amber Fort on the mountain? It took about twenty minutes so will be remembered for different reasons, some thought it more comfortable than others! The views from the top were great. Charlie used his organisational skills to the full arranging the coach to take most of us out to a restaurant on consecutive nights. I was ignorant of how good some of our group were at dancing till I saw them performing with two beautiful belly dancers. See the pictures and even some videos on Howzat’s Facebook page! We kept the bus waiting that night. A visit to a carpet emporium resulted in some good trade being done. I thought the carpet man was very clever in his sales tactic, passing a never ending supply of local rum around. The jewellery factory was popular as was the clothing place where you could buy tailor made suits and jackets made and delivered to your hotel that evening. Many took advantage.
Mumbai was exciting and vibrant. Our lovely Trident Hotel was home to Howzat Travel, India and England. The latter being the international cricketers and the former international spectators.
A lovely walk on the promenade next to the ocean took us to the Wankhede Stadium and gave us a chance to experience life at street level on the way there, and the pubs and restaurants on the way back.
Geoff Wellsteed asked Ashwin in the lift before cricket the difference between the England spin bowlers and their Indian counterparts. Ashwin replied that the England bowlers turned the ball whereas the Indians spun it. Indian bowlers produce many more revolutions on the ball. That was straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak. Now the reason for the poor batting becomes apparent. Sort of. We lost again.
This city certainly did offer great extra mural activities from tours to beautiful famous architecture to a whole range of restaurants and bars to suit all tastes. The visit to the Mumbai Cricket Club was a revelation with its history and elegant clubhouse with superb facilities. I even sat in Tendulkar’s spot in the changing room!
Chennai (Madras) on the south-east coast of India had shortly before our arrival experienced a cyclone. Evidence was everywhere with fallen trees and electricity cuts. Our lovely hotel with a superb swimming pool area had back up generators so little inconvenience was suffered. More beautiful architecture under the obvious influence of a bygone colonial era was to be seen. The Marina, the fine promenade which the city owes to Sir Mountstuart Duff, is now very populated. I don’t think he had that in mind when it was built. We suffered another resounding defeat on the field but we did have the privilege of seeing Nair score his maiden test century then convert it into a double - then a triple!
We owe many thanks to Howzat Travel for providing a very high calibre of speakers at our various functions. Imagine being able to listen to and interact with Jonathan Agnew, Vic Marks, Jonathan Trott, Henry Blowfeld, Scyld Berry, Ed Smith and George Dobell, who conducted some of the interviews. In India we did just that!
I look forward to seeing you all again soon,
Yours in cricket and touring,
Maggi's Tour Review
Well, I have just said goodbye to our last happy Howzat traveller heading home from Chennai after a crazy few weeks in India – what an experience!
I was sorry to only be able to do the last two tests in Mumbai and Chennai, and was very envious of those that managed to do the whole lot and also take advantage of all the exciting sightseeing choices in between. All the people I met up with in Mumbai who had done the Golden Triangle/Shimla sightseeing were SO enthusiastic about all they had seen – nobody was disappointed and spirits were very high.
Mumbai is an exciting city and the Trident hotel was a great option with both teams also staying there, just a short walk along the beachfront from Wankhede stadium. Plenty of great bars and restaurants were in close proximity to the hotel – Geoffrey’s being a favourite with good prices for Kingfisher beer and the local Sula wine which was surprisingly good. The Stock Exchange Bar was another favourite where drinks prices are displayed on TV’s around the bar and vary according to demand!
The ‘demonetisation’ situation proved to be a challenge for everyone especially those that had come armed with plenty of old rupee notes for the duration of their stay. A visit to the Reserve Bank of India was an interesting experience for some of us Howzat staff and luckily we managed to get all the old notes changed to new ones, much to the delight of our customers.
