The Vizagites sound like an imagined warlike alien race intent on destroying Earth. Fortunately for us, neither Dr Who or James T Kirk are required to go into battle, it's simply the collective name for the inhabitants of this agreeable and surprising Indian City situated halfway up the Bay of Bengal. Agreeable due to the presence of many bars and multi cuisine restaurants and surprising because our usual encounters with ocean side cities such as Mumbai and Chennai don't feature pounding waves, stretches of golden sandy beach and miles of promenade.
Ok so it's not Goa or Kerala and the tourist industry is in its infancy, but I don't think you will find many of the estimated 400 or so England supporters that made the effort to add the second new Test destination on this tour to their cricket-watching CV express disappointment. You needed to be on your toes here though, especially if using a Tuk Tuk, as the drivers weren't as scrupulously honest as their Rajkotian counterparts. They appeared to have decided that journeys with more than one customer aboard entailed an individual charge for each passenger. The more experienced amongst gave them short shrift. We hope they learn over time that if you charge us the same as the locals, you will probably get double the fare as a tip.
Opportunists apart, there is plenty here to be positive about and we hope that the BCCI, the not so benign Dictator of cricket in these parts, sees fit to have us back in the future. Certainly the afore mentioned Vizagites turned out in their thousands, admittedly supplemented by hordes of shrill screaming school kids and gave India's victory - just after lunch on Day 5 - a much more atmospheric backdrop than their Gujarati cousins in Rajkot. Whenever the masterful Kohli executed one his delicious text book strokes, it sounded like we were being accompanied by the audience from The Beatles Live at Shea Stadium.
Throughout this test and a couple of days beyond, our Barmy Travellers heartily enjoyed being ensconced in a beautifully situated beach side domicile The Park Hotel. For some unfathomable reason the local pronounce it Thee Park Hotel. Perhaps the contractors that built it were from Yorkshire? This meant they didn't have to travel home too far as this was the setting for a fabulous party on the evening of Day 3. More of that later as we concentrate for a second on the actual Test Match. Most of us feel that the defeat by a margin of 246 runs didn't really fairly reflect the match as at times England, especially with the ball, performed brilliantly.
Especially for us on their 2nd Test, there was the novelty of having two lunchtime venues - a traffic dodging stroll across a busy dual carriageway right opposite the entrance to our stand. The furthest away, apparently called The Outswinger but known by us as The Beer Garden - swiftly abandoned their policy of only serving alcohol with food when they realised that they were going to be invaded by thirsty England cricket supporters on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the management couldn't grasp the fact that they would have made more money concentrating on selling the usual 330ml 5% Kingfisher instead insisting on serving us mainly large bottles of 7.5 % Carlsberg Elephant Beer. There were also plenty of most young male locals in the bar most of them seeking, and getting, selfies with us. For some strange and probably mainly rhythmical reasons they concentrated on the many ladies present.
Without doubt the highlight of the week was the previously mentioned Barmy Army Party on Day 3. Well over a hundred chose to come down to Thee Park for an evening of live music provided by Krosswindz, a five piece Kolkata based covers band flown down for a three night residency by our hosts. Complete with a proper stage and light show and featuring the ludicrously talented Billy 'The Trumpet' Cooper jamming along with great effect. I have seen him do this all over the world over more than ten years and I'm still in awe of his ability. Those just used to hearing him pipe up at the cricket doing 'Jerusalem' and 'Four more to the Engerland' have no idea. It also amazes me that a fair proportion of the English supporters here chose to sit in front of a TV watching football rather than come to a party with live music. Each to their own, I suppose.
The currency problems meant this wasn't a typical Charity Event but we still managed to raise over a thousand quid for Magic Bus who help educating street kids in India. We auctioned off some signed memorabilia including the gloves Moeen wore in his man of the match performance in Rajkot. Lez, one of my five testers and regular Barmy Traveller managed to win the main item, a Barmy Army Tour Shirt signed by the current squad. Thanks are due to Phil Neale, the England Team Operations Manager, who puts up with my constant requests for help getting such gear with such patience.
So, after a great stay in the land of the Vizagites and despite the disappointment of going one nil down, we head off tomorrow early doors for the two flight bash via Delhi up to the heart of the Punjab.
Seekh kebab anyone?