India Cricket Tour 2008 - Diary
Only in our worst nightmares could we ever imagine what happened to the poor people in Mumbai just a few weeks ago. What followed was a political mess for the England cricket team itself: Should they stay? Should they leave India! Would they return?
Enough has already been written about the tragedy and everyone has a different view of what was the right thing to do. For our party the decision was unanimous; ‘If there’s cricket, then I want to travel!’ A true testament to the spirit of England fans and the Howzat Traveller.
In the days and weeks that followed the horrific events in Mumbai, Howzat Travel followed these developments closer than anyone and along with a change of logistics and literally hundreds of phone calls to agents and customers alike, the news broke on the Monday before the 1st Test that the squad were flying to Chennai. We were on and determined more than ever to make sure this tour was right for the people of India.
Stanford Super Series Dancing Girl
Saturday 13th December
As always, we arranged a rendezvous for the group at the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. Everyone arrived in good time and the news came through that our travellers connecting from Manchester were also airside. We proceeded to clear immigration and in true fashion, the bulk of the group descended on the bar for a quick drink. The flight was on time and we were soon up and away for our first destination; Delhi. Upon arrival at Delhi International Airport and after clearing immigration and customs, we were met by Rowan, our local Howzat Travel representative, and within 40 minutes we were all safely in the Maidens Hotel ready for some much needed rest.
Sunday 14th December
After only a few hours sleep, we were up again for a light breakfast ready for our sightseeing tour of Delhi. We left the hotel at 10am ready for the day ahead.
The group was introduced to Sylvester, our tour guide for the next few days across the cultural part of the tour.
During the course of the day we visited the best of Deli's sights including the Lotus Temple, Qutub Minar Jama Masjid, & Chandini Chowk, Parliament Street, Embassy Area, India Gate & President's House.
At around 6pm we arrived back to the hotel, which allowed us some rest time before the Howzat Travel welcome dinner.
A great evening followed and the group were making friends. We were also treated to a fine selection of different courses and dishes served in our own banqueting suite.
Most of the group then made the way over to the bar for a few after drinks before finally retiring to bed for some rest!
Monday 15th December:
After an early breakfast, at 7.30am we set off for Jaipur. The 255km journey took six hours (including convenience breaks) but you can compare these coach journeys to watching a good film as they fly by and they keep you amused from start to finish!
Upon reaching Jaipur, we headed straight for the hotel where we took the opportunity to try out the buffet lunch at the hotel.
After a small amount of rest time we were soon again on the road for an afternoon sightseeing of Jaipur. Here we visited the City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Albert Hall Museum & Birla Temple!
In the early evening as the sun was setting, we visited a local home for high tea. This unique experience allowed guests to interact with a local Rajistahanie family and learn some local traditions whilst listening to a personal insight into the family way of life. After some light refreshments, we were soon back at the Trident Hotel, overlooking the stunning Jal Mahal palace on Lake Madascar.
Tuesday 16th December: Jaipur ' Agra (245kms/05hrs)
After an early breakfast, we headed straight over to the absolutely stunning Amber Fort, where we proceeded to climb to the summit by elephant. After a tour of fantastic palace, we headed out of Japiur on a 245km journey to Agra.
En-route, we took the opportunity to stop at Fatehpur Sikri. Here we visited the Diwan-e-Khas, Panch Mahal and Buland Darwaza
At around 4.30pm, we completed our journey to Agra, and since daylight hours were starting to fade we headed straight to the Taj Mahal for sunset! During the Indian winter, this is the best time to visit this breathtaking world wonder and magnificent monument of love.
After the visit we made the short journey over to our overnight hotel, the Trident.
Wednesday 17th December: Agra ' Delhi (260kms/05hrs)
At last, we were treated to a leisurely morning with a departure at 11am initially to visit the Agra Fort & Diwan-E-Khaas, but also to enjoy a short rickshaw ride from the gates of the fort.
Soon after 1pm, were departing back to Delhi for five hours of Indian roads and entertaining sights
Upon arrival back Delhi and the Maidens Hotel, it was a quick turnaround before venturing out to Rodeo's in Connaught place for a fun night of food, good company and a little too much booze!
Thursday 18th December
With a few sore heads, the group departed Delhi at 10am for the five hour drive up to Chandigarth. The roads had been significantly improved since our 2006 visit and the 230km drive seemed to fly by.
Around 4pm, we had safely arrived at the Piccadilly hotel with Chandigarth's sector 22.
Chandigarth is the capital city of the states of Punjab & Haryana. It is located in the North and is highly regarded as India's best city. The city itself is very Milton Keynes like and was designed by a famous French architect; Le Corbusier around 1951.
With the day still seeming young, the guys quickly ventured out onto the streets for a needed stretch of the legs and for some a quick drink in the nearby bars.
For the first time during the intense start of the tour, the group had the flexibility to make their own way around and enjoy Chandigarth's restaurants and nightlife.
