Another match is washed out

Published : Nov 24, 2001 00:00 IST


NOVEMBER 7: A popular meeting place for the Afrikaners of Bloemfontein and the tourists is the waterfront. There are any number of eateries, the choice ranging from Greek, Italian, Irish and to, of course, the African Continent's assorted delicacies though the growing number of strict vegetarians would run away from these joints. The wine list, however, would still force a connoisseur of the drink to order a bottle of his favourite brand from the Western Cape. There is also the owner of the eatery named 'South Miami Beach Restaurant' who arranged for 'made-to-order' Indian food.

The best place, however, for some of the Indian journalists is the Lakewood Lodge. It's less than a kilometre from the Goodyear Park, where the Indians played the first Test. The Lakewood Lodge which was built in 1962 became the property of the Performing Arts Council of the Free State in 1987 (then Orange Free State). The PACSA bought this to accommodate the visiting artists of theatre groups at 100 Rands per night even in 1987.

Seven years ago the Performing Arts Trust (PAT) bought the property, which is close to shopping centres and the business district. The rooms were rented to the public from 1994 and the PAT used the money to encourage arts in the Free State. All because the South African government reduced the grant from an annual 27 million rands to 12 million and afterwards to less than 10 million.

The PAT has employed retired people and university students like Leon Dreyer, Shaun Haniball and Maritsa Faurie - whose home is the coastal town of George - to run the lodge. Leon has worked here for six to seven years and has decided to return to Cape Town by the end of this year. He wished us a pleasant stay in South Africa and good luck to the Indian team at Port Elizabeth and at 'The Centurion.'

November 8: As scheduled the Indian team leaves for East London for the four-day match against the South Africa 'A' team, which includes an established batsman, Darryl Cullinan. He has no qualms about playing for the 'A' team. The Indian team manager, R. K. Bhargava, requested the South African Express Airways to make the flight from Bloemfontein to East London direct instead of a hopping one, the halt being at Port Elizabeth.

The official Indian contingent and three from the media had taken 26 of the 29 seats in the small aircraft. The SAEA turned down the request because three passengers were disembarking at Port Elizabeth. The entire Indian team (Tendulkar had left the previous day to East London with his family) was given permission to alight from the aircraft to stretch their limbs on the tarmac because they were cramped for space in the small cabin.

November 9: It is less than a week for Diwali, the festival of lights and the Indian High Commission in Pretoria comes up with a special request to Tendulkar and skipper Sourav Ganguly to pose for a picture, lighting oil lamps at the Holiday Inn Garden Court lobby. The local broadsheet, The Daily Despatch, also takes the opportunity to shoot a rare picture to be published in their edition dated November 14.

Tendulkar and Ganguly are also happy to pose for pictures with children of school teachers from Kerala, based in Grahamstown - 60 kms from East London - for almost 12 years. Sweets are distributed by a Gujarati-speaking lady, who is born and raised in Zimbabwe. "I speak Gujarati, but not my children (they are dressed in traditional Indian dress). I have roots in Valsad (Bulsar), but I have not been to that place," she said, while urging the front office staff to taste a plateful of savouries she has specially made.

November 10: The favourite rugby player in South Africa is Conrad Jantjes. He has played soccer and cricket, in which he has represented the South African under-19 team. He was selected for the first time in the Springbok team to tour Europe and USA (between November 10 and December 1, 2001). The story is that had Conrad's mother been strict, he would have been either playing soccer or cricket for South Africa and not rugby. Alfreda Jantjes, Conrad's mother, decided after her husband broke his leg in a rugby match, that her son would not enter the rugby field.

But the 20-year-old Conrad had his way. Jantjes, according to reports, is a natural ball player. Five years ago he damaged his ankle, but vowed to continue with rugby. He was picked for the national schools team and thereafter for the SA under-19 and under-21 teams. His progress has been spectacular. He toured France and Wales and recently won the 'Man of the Match' award in an encounter against Australia.

November 11: The second day of the match between India and South Africa 'A' is called off again because of poor ground conditions and rain. Bhargava and the local United Cricket Board (UCB) representative are joined by The Sportstar photographer for a visit to the East London Zoo. They return to the hotel with a collection of souvenirs and are thrilled by the 'Peacock Dance' welcome.

India's coach John Wright is disappointed that another day is lost to rain. He cannot do much about it except keep the players busy in the health centre, a few minutes' walk from the team hotel. Well, the visit to the Gym became a routine. He recalled the poor facilities at Chatsworth that prevented the Indians from playing a three-day game before the first Test.

November 12: The newspapers and electronic media are full of stories about the Nedbank Golf Challenge to be played at Sun City from November 29 to December 1. The top golfers are expected to spend almost a week at Sun City, South Africa's famous tourist attraction. This time around - it's an annual tournament here - the prize money offered is a record $2 million.

The event is to be held at the 18-hole Gary Player Country Club. Gary Player has said that, because it bears his name, it is one of the most special golf courses he has worked on. It is probably one of the most difficult courses in the World. Ten television channels will be covering the event.

Well, it's supposed to be the third day of the match at Buffalo Park, but the umpires are forced to call the match off because it is beyond the means of the groundstaff to get the surface ready for even the last day, Tuesday. What the outfield required was wind and sunshine and it was still raining in East London when we boarded a bus to Port Elizabeth!

November 13: The Herald reminds the Indian cricketers about their record at St. George's Park. The Indians have not won a match here; they lost a Test match to South Africa in 1992, and a one-day match to the Kenyans by 70 runs in the tri-series part of the Summer Spice Series event. Five years ago, they drew their match against Eastern Transvaal. The heading to an article says, "Indians must bury their PE hoodoo."

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