What bowl is it?

Though the Ageas Bowl still remains a work in progress, it looks like taking cricket tourism to another level, writes K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

The corporate co-branding of grounds in England can affect sentiments at times. Southampton’s cricket venue, known primarily as the Rose Bowl, is now the ‘Ageas’ Bowl. There has been a change in the primary sponsor and a change of nomenclature became mandatory.

Whatever the name, the ground is in a scenic spot, away from the town and with a forest on the fringes. And while it is time for a cricket match, the stadium still remains a work in progress as the Hilton Hotel is being built as part of the super structure. Looks like in the years to come, Ageas Bowl will surely take cricket tourism to another level.

Remembering the titans

The late Malcolm Marshall played a prominent role in the growth of Hampshire, the home county of Southampton. There was another Marshall — Roy — who too rendered yeoman service for the county. And it is in the fitness of things that both the Marshalls have a road named after them. The path that curves past Holiday Inn Express Hotel and into the Ageas Bowl premises is named ‘Marshall Drive.’ The departed Caribbean cricketers would have surely approved.

A warm community

A night in London is spent over dinner and conversation with a former colleague from The Hindu, Bangalore. Joel Edwards, like many Anglo-Indians, migrated to England a few years ago. Soon his family joined him but there is so much of India that still resides within them.

The conversation veers round to localities in Chennai, like Purasawalkam where the family had its roots. Dinner is distinctly Indian with liberal helpings of biriyani.

Cricket can’t be far behind either and the community has its annual round of matches in August. “The Chennai Anglo-Indians call ourselves as CSK, while the Anglos from Kolkata are named KKR and we have a few games of cricket,” Joel says.

Titanic!

A familiar Hollywood blockbuster ‘Titanic’ gains a closer-home reality when the cricket caravan rolls into Southampton. It was from this port city that the giant passenger ship set sail in 1912 and sunk eventually to become part of maritime tragedies.

A trip to the dockyards is hurriedly undertaken and as the coast draws close, a plaque on the footpath in the older part of town catches the eye. It has the following words: “1912. RMS Titanic sails from Southampton on her maiden voyage but sinks in the freezing seas off Newfoundland; more than 1,500 passengers and crew die.”

The sea looks calm, there is a breeze around and the mind tries to fathom an historic event steeped in despair.

The Scotland question

There is a slow churn across papers and television in England and the buzz is about an imminent referendum that will determine whether Scotland will stay as a part of the United Kingdom or split from England, with which it has shared an umbilical cord for more than 300 years.

In the streets, people say it is bound to be close and a Scottish lady asks: “What about people like me? I live in England, will I become an outsider?”

Sections of the media meanwhile try to read political meanings in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

Sean Connery, the quintessential James Bond, is all for Scotland’s independence and the English worry about Andy Murray. The former Wimbledon champion is originally Scottish!

God’s own kitchen!

There is a surprise as one walks inside Southampton’s city centre. There is a restaurant called ‘Namaste Kerala’ that specialises in South Indian cuisine as well as the odd fare from north of the Vindhyas. A group of sports hacks polish off the ‘parottas’ and chicken curry though the spice quotient is on the lesser side as the hotel’s customers are mostly Europeans.

“We do get orders from the local Malayalees here and there are 80 families that are largely linked to the health sector. But those orders are mostly for family functions and other events. Last Onam, we had a good turn-out for the ‘sadhya’ (feast),” says Rajesh, a co-owner of the restaurant who hails from Kozhikode. The Indian team soon joins the clients list and breakfast consisting of ‘puris’ and ‘dosas’, is often ordered.