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Barmy Army

You could be forgiven for thinking that 'Cheeku' is the name of a Pokemon Go character you have to scale a cliff or cross a railway line to catch. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it's the nickname of the Indian Cricket Captain.  A more appropriate nickname, in our opinion, would be 'Thrush'. Not only because of his constant chirping but he because he also possesses the sort of irritating on field persona that was succinctly described in one short four letter word uttered by our super hero Ben Stokes in response to an only slightly milder send off in the first innings of this match. Kohli's character is such that in 2012 Matt Prior appealed to us to try and get at him. We had tried then without success as admittedly he is rather good and seems destined to keep racking up the runs on his home turf whenever he comes to the crease. On this tour we've created a little ditty for him and hope that when our numbers are swollen by the 4th and 5th Test arrivees, we can try and get under his skin. 

Although the splendid and supporter friendly I.S Bindra Punjab Cricket Association Stadium is situated in the city of Mohali we, like the vast majority of England's travelling band of followers, took up residence in Chandigarh, its more well known twin. Designed by the famous architect Le Corbusier and often referred to as Indian version of Milton Keynes, this is the cleanest and greenest City on the tour. The climate at this time of year is perfect for cricket watching with temperatures in the mid 20s during the day and a only a slight chill in the morning (pic of Ian James) and evening to worry about. The now traditional 9.30am start also meant we didn't lose any time, as we feared, to the weather and early sunsets. 

On my recce visit in June I had selected our hotel, the Shivalikview, not because it was the best appointed or situated but because it was very Indian and a complete contrast to our previous abode by the seaside in Visakhapatnam. On check-in, we experienced a pleasant surprise when we discovered that we were on a half board basis and bearing in mind the ongoing issues with getting our hands on hard cash this was great news. Add to that a beer was cheaper by more than half the price of our last home from home this ensured that we had an extremely pleasant stay. The worst thing that happened was that not everyone had a personal safe in their room so I consulted my recce notes which had 'safety deposit lockers on request' noted down. I soon discovered that this did not take into account that if more than 16 guests requested one they simply ran out! Fortunately this minor niggle bothered no one but me. The reception staff had also been to the 'try and serve seven guests at once and answer the phone in mid conversation' school but in the end this became a bit of a standing joke. The Guest Relations Executive Mr Chhibber (2 Hs, 2 Bs) seemed very receptive to my constructive feedback so hopefully if we ever come back here things might have improved. 

I had picked up our tickets the day before the match with and when I went into the stadium to check where were going to be seated I was very disappointed to find we were in an area above the Indian dressing room as opposed to above the away side as I had requested . When I queried this I was told that the area I wanted was reserved for PCA members and not for sale. However on our arrival into the ground the following morning we discovered that our tickets were actually in the area directly above the sightscreen and therefore in the eye of the facing batsman. We were swiftly told to move so we took the opportunity to jump over into the desired side which was virtually empty anyway. We were then close enough to the dressing room to hear a huge bang beneath us when Ben stalked off after the afore-mentioned exchange of views with Vi-RAT following his stumping.  

The highlight of the week was the appearance of our regular cricket celebrity guest Jonathan Agnew. As there were only 18 of us I decided against the usual Q&A session and instead held a very informal 'mingle' in the bar area with Aggers moving around the group, speed dating style, for the best part an hour. It turned out he had actually stayed in the Shivalikview in the 90's and was very keen to share the story of when he discovered a rat in his air conditioner! We decided if anyone had the same experience to christen said animal Virat. 

Despite an impressive and injury affected knock by our boy wonder Haseeb Hamed,  England weren't able to get the match into Day 5. Early finishes can get very messy when everyone goes to the Pub so it was quite fortunate that the inevitable loss happened late into Day 4. This meant the that the now free Day 5 could be utilised for the important job of stocking up on Rupees as the group joined various ATM queues around the banks in Sector 17. 

So it's off to Goa then for some much needed rest and recuperation. Some of the England boys have gone to Dubai for similar reasons and if they're half as knackered from playing as we are from watching they certainly deserve their break. 

Jumbo prawns, Goan fish curry and sunsets keenly awaited....