Looking up to ‘The Wall’

The cricket, the heritage and the place remain dear to Rahul Dravid and he was back with the Indian squad albeit briefly as a batting consultant ahead of the Tests. By K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

Cricket, the ice-breaker

Trans-continental flights and different time-zones can fray nerves, deprive sleep and leave you tense. But a cricket tour is often a great conversation starter and just as immigration checks loomed large in London’s Gatwick Airport, the officer manning the counter, quipped: “Here for the cricket, I see. There is forecast for rain! You think everyone is ready for five Tests?” But before an answer could be stated, he added: “Well, any cricket is better than no cricket. Enjoy your stay.”

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Rahul Dravid loves to be in England. The cricket, the heritage and the place remain dear to him and he was back with the Indian squad albeit briefly as a batting consultant ahead of the Tests. Before the first Test at Trent Bridge, Indian skipper M. S. Dhoni explained the rationale behind asking Dravid to help the team: “It’s all about him interacting with the youngsters, and they are also a lot more comfortable talking to him. In South Africa, he was part of the commentary team, the youngsters used to go to him and have a chat about cricket or life or whatever they felt like and then they move ahead and go for the net session. We have noticed that.”

History and some ale

The proud accumulation of years, the seeping in of nostalgia and buildings that unabashedly proclaim their history on stone plates with words written in a classical old font, are all part of England’s charms. More so in Nottingham, the city that was home to legends like Robin Hood, writers like D. H. Lawrence and iconic cricketers like Harold Larwood.

In a quest to partake a bit of the past, yours truly stepped into the oldest pub in England: ‘Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem.’ Built into one of the flanks of the Nottingham Castle, ‘Olde Trip’ dates back to 1189 AD, when knights, who responded to King Richard I’s call for the crusades, stepped into this quaint place, drank their ales and headed to Jerusalem.

Overwhelmed by the history on view — they even have a room that is supposed to be haunted, into which the diarist stepped in bravely and emerged unscathed — it was time to drink the past!

And what better to have than good old ‘Robin Hood Ale’?

Feeling at home

There is only so much of bread and cornflakes that can be had. Just as a bunch of Indian cricket writers yearned for dal, rice and may be chicken curry, the roads around Trent Bridge Ground in Nottingham, provided succour.

A trip to Slumdog, the restaurant owned by former England and Nottinghamshire player Uzman Afzal, sated the hacks’ culinary cravings. Plastered on its walls, the outlet has huge pictures depicting various vignettes from India’s busy roads and the food was delicious.

Another night is spent, eating piping hot rotis and various curries at Shalimar, a restaurant that harks back to the glory days of the Mughal Empire when Lahore and Delhi were all part of the same axis.

Rivals and friends

Sports scribes like photographers forge friendships across competing institutions without sacrificing their professional integrity. It is the same tale, be it in India or in England and when you step into the Press Box at Trent Bridge, to your left you will see a massive wooden board that is dedicated to ‘The Cricket Writers Club.’

Julian Guyer, AFP correspondent and also the club’s secretary, expounded the theory behind the club in his own inimitable way: “It was founded back in 1946 as the Empire Cricket Writers Club by a group of English cricket reporters touring Australia, including E. W. Swanton and later John Woodcock. It now has members from every major cricket playing nation. We interact with institutions like the ECB and try and improve the working conditions of journalists and promote the concept of cricket reporting. We have awards for young cricket writers and also have an award for the young player of the year.

“We get along well and wasn’t it a great expression by Benjamin Franklin, who said: ‘We must all hang together otherwise sure as hell we will all hang separately.’”