We arrived in Delhi early afternoon with the group splitting as we had 15 new arrivals and both groups staying at very luxurious hotels within 10 minutes of each other. My first impression when exiting the airport was that there was no smog and this has been the same everywhere we have been, perhaps India is finally doing their bit with global warming!
Before I get started on Delhi, I would like to tell you a funny incident that happened to one of the guys with us, whom I must say we shared a lot of light hearted banter with. Russell was walking around Shimla with his wife Aileen when he stopped to sit on a bench, only for a monkey to grab his glasses from behind him! The monkey climbed up a roof with glasses in hand, before being putting them in his mouth, his wife then ran to get some bananas to tempt him down. She came back with about 10 and with the help of the locals & bananas they bargained with the monkey and got the glasses back!
On our only sightseeing day available to us in Delhi we were escorted around old Delhi to the spice market and on a fantastic rickshaw ride by kids who were once living on the streets before becoming involved with Salaam Balak Trust – charitable organisation that tries to help the kids in India who have run away from poor upbringing or just searching for a better life. They are an NGO and donations are much needed.
After the walk we had lunch at a UNESCO restored heritage hotel Haveli Dharampura which was fantastic. This was followed by a tour of New Delhi visiting Qutub Minar, Raj Ghat where Gandhi was cremated and finally Humayun’s Tomb and a drive past some very impressive government buildings.
In the evening we had our welcome event at the Kwality restaurant. Our special guests were Don Topley & Tim Wigmore, the cricket correspondent for the Telegraph. The food was excellent we certainly ate well that day with a very good lunch as well.
Following morning I went to Birla where Gandhi spent his last 144 days of his life. In one room it shows photos & timings of the last 48 hours of his life. There are concrete footsteps from the house where he walked his final steps to the lawn where a Hindu nationalist fired three shots to his chest and stomach within seconds he was dead. A memorial is on the lawn where he was shot with his last footprint. We also had a look around the house which is now a museum.
We left our respective hotels for Arun Jaitley stadium, unusually in recent times we won the toss and decided to chase.From the outset we just didn’t get going. Four years ago, under Morgan we had a brand of aggressive cricket always on the front foot, but here in India it’s like we’ve gone back in our shell, in a style pre-Eoin Morgan, we just don’t look a team that will gain momentum.
The bowling suddenly doesn’t look strong enough to win a World Cup. So many poor deliveries and when you see that our two best bowlers were bit part bowlers it tells a story!
During the last World Cup, we lost three games, this we have already lost two of the three played including our first ever loss to Afghanistan. I’m sure there will be several meetings and head scratching before a tough game to an in-form South Africa and a tricky match against Sri Lanka.
The next stage of our tour takes us to Agra by train from Nizamuddin Railway station and the start of the Golden Triangle, where we visited the Agra fort before checking into our respective hotels. Late afternoon we visited the Taj Mahal at sunset, this is the second time I have been here and is still as spectacular as the first, lots of photos were taken and a group photo which is nice.
In the morning we left for Jaipur stopping at Fatehpur Sikri which served briefly as the capital of the Mughal empire. On arrival in Jaipur we were on dual carriageway a tree fell and took a lamppost with it, our coach driver reversed and went back on the same carriageway facing onward traffic. Only in India..
We reached Jaipur early evening, after settling in, a couple of us went for dinner Ed who many of you will know from our reservations department somehow made it across the road on foot. I thought it was too dangerous, as there around 4 lanes crammed into 3, then a guy on a motorbike stopped said get on and took me across the road, only in India.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as every town or city is different to the last. Jaipur is known as the pink city following a visit by the Prince of Wales. The following morning, we went to Amer Fort. The memories I take from that are the men & kids trying to sell all sorts of mementos but wouldn’t take no for an answer so much so one grabbed hold of the back of jeep pleading for us to purchase something, a walk around the famous bazaar later was very similar. scenically there are some great photos to be had but unfortunately, we were in a moving coach, if we stopped at every vantage point, we would be there all night!
Following morning we crammed in more sightseeing including Jantar Mantar, which has 19 astronomical instruments, Jai Singh was obsessed by astronomy & mathematics, then after a delicious lunch at Neros we rode in rickshaws around the city finishing at Albert Hall Museum.
I was asked in the morning if I was willing to be interviewed by Simon Wilde the Times cricket correspondent about our experiences in India. In particular our experiences at the grounds, facilities and tickets, hopefully some of you might have read it the article published on the 22nd of October 2023
Early evening some of the group went to Amber fort to view the light and sound show over the city with drinks. On our return to the coach, they let off some fireworks, two exploded on the ground, materials from the fireworks went in all directions, Guy Fawkes came to mind, it could had been dangerous at the time, but we can laugh about it now!
The following morning, we flew to Mumbai. I then peeled away from the group to collect tickets for the next day’s game against SA game as they were not ready for me in Ahmedabad. The afternoon consisted of mostly catching up with my paperwork.
We arrived in Mumbai, my first impression was the smog, I expected that in Delhi but here it was very prevalent, and the traffic just seemed ten times worse!
Today is the last match for many in the group, some have been with me from the start so I will be sad to see them return home!
I’m not going to say too much about the game, we were surprised we decided to bowl as it was the hottest day, I think we’ve had to date in the three weeks out here. There are a lot of disappointed guys amongst our touring party. We all came with high expectations but perhaps a World Cup too many for most of the group. The ECB have a lot to think about before the next World Cup as this one is hanging by a thread.