Uppingham – India 2013

Uppingham School 1st XI Cricket Tour to India Easter 2013:

 by Elliott Prior

The cricket tour to India began with pale faces and snow. The tour squad arrived at Heathrow airport with great anticipation and freshly shaven heads ready for the exotic delights of the sub continent. We landed after a movie filled flight looking like the England cricket team and also treated like them. As we marched out of Delhi airport the heat hit us, Rupert Clark and I looked at each other with angst at the anticipation of bowling pace in sweltering humidity. However, this problem seemed inconsequential as we got our first taste of a country, which for me was shrouded in mystery of TV pixels and cricket autobiographies.

Phil Tufnell during England’s tour of India in 1993 was quoted saying “

I’ve done the elephant. I’ve done the poverty. I might as well go home.” Not an inspiring thought, but as we sped towards the centre of Delhi baring flowers around our neck I thought more to Mark Twain: there is something about India which makes it “the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.” Falling further into the Delhi mess, the cars began to drive the wrong way, the people walked with carefree abandon across busy roads and crashes seemed to become inevitable. It was as exhilarating as it was terrifying and an hour long journey flew past in what felt like minutes. As a testament to India as a country, I could easily write this article without even mentioning a ball of cricket, but the pandemonium of the first game we played against BBIS was so perplexing it definitely deserves a mention.

The boys went from plates piled with vast assortments of different coloured curries, to bread and balsamic vinegar as Delhi belly struck sooner than expected. On the bus to the first match Rollo gave us a harrowing vision into most of our futures, making use of the endless supply of plain, blue, plastic bags. When the bus, driven by the ever dependable Mr. Singh, parked up besides the ground none of us had envisaged what was to come: TV cameras, a patriotically opinionated commentator, a noisy home crowd and some suspicious looking 16 year olds all greeted us warmly, until the cricket began. As expected we encountered some pretty talented players and we found ourselves struggling physically and mentally in the tough Indian conditions. The commentator was pretty vicious in his view of our slow run rate, and it became clear they play cricket pretty differently over there. Obviously it is always awful to lose a game of cricket, it was once said the English would rather lose “a battleship than a test match,” but losing that match took nothing away from the experience of playing cricket for the first time in India.

India lived up to expectations, never have I felt more alien and uncomfortable in my life. At India gate we were swarmed by floggers of “ray bans,” bracelets and “helicopters.” Many boys were charmingly suckered into their cries of “look it flies” and “ok, ok, you have for 300 rupee.” For me, and I think many others Jaipur was a huge highlight of the tour; the dust, the ancient red brick and the heavily concentrated mass of energy which filled it made it a very special place. We won both our games and more importantly I found myself falling in love with the country, the people and the culture. In the evening we were invited extremely kindly to see the extravagant delights of the Maharaja’s palace which had been converted into a hotel. We ate dinner in an old train carriage; I don’t know if it was the sight of pizza or sunstroke, but I found myself feeling a bit faint. The morning after, before travelling to the stinky, rubbish filled delights of Agra we rode up the side of the Amber fort on elephants. Many boys were shocked with the rough treatment of the elephants, a difference in culture perhaps, but I have never heard an Uppingham student complain about the treatment of animals before and the elephants have been used like that for centuries.

Agra was absolutely mad. As we entered the city, the horse racing commentary died down as everyone curled their heads out the window of the bus. Fly ridden cows and heavily fatigued dogs breached the already littered streets; sad excuses for houses decorated the road sides and the sight of a body floating upside down in water certainly sobered the journey for me. The heat was heavy and the ground we played at only made the experience more surreal. The boundaries were around 20 meters each and this meant sixes where considered void unless straight, the bowlers could only come from one end as a football goal halted their run up from the other end and interestingly Agra public school had seemed to obtain a Rajasthan royals player for the match. The whole experience was strange; we had arrived on an opening day for the school and therefore we were greeted by some form of experimental dance and similarly experimental singing. Lurking within the town was its famous treasure: we visited the Taj Mahal at 6 in the morning, but when we arrived not a single one of us complained.

India is an extraordinary country; soon it will be one of the biggest economic powers in the world. However, there is still a huge gap between rich and poor and even though we experienced the wealthy side, the mass poverty of the country was evident. It is still very young in its independence and struggles from corruption and disparity of opportunity, but what capitalist country doesn’t. Our final match against a group of underprivileged children was cancelled due to a humungous storm flooding the outfield. So we ended the tour racing round the boundary in sheets of rain, partly for our enjoyment but mostly for theirs. A terrific tour and an unforgettable experience; in a country like India it is easy to forget what your purpose was travelling out there in the first place, but it certainly leaves you with one.