After a long days travelling and the 1st day of the 2nd Test match ahead, for most it was an early night.
Friday 19th December
With the delay of tight security and a proposed 9.30am start, the group departed at 8.30am for the 15 minute drive over to Mohali and the Punjab Cricket Association stadium. As predicted, security was very strict and we passed through numerous checkpoints before entering into the coach park at the stadium. From here we had just a few 100 metres to walk before passing through two other areas and safely into the ground.
Our chosen seats were located in the Pavilion stand behind the bowlers arm. The start had been delayed 30 minutes due to bad light, but for most this was not an issue and it was just great to be in place and ready for some Test Match cricket.
Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat. Soon it was 10am and we were ready to go. England then made the perfect start with Broad taking the wicket of Sehwag in the 2nd over, but that was our only excitement of the day with Gambir (107) and Dravid (65) treating us to some fine batting that lasted the remainder of the day. At the close India were 179-1.
After the cricket, the group departed in different ways for a Friday night out in Chandigarth; for most it was a rickshaw ride into the city centre and onwards to the Blue Ice bar.
Saturday 20th December
With a few casualties missing the early 8am coach to Mohali, the group were ready for the 2nd days play, this time the game started on time seemingly with worse light conditions than the previous morning. Gambir and Dravid continued to score freely and the game was slowly moving away from England until Swann got the wicket of Gambir (179) and what followed was a succession of wickets leaving the last nine Indian wickets to fall during just two sessions.
England's openers entered the field late into the day but when offered the light, they were soon back off the field and since the game was past the 4.30pm finish, that was all the cricket completed for the day.
With tiredness still prominent in the group, for most an early night was in order and an opportunity to catch up with some much needed sleep.
Sunday 21st December
Feeling refreshed, we were soon Mohali bound and back in the PCA stadium ready for day three. However, the overnight fog was struggling to clear and play was delayed until around 10.30am.
Once on the field, England made the worst possible start losing the wickets of Strauss and Bell in the first two overs, Cook and KP then lead the revival before Cook fell LBW to Khan for exactly 50. During the afternoon session, KP and Flintoff made the England score somewhat respectable taking them to 211-4!]. Then, during the fading light, both lost their wickets in somewhat contentious fashion; KP given LBW by Harbhajan Singh from around the wicket and Flintoff caught out by Gambir from the bowling of Mishra in the very last ball of the day.
The England faithful left the ground feeling a little short changed from what had been a spirited England display.
Once back at the hotel, most of the group took upon the hotel's restaurant for a meal and a few drinks at the bar, whilst watching some of the evenings live football from the UK.
Monday 22nd December
With the game seemingly dead, the group had made arrangements to spend the day in different ways. For some, a day trip up to Shimla in the foothills of the Himalayas and others enjoyed a leisurely day around Chandigarth.
For the cricket goers, they were joined by Tim Abrahams and the Sky Camera crew for the journey over to the Mohali stadium. They provided a fan's opinion of the security situation, which was later shown on Sky Sports News and Sky News to a global audience of some 150,000,000 world viewers.
The cricket itself started in disastrous fashion with England losing the last four wickets for just 20 runs. The Indians started their 2nd batting performance just as disappointingly with Dravid out for a duck (8) Sehwag (17) and Tandulker (5) but the day finished on 134-4 with the Indian team well on top.
Back at the hotel, the sky video footage was being floated around along with stories of the days antics and sights. A fun evening ended with all in the hotel bar for a final catch up.
Tuesday 23rd December
With the late rearrangements in the match schedule, the Howzat Travel party had to leave Chandigarth early for Mumbai so we could catch our original outbound flight.
At around 11.30am, we were saying out goodbyes to our new friends in Chandigarth and after waiting the fog to rise, onwards to Mumbai (for our final destination) before the outbound flight home.
Once in Mumbai, we took the short drive to the 5* Gordon House Suites, where we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon/evening in this delightful property. Some of the group took the opportunity to pop over to Linking Rd for some last minute Christmas shopping, whilst others were happy relaxing around the hotel.
At 11.30pm and for the final time, we were collected and taken to the Mumbai International airport for our final leg of the journey and the flight back home to the UK.
On time at 7.30am, we safely touched down at Heathrow Airport. The group said their final goodbyes to their new friends and went separate ways to return to families and friends for Christmas.
The tour had gone fantastically well; the group had a wonderful time in this beautiful country and England's decision to continue the tour had been the right one. Seeing some of India's finest hotels empty really hit home how important it was for this tour to go ahead. Imagine the world abandoning London or even New York after previous atrocities?
This tour will always be remembered for the wrong reasons, but the 1st Test in Chennai had been one of the finest in world cricket.
Howzat Travel would like to thank all travellers either with Howzat or other parties for making the journey over to India, for those that made the effort we all know how much this meant to the local people and those memories will last a life time.
Merry Christmas and a Happy 2009 to all......