The cricket finished early on the last day and a last minute tour of the city was arranged for those that had not yet had the opportunity and everyone else enjoyed the rooftop pool overlooking the Indian Ocean. The last day in Mumbai was for shopping, relaxing by the pool and, for a few interested people, a visit to the Cricket Club of India and Brabourne Stadium which was steeped in fascinating cricket history. Less said about the actual cricket the better I think!
After ten great days in Mumbai it was time to move on to Chennai (was Madras) – luckily we just managed to miss the actual landfall of Cyclone Vardah but the effects were still very evident around the city with thousands of uprooted trees, overflowing drains and lack of power. Fortunately our hotels had generator power and we were not affected to any great extent.
If we thought Mumbai was a busy city Chennai was even crazier and the drive to the cricket in the morning through the Chennai traffic was quite entertaining. The Chidambaram stadium, 100 years old and the oldest continuously used stadium in India is home to India’s MCC – The Madras Cricket Club. With ‘interesting’ smells on the way in, the stadium was fairly quiet on Day 1, but once the weekend came and India started to bat so well, more and more locals started coming to the cricket (some queuing for tickets from 6am) and the atmosphere was good.
Our Taj Clubhouse was a fine hotel with a wonderful rooftop bar to cool off in the evenings with a cold ‘British Empire’ beer after a hot day’s cricket. A great variety of food was on offer and some of us ventured a bit further afield into the adjacent shopping mall or across the road to the vegetarian, non alcohol restaurant which was fantastic value for money. Masala Dosa (a kind of pancake made with rice flour) is the thing to try in south India and it was quite delicious!
Although it would have been much better to see England put up a better fight against the India team, the last test in Chennai saw us watching some amazing records and some new Indian cricket heroes being made. A memorable tour and I can’t wait for the next one!
Nick's Tour Review
I had already made a very short trip to India, visiting Rajkot, to watch the First Test of the five Test series. Being there for just five days, experiencing a snapshot of the country and the local people was enough to whet my appetite and how lucky I was, having the privilege of managing “The Sapphire” tour for the matches in Mumbai and Chennai.
The England team had suffered a defeat prior to our arrival, yet our hopes were high that we would get some positive and exciting cricket. Unfortunately, the final results did not go our way, but nevertheless, it was extraordinary and if you have read my tour reports before, I always maintain that there is no such thing as a bad tour. The Sapphire plus tour can only be described as wonderful.
Obviously the main reason for the visit to India was cricket and there were some great cricketing moments to witness on both sides. As we know, visiting teams have a tough time out in the middle here and that has been the same for every visiting team for the last eight years.
The stadia were better than expected, the location of the seats and the general view was deemed to be excellent. There was certainly no shortage of atmosphere or noise during some sessions!
There is no shortage of atmosphere or moments of wonder outside the stadia either. I was delighted to meet some clients who had come straight out from the UK, and others who had chosen the “The Golden Triangle” extension. Those from the Golden Triangle spoke very highly of the sightseeing, having visited five World Heritage sites over a two-day period, which included of course, Taj Mahal……and that was the name of the hotel where we all met up in Mumbai. I have been touring for 40 years and having stayed in some wonderful hotels around the world, the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai is certainly one for my ‘favourites’ list. I will be talking about this hotel for a long time into the future. We met in the most spaciously large and comfortable reception area where we were greeted in traditional manner by the charming staff.
From the first moment, this hotel was impressive.
One of the ‘must do’ things at the Taj Mahal Palace, (also listed as an essential whilst in Mumbai) is to have afternoon tea overlooking the bay. This is something I undertook and definitely found it lived up to the recommendation.
It is inevitable that this hotel has a very colonial feel about it. The standard that it achieves reflects this. The service, the standard of the rooms, the swimming pool and all the other features led me to think that this hotel has learnt how to give the best service with reliable consistency.
