First day for the 2016 World T20.
Well, at least that of my own coverage of the tournament. Need to collect my accreditation pass from the PCA Stadium in Mohali, or as is now called the IS Bindra Stadium. The missus is gracious enough to allow me the use of the car and Google Maps are helpful enough to get me to the ground unscathed.
The good news is it’s not too difficult to locate a parking spot. That said, that’s the case in most of Chandigarh but later in the day, I also will end up enduring the other end of that parking spectrum. More on that later.
I am 10 minutes late. We had been told there would be four captains available for an open media session and as it turns out, I am just the fourth guy from the media as well. Reminds me of that old Sanjay Manjrekar quote – “Indians are not cricket-crazy, Indians are Indian cricket-crazy.”
End up missing speaking to Scotland skipper Preston Mommsen and there’s Oman’s skipper Sultan Ahmed answering a few questions when I get there.
Interesting to hear from him how far the Oman national side has come. From playing on cement pitches to having turf surfaces and those who behave in a very similar manner to those in the sub-continent, and for about 90 club-level teams to play across ten divisions, with promotion and relegation across them too.
Since pitches are a favourite topic of mine, ask him whether there’s a lot of similarity between those back and the ones he has encountered in other parts of Asia so far. He says they have got to similar levels.
The Afghan captain, Asghar Stanigzai speaks only their local language. So the media manager also assists him – and us – with the translation. It’s quite a relaxed questions-and-answers session, given there are just four of us, and one question in particular, elicits chuckles out of both, the captain and the media manager.
“Is your family okay with you being away for so long given you play your home matches in India too?”
(Laughs) “I am home just 15-20 days a year & my wife gives me the looks when I get home.”
It’s followed by a more serious, “But it’s a small sacrifice for the nation, and we don’t mind it.”
The pride that comes with playing for the national team, whatever the sport, is always immense but it filters through even more strongly when you hear an Afghan cricketer talk about it.
The Dutch skipper, Peter Borren is more articulate. Confidence oozes out of his answers and I think it’s more to do with the fact he’s been around for a long time. The overriding theme of the chat is also how cricket isn’t quite a sport that’s followed by people in Netherlands, with football and hockey being more of the favourites.
Ought to be, after all, the Dutch soccer and hockey teams have an excellent record at the world stage. The cricket team is still getting there.
I ask him whether he would like a repeat showing of the last World T20 when Netherlands smashed 190 in less than 14 overs against Ireland to qualify for the second round.
Borren says, “That happened because we were playing the last game of the group & knew what the equation was. This time we don’t play the last game, so won’t be knowing what to do.”
Legit point. Some cricketers really think through these media sessions beforehand.
Watch the Afghanistan side practice and Inzamam-ul-Haq, their head coach, is an angry man for some reason. Not that there are any spectators with a microphone calling him names either. Just a couple of us media personnel.
He throws a couple of balls away in a random direction after that.
Must add that Haq seems to be a very hands-on coach. Directs orders everywhere; batsmen, bowlers and even the net bowlers.
First, he wants to know how many spinners among the net bowlers have been provided. Then he tells them to bowl from three yards ahead of the stumps to ensure it gathers some more steam for the Afghanistan batsman to play against. Soon he’s telling the Afghan captain to pad up. Inzy would go on to cool down next day.
I leave soon after to attend the Dutch practice which is at the Sector-16 stadium. Incidentally, this is the ground at which India had played a Test against Sri Lanka in 1990 – one of the first few I had followed as a cricket fan.
Google Maps, which had been my friend earlier, turns against me and recommends me a rather long route to get to that venue.
And it’s followed by the realisation there’s no parking space close to the stadium. Park a couple of kilometers away and walk. Under the scorching Chandigarh sun. it’s not a pleasant one with all the paraphernalia on me.
There’s no-one else covering the Dutch session apart from a man who I guess was a Dutch journalist. He leaves soon after.
The Netherlands media manager is this really media-friendly chap who is happy to allow Ben Cooper to speak with me. Ben’s the brother of Tom Cooper, who is also a part of the Dutch side, a late addition to the team, and has also played in Australian domestic cricket before this.
With no time for lunch, I grab an ice-cream that sustains me till the end of that interview before taking that long walk back to the parked car.
Incidentally, it’s also a day when I learn my first lesson of the month. Keep your camera fully charged.
Half a day into clicking away the cricketers, my camera battery bids adieu leaving me with no pictures from the Dutch side. That’s sometimes how the cookie crumbles.