Almanac Cricket: A Feast of Cricket in India

Taking Notes at the Test in India by John Campbell



The rabble at the ticket office was no different from any other railway station in India. Jostling and shoving my way to the counter, I was giving as good as I got when the bloke in front of me turned around and immediately identified me as an Australian tourist. He would have been eighty if he was a day, bald with wiry white eyebrows and the few teeth he had left stained red by betel juice. He wobbled his head and told me, as one cricket nut to another, “Ricky Ponting is not playing.”


It was October 2004, and I was on my way from Mysore to Bangalore for the First Test of the Border/Gavaskar series. Australia, led by Ponting’s deputy, Adam Gilchrist, won the game by 217 runs and a future captain, Michael Clarke, scored 151 on debut. But the image seared in my memory is of Rahul Dravid being clean bowled for a fifth-ball duck by Glenn McGrath. You could have heard a pin drop in the morbid silence that descended on the crowd. I was in the grandstand, behind the bowler’s arm and separated from the press corps by a glass partition, on the other side of which sat the ill-fated Peter Roebuck – I was bemused by his two-fingered typing.


Nine years later I came to Delhi for the Fourth Test of the series. Notable for the fact that, in Clarke’s absence (his back was playing up again), Shane Watson was handed the captaincy of the national side for the only time in his not quite stellar career (which is a brain-strain trivia question if ever there was one). The tragic Phillip Hughes managed an elegant 45 in our first innings, but we were skittled by the Indian spinners in three days. What comes to mind most luridly when recalling the game is me spewing near the back fence after eating a dodgy bhelpuri sold to me in a cone fashioned out of a page of the previous day’s Hindu Times – nobody batted an eyelid.


By 2017, the spell that India casts had overwhelmed me again and I returned to Bangalore for the Second Test of another series. Against all expectations, a week earlier Australia had defeated the hosts at Pune and there was a real sense that Virat Kohli and his boys were rattled by Steven Smith’s upstarts.


Having trouble procuring tickets for the five days play before leaving Oz, I reluctantly signed up with a tour group that had booked accommodation for its members at Bangalore’s Marriott Hotel. I had never stayed in a hotel of such narcotic luxury. My nephew, a Cronulla Sharks tragic and forty years my junior, also made the trip, but found digs for himself at an el cheapo establishment nearby (the sort I would have lodged at in those days before I became addicted to soft beds and reliable hot water). Sharky would rise early, saunter into the Marriott and join me at its breakfast buffet, the staff assuming that he was one of the tour group. Stuffed with fruit and eggs, pastries and coffee (Sharky is not fussy about what’s on the table, as long as there’s plenty of it), we would then make the short walk to M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, crossing Mahathma Gandhi Road (I’d never seen Mahathma spelt that way – was it a signwriter’s typo?), dodging lunatic tuk-tuk drivers and passing a giant poster of Kohli spruiking a mobile phone company.


Sharky in Mahathma Gandhi Road (Photo: John Campbell)


Our seats were in the premium grandstand – the one from which I’d seen McGrath uproot Dravid’s stumps all those years ago. As a bonus, lunch was included in the price of our tickets and taken in a carpeted foyer adjoining the viewing area. As the players left the field, waiters appeared carrying trays groaning with an array of curries and dahl and rice, pickles and parathas, followed by gulab jamun, pistachio ice cream and fabulous retro desserts from the Raj like ‘dates pudding.’ Free Kingfisher beer on tap pleased the Aussies in attendance no end. The tea-break offering was less elaborate – samosas and pakoras – but we were all as full as the butcher’s dog by then and needed to be concentrating on the cricket anyway.


The game itself was a tight tussle, with ball dominating bat and Australia collapsing in its second innings in pursuit of a modest total. What it provided, however, was a statistical milestone. (There is barely a Test that goes by without some weird record being established). At Bangalore in 2017, while Sharky and I were loosening our belts after daily feasts, four bowlers took six wickets in an innings (Nathan Lyon, Ravi Ashwin, Josh Hazlewood and Ravindra Jadeja) – it had never happened before and has not happened since.


Given that the curse of Covid-19 will have finally been defeated, the Australians are due to tour India again in 2021. I’ll be there with bells on.



See and read more of John Campbells’s Footy Almanac contributions by clicking HERE.


You can view more of John’s art on his Instagram page by clicking HERE.




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  1. Thanks for the tour John. I’ve not been to India and you’ve captured much of what I imagine happens there. Have you been to Dharamshala? It’s surely the most magnificently situated cricket ground in the world and I aim to get there, eventually.

  2. Thanks for this John. Very colourful. And entertaining.

    I think Sharky is an archetype. I have met him all over the sporting world – but especially on the Gabba Hill, in front of the scoreboard at the Adelaide Oval and in standing room at the Punt Rd end of the MCG.

  3. Reece Egan says

    Great read John.
    Geez that Sharky fella is a handsome lad!

  4. Brilliant retelling of an Indian/Australian cricket derby with the smells, tastes and flavours of India well and truly represented. Bravo Mr Campbell!

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