I think you can tell by now that I enjoyed this hotel. I also enjoyed a sightseeing tour of Mumbai that included many notable buildings such as the Gateway to India, the railway station and other architecturally interesting buildings dating back from the Colonial period. The place that stood out the most to me was Mani Bhavan, this was the residence of Mahatma Gandhi when he was in Mumbai. It is now a museum but there was an extraordinary atmosphere within its walls and the information explained the importance of the building and its occupants to the Indian Nation.
Another tour of great interest, where I received glowing reports from clients, was the tour of the slum districts. I was told there were many things within these communities that showed great promise and enterprise. The nature of the tour caused a lot of heart searching amongst those who chose it. One of our tourists subsequently went to a local curry restaurant taking with him the nearby shoeshine person, this was a very charitable gesture, but I understand it was not to the total liking of all the locals. After the story was related back at the hotel however, many of us were very impressed with the gesture.
Prior to leaving Mumbai, we had a fascinating question and answer evening with the well-known Sunday Telegraph reporter, Scyld Berry. As ever our tourists asked some interesting questions and in return, got honest and informative replies.
We had been watching the weather on the television, and were greeted with reports of a Cyclone heading towards Chennai. This threat obviously caused some concern as it was where we were heading for next.
In some ways it was fortunate that it landed two days before we arrived giving some time to start the clear up. Travelling from the airport we could see the devastation, so many trees having been blown down and signs of the services being disturbed. We felt deeply for the local people in the worst hit areas who must have experienced many hardships. However, it was amazing to see the progress made with clearing up in such a short space of time, due to the hard work of so many.
We duly arrived at the Leela Palace, a very fine and well organised hotel. The hotel sent staff on the bus to the airport and checked us in on the journey back! I was delighted to greet a few new clients from the UK who joined the party, I also welcomed a further dozen who had already done the previous 4 Tests, one of whom had also done the 2 Bangladesh Tests!
The cricket was a couple of days away so some of the tourists travelled round investigating parts of Chennai, a place which boasts the largest beach in south Asia and the second largest in the world. It was certainly a sight to behold.
On our journeys to and from the cricket ground we were able to witness the local fishermen going out to sea and their previous catches for sale on the side of the road. We also saw numerous activities on the beach – most involving cricket. In the end the cricket result was disappointing but we had had our eyes opened to many of the positives in this very interesting country of India. India is a wonderful country to visit, The Taj Mahal Hotel an extraordinary hotel, and I now feel I can't wait to go back.
The travellers I had with me in India were amazingly good company, we met old friends and made new ones too.
WE DO HAVE SOME FUN.
Bob's Tour Review
Arriving early in Rajkot via Bangladesh after watching England play two fixating tests, my expectations were high. Although not officially starting my tour manager duties until the second test, I was eager to be of any assistance having traveled widely in the subcontinent prior to this. One thing that you need to have in mind “in India always expect the unexpected” - Rajkot was no exception from ticket collection, liquor permits, excess baggage issues, to the serious money shortage created by the government scrapping the 500 & 1000 Rupee notes overnight.
Let the work commence - first stop Visakhapatnam (nicknamed Vizag) for the second test, meeting guests arriving overnight from UK it seemed the main topic of conversation was Rupees, or the lack of them! On arrival in Vizag our parties divided to two fantastic hotels, Mr Carl's to the Bheelimi Beach and the Lotus Tour group to the Novotel Varun Beach. An early night was had - ‘ahhh bliss’ - but not before I established all our rooms had executive floor access which included evening free drinks, canapé plus daily laundry. Success!
In the morning we were greeted with a stunning view across the ocean. The day was going to be busy and our first port of call was the tongue-twisting Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium… When Carl and I arrived it was still very much a work in progress with painting, cleaning etc. all happening the day before the game was due to start! A quick dash to the airport to pick up more guests arriving from U.K. and then back to the hotel just in time for the 6th floor executive lounge drinks.
