What could go wrong? Nothing, absolutely nada! I’ll start at the end, it was the quintessential T20 game, it had everything, finishing with a victory from the last ball! Back to the beginning...
A leisurely start, no stupid o’clock alarm call for guide or taxi, lying in bed, admiring the ceiling of our beautiful room, before an al fresco breakfast, listening to an old gentleman playing two recorders at the same time, it sounds like he’s in need of a snake. One thing that has surprised us is that we are visitors to Jaipur this time, not tourists and, in general, they don’t speak English, last night’s tea, in a tea room, ordered off a menu only in English caused great consternation as they didn’t understand my order of white Darjeeling! So it proves, again, with our Uber to the airport. We are so used to striking up a conversation, however, he’s not hearing that the conversation is addressed to him!
At the airport, we meet an old friend, Air Asia! There isn’t a better low cost carrier. When we toured S.E. Asia, five years ago, we had teens of flights with them. They turn around their flights quickly and while they are keen to extract money in a RyanAir style, at least its fair. They have launched in India in the last five years. We take off to the second, have a Grandfather flying us, he looks like Santa Claus, who painstakingly tells us of the route, height, timing and all, in the reassuring tone of your grandad!
Hyderabad! It’s more humid as we arrive, however, it’s big and impressive. As we head in to town on an elevated freeway, for most of the 45 minutes it takes, it’s clean, smog free, infrastructure abundant and impressive. We are staying at Bajara Hills which is doing a passable impression of a US counterpart. The hotel is The Park Hyatt, for once opting for a multi national over boutique. This 5* behemoth is shiny, and a hive of activity, there are orange flags everywhere, we have stumbled across the Sunrisers team hotel, result! The staff soon find out we are South African and are here, especially to support their team. This elevates is to “tugging forelock” status and, an upgrade. Every member of staff wants to know, will they win, who’s your favourite player? This is to show you a selfie of them and this God. We are being treated like royalty! When I say that mine plays for the opponents, bingo! They are staying here, too!
Right, time to do battle with Indian online ticketing systems. We have an OTP, a destination for collection... what could go wrong? Another silent Uber ride, to an old stadium, 30 minutes away. The art of driving here is aural authority, basically, you can do anything as long as it’s done confidently and having used the horn to prepare your nearest vehicle! Dual carriage ways become 5 lane super highways, traffic lights become ants nest as bikes swarm over the front of the queue. It works!
We find the stadium, the gate, the collection point..... the one staff attending to ticketing is having lunch, sitting cross legged, facing the wall, studiously ignoring 50 sets of eyes, impatiently beaming in to the back of his head!
Lunch done, he fires up the lap top and the two queues, collection and purchase, become one. A security guard tries his best, however, the inner queueing security man is nearing the explosive surface. On this occasion, it’s to be twin pronged. AD has worked out that a tall English woman, talking directly and assertively, perplexes Indian men into subservient jelly, while my ability to collect a ticketing deviant, deposit him behind me with a warning as to the future conduct of he, and his mates, has a neat line behind us. Even the seller is reassuring us, no one will push in! Ironically, we push in!! The ticket roll comes to an end with only two left on the spool and everybody ahead of us wants more!
How to find an Uber with no phone service or wifi? Page 7 of the experiences traveller’s manual. Find a phone shop, feign an interest in a SIM, be charming..... Uber ordered, to pick us up at Lavish corner, it’s the name of a restaurant, it isn’t what it says!
Back at the hotel for a quick dinner within a firmament of cricketing stars doing the same. Angelka is now a cricketing groupie, “ who is he, he smiled at me!” My assertion that it was indigestion, gains no truck.
We are surprised, having witnessed the traffic, that the teams set off quite late, it’s nearly 6.00pm for and 8.00 start. We make the same mistake. The traffic is utter bedlam, the journey takes 90 minutes and we arrive as the second ball is being bowled!
Chalk and cheese, the ridiculous to the sublime. This stadium is that, a huge stadium, organized, seated, a cauldron of anticipation, colour and atmosphere!
We are like kids in a sweet shop! The only downside to the IPL is the fact that all stadiums have a perimeter fence to keeps the fans at bay, it’s just as well there is no alcohol served, as the euphoria seems more than enough for feral behaviour. You are searched for coins, upon entry, while India can be a poor nation, throwing away your money is clearly a sport! Finally, cheer leaders, really! Where Bollywood dancing is de rigeur to all, why not have a boy/girl posse doing Jai Ho, the seminal dance of Indian youth?
Mumbai are the Man Utd of Indian cricket, coached by a pint sized diety called Sashin Tendulkar, they expect to win. They set off at 10 an over but, they are slowly reeled in by Hyderabad to post a measly, in T20 terms, 148. There’s dropped catches, huge hits, hat Rick balls, dismissal controversy,lots of euphoria and lots of noise, dancing, fun and mosquitos!
In front of us, two twin boys from Hyderabad, tease their mate from Mumbai, who sits between them. We join in and are on nodding terms with everyone around us. This teasing ebbs and flows, according to the state of the game, punctuated by the best Bollywood moves when music and circumstance intervene!
In reply, Hyderabad set off imperiously, this will be embarrassing! However, as is often the way, they implode in a manner specialized as their own, by England! Lots of twists and turns have us left with Hyderabad hanging on by their cricketing finger nails, one wicket left, chasing an unlikely 11 off the last over while the rampant Mumbai Indians will reap the spoils, as they’d always expected. The cauldron of baying celebration is now a gathering of anxious, silent church mice, cue Bollywood superstar owners, for once, not feigned anxiety and fear!
The first ball sails over the boundary, 5 off 5, however, a single of the next exposes the tail ended to the bowler. Our last man, Billy Stanlake, is 6’ 7” but mouches around at the back, last to get on the bus, the body language of a civil servant, can he keep the ball out and get the last recognised batsman in strike? Sort of! A scampered single, and then another. The scores are tied and none of us know what happens in the event of a draw!! There are interminable delays between balls as the captain of Mumbai sets his field, briefs his bowler,.... sets his field. So, here it is, the last ball. Both teams have seemed likely victors at many stages, and now a timid Goliath with a peice of willow hanging from his gangly hands, can find his moment of fame in the midnight sun! What were we worried about, his wild swing connects, it arch’s through the floodlight sky to land on grass, rather than in opponents hands! Ladies and Gentlemen, Hyderabad win, what a game, what a moment!
To answer Angelka’s question as we went to sleep last night. No, we don’t try to do too much, we seize the day, we squeeze the marrow out of it and go to bed, job well done.
We make a tuk tuk driver’s night by paying him what he considers to be a King’s ransom, to get back to the hotel. Even at midnight it’s a little alarming to be driven on motorway flyovers in a tuk tuk, with a driver who feels the need to throw in a guided tour at this rate! After a celebratory tea, we watch the teams get back. The Mumbai Indians sheepishly arrive by the tradesman’s entrance, Hyderabad to flashing lights, at the front door. The hotel have provided a celebratory cake, now worn of the head of a number of the team, and champagne, more traditionally imbibed. What a day, what a night, what a moment, what a life!!