A leisurely morning allowing our new arrivals to acclimatize before the big match. No no no, not the test match but Howzat Traveller’s vs Bheelimi Resort staff at a ground behind the hotel! An entertaining afternoon which included a BBQ and a large crown, ended all square.
Both England and Indian teams are staying in our hotel, it's interesting at breakfast to the English team lads happily mix, sharing a few mornings pleasantries, while the Indian’s are treated more like ‘Bollywood’ stars with everyone falling over backwards to please.
Day one is always full of anticipation and more so with Vizag being a new test venue. Unfortunately, the stadium was in poor condition after the great facilities we experienced in Rajkot. Toilets with no lights, filthy seats and limited food etc. Instead of spending money on a helipad for the bigwigs, or a marble whatever to commemorate the day, they maybe should have got the basics right first. As for the cricket, the toss was obviously an advantage, which India cashed in on and ensured they translated it to a win, which England could not in the first test. The first innings followed a similar pattern in both tests with big scores batting first, with the difference in the second test being India getting a 200-run lead. India's bowlers took just 38 overs to wrap up victory on the final day as England were weakened by the loss of two wickets late on the fourth evening. The damage had been done in a morning session in which they slumped from 87 for 2 to 142 for 7, lunch was just an interlude before the inevitable.
Money issues still dominated much of the guest’s conversations. The ATM in our hotel lobby occasionally had cash but demand would quickly grow as news spread. Of course if you received a 2000 Rupee note that was a problem as no one would change it for 100 Rupee notes. Mr Carl and I had a plan we would go to the stadium box office with our large denomination notes and exchange them for wads of one hundred notes. We also had a money changer who would come to the hotel and exchange sterling. Plan in motion. Howzat!
We don't know if the BCCI have shares in Indian airlines but the itinerary of this tour was crazy! Yet another early start for a full days traveling back up north to Chandigarh via Delhi. On arrival the smiling figure of our very own Des Newton was there to greet us. The following day was the norm, sorting tickets, airport arrivals and directing guests to the limited attractions that Chandigarh has to offer. The city is divided into 47 sectors each with its own facilities. Roads are wide and spacious, in fact it's not what you would normally expect in India … it's orderly!
The Punjab Cricket Association Stadium Mohali was on the outskirts of Chandigarh and the early morning temperatures were cool so a number of our guests opted for the sunny seats rather than the shade. Cook won the toss on a 400 plus wicket… England instead succumbed to 283 all out and surrendered the pitch at its best to India, who scored a mere 417. Again we batted poorly in the second innings but young Hameed provided brave resistance with a damaged hand. It was all to no avail however, losing by 8 wickets in four days.
On the 1st December, twenty nine of us plus a local guide set off for Shimla in a convoy of ten cars. It's about a four hour drive starting with a toll road, followed by long periods of roadworks and finishing with spectacular scenery. It’s a twisting road rising to over 7000 feet and I for one was pleased to arrive! The constant cornering, breaking etc. my stomach was like a washing machine! On arrive at The Cecil Hotel, Shimla our traveller’s were greeted with hot chocolate and towels - now that's a first in India! After a brisk walk to acquaint ourselves with the area, we returned to roaring log fires and more hot chocolate, I could get use to this!
Next morning we set off to visit Viceregal Lodge, also called Rashtrapati Niwas, the decision to partition India and carve out the states of Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were taken here. It is an interesting building now used by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study and seems like the perfect setting for lively intellectual debates and discussions. We now snaked our way up to Jakhoo Hill - the highest peak in the entire hill station at over 8000 feet – which offered a scenic view of the city and snow capped Himalayan Mountains topped by a statue of Hanuman, its chief deity. We had been warned about the monkeys having a liking for ‘glasses’ and within seconds of arrival one had nipped through a slightly open car door and away up a tree with a pair! Luckily one of our drivers tempted it with a banana and it kindly dropped the glasses in return for the food. Our sightseeing was completed with a stroll along the Heritage walk. Beautiful old buildings with great architecture, stopping for a little light refreshments en route to enjoy the views.
The Shimla toy train was our next excursion leaving at 10.30am and arriving in Solan about three hours later. Only half the full journey of 96 km. A narrow gauge track that passes through 103 tunnels and across more than 800 bridges and viaducts, it is considered one of the most beautiful hill railways in India. There were no doors on our train, so hanging out and taking it all in is a childish necessity, hopping off at various stops to photo, pick up 20p’s worth of channa daal (chickpeas), or a quick cup of tea.
Today was going to be a full day of sightseeing. First Harmandir Sahib more commonly known as ‘The Golden Temple’ a place for men and women from all walks of life and religions to come and worship. Over 100,000 people visit the holy shrine daily for worship and also enjoy the langar (kitchen), which serves free food for everyone and is reportedly the largest in the world. We also visited the scene of Operation Blue Star, a military operation which occurred in June 1984, ordered by Indira Gandhi to establish control over Harmandir Sahib from militant religious leaders which resulted in the death of over 500 people.
Next was probably one of the most anticipated sights, ‘beating retreat’ at the Wagah border post between India and Pakistan it’s pure theatre ending with the perfectly orchestrated lowering of the two nation flags and slamming shut of the gates between the two countries. As you would imagine security is very high and at one such search (must be at least three) one of our number on raising his hands was unfortunately debagged! Our day concluded with a return visit to The Golden Temple at night which was simply breathtaking.
A leisurely morning before our afternoon flight to Mumbai on arrival at the Trident hotel. Carl, Maggi, Des and Charlie were on hand to take over my group as I slipped back into being a Howzat customer again, thanks to all my fellow travellers, it was a blast, now over to the simple life of being a guest…
Phil's ODI & T20 Tour Review
For my ninth Howzat trip, it was time to taste the sights, sounds and smells of India! First port of call was Pune and my first experience of the gulf between the haves and have not’s. A brand-new Ferrari was parked outside our first hotel, while not 20 meters away were people begging and sleeping in the streets!
The first ODI was to held at the Maharashtra Cricket Association, a beautiful new 37,000 seat Stadium situated at the side of a new two lane motorway. We posted what was a competitive 350 total, and had India 63 for 4. Then in walked King Kohli and Jadav, and after a century from each of them, India had first blood.
It was now time for the main group to head off for sightseeing on the Golden Triangle via a surprisingly chilly Delhi and the affectionately named rebel tour to headed off for Cuttack.
The Golden Triangle was littered with architectural gems to rival the Pyramids that shall live with me forever. My favourites were the ‘Qutub Minar’, the tallest minaret in India, the Red Fort at Agra, the Elephant ride to the ‘Amber Fort’ Jaipur, and of course the breath taking ‘Taj Mahal’.
We watched the 2nd ODI in the ‘Green Pidgeon’ Jaipur. It was a great night if the headache was anything to go by! Another close-run affair but England fell 15 runs short of the of the 381 set by our hosts - including 100’s from Dhoni and Yuvraj, both of whom are now 35! It was also good to see Captain Morgan return to form with a well-earned ton.
Onto Kolkata and the group were all back together again.
‘Nick Knight Night’
Our first evening in Kolkata was spent in the company of former England opening bat and SKY commentator Nick Knight, whose candour and humour made it great evening which I will never forget.
The following day was the eagerly awaited 3rd and final ODI at the iconic 66,000 seat Eden Gardens.
It was a short walk from our Hotel through the gauntlet traffic and selfie hunters, we are ushered into the ground like VIP’s.
It may have been a dead rubber as far as the series was concerned but expectations were still high. England have never won an ODI here. We won the toss and elected to bat and posted what was felt to be a modest 321 - with 50’s from Roy, Bairstow and Stokes. What followed is the nail biter to end all nail biters. India lost regular wickets, but at 277 for 6 they were cruising to victory. Then 4 wickets for 39 runs and England won by 5 runs! Easy peasy! A first ODI win at Eden Gardens and we saw it!
We had sightseeing everyday in Kolkata, but my personnel highlights were the Victoria Memorial (A beautiful St Pauls type of building) and a relaxing boat trip down the Hooghly river which went under the Howrah Bridge culminating at the Ghandhi Ghat. I shall look back at Kolkata with fond memories.
Kanpur was the setting for the opening game of the T20 ‘s and the locals treated us like film stars!
We witnessed the best bowling display of the trip, restricting the hosts to a below par 147. We then knocked them off with the loss of only 3 wickets and 2 overs to spare with a nice 50 from Captain Morgan and an unbeaten 46 from Root.
Eager to celebrate our victory we managed to overcome the republic day alcohol ban by hiding 50 litres of beer in my hotel room, and then sliding it around to Peter and Andrea’s suite to consume it after the game. A big thank you to them for hosting the event for the group, I’m sure everyone would agree a great night.
The dead centre of India was our next port of call. Nagpur was deemed by the British to be the geographical centre of India, and erected a stone monument there called ‘Zero Mile Stone’. We also visited India’s most important Buddhist temple, an impressive domed structure called the ‘Deekshabhoomi stupa’.
We stayed at a very nice hotel the ‘Le Meridian’ and found it a little tricky to find our way out of the bar! With a door that looked like the wall and a window that looked like a door! John is fine by the way, well no worse that he was before!
The 2nd T20 was a close-run thing with only 144 to chase down most people believed England were in the driving seat. With only 8 required from the last over and a set Root at the crease and Butler waiting in the wings just in case, it was England’s to lose. In the space of 2 balls all hope of a series victory were lost, Root got a shocking LBW decision, Butler was bowled for a golden duck by a great straight ball the series was tied 1 – 1.
The best till the last
Bengaluru, in my humble opinion, was the best city we visited, an incredible mix of modern and traditional. Our hotel the ‘Gardenia’ was breathtaking and a perfect location for local bars and restaurants, UB city being the place to be.
Our final sightseeing trip of the tour was spent looking around the old part of the city, with a great guide who really picked up our groups humour. We visited the botanical gardens, saw people having their new cars blessed with a strange ritual involving coconuts and limes! And of course one last temple with an enormous bull carved from granite and soaked in peanut oil and soot.
The farewell dinner was arranged for the Italian restaurant at the hotel and guests were asked to arrive promptly. Upon arrival I had to tell them that dinner was delayed, but for a very good reason!
We had managed a celebrity coup, a Q&A session with Nasser Hussain. This had to be done before dinner as Nas also had a SKY TV commitment. He was brilliant and insightful, even when I admitted we had inadvertently stolen his marmite in South Africa…
We had the best seats of all the games we had been to for the final T20. Or was it the fact that our section had BEER on sale for 100 rupees? Of course India wasn’t going to make it that easy, you could have a beer, but you couldn’t watch match with it! Time for a bit of British ingenuity, buy a Pepsi and decant your beer into the cup!
All we needed now was a top performance from England to finish with a series win. The toss was won by us and we elected to bowl. Twenty overs later India had racked up 202 runs including Dhoni’s first ever T20 international 50! We had been told this was a high scoring ground so all was not quite lost but chasing 200 was far from ideal. We did have a delicious Indian buffet included in our ticket price to lift our spirits.
At 117 for 2 with 8 overs to go England were still in the game, but 2 wickets in 2 balls started the rot. Then began the classic England collapse which we thought had been a thing of the past. 127 ALL OUT. Those of you who have followed England ODI tours before recognise this classic ‘already on the plane home’ performance.
So that was my first foray into India, at times it tried to break my spirit, but I still left with lots of wonderful memories.
I’d just like to thank all of you that joined me on the tour, you were a great group and I hope to see you again soon!