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Edward Craig: Batting on an Indian road

October 20th, 2009 by Edward Craig in Champions League

“If you want to drive, buy a car,” says Michael Holding. In India, if you want to drive, go play cricket – driving a car is not advisable.

The roads here are ridiculous. Anyone who has travelled more than a few miles will never forget the experience. To put it in a British context, think of the worst driver you know and they’d be King Chauffeur here. The standard technique is Police, Camera, Action – cutting in and out of the traffic, hooting whenever you need to get by, being as close as possible to the car in front, only breaking when absolutely necessary. Then hooting more.

This is not foolish driving, like playing a straight-legged, flat-footed waft on a slow, low seamer – this is pure madness: trying to check-drive a Patrick Patterson bouncer at Sabina Park.

But that is just the driving. The highways themselves are things of wonder. The main road from Agra to Delhi is a dual-carriageway with the usual traffic load of lorries, cars and vans.

Then there’s the odd elephant. And plenty of cows, goats, a camel, loads of stray dogs, motorcyclists and passengers picking themselves up after a tumble, a school-bus travelling on the wrong side. Millions of pedestrians. Dozens of children on the back of a bicycle. The traffic weaves around the obstacles nonchalantly.

The driver who took me to Agra enjoyed the tapestry of Indian life visible on this thin stretch. “Everything is on the roads in India,” he screams over the Hindi music blasting from the sound-system. “Look, sugar cane. That is cattle feed. I reckon 12 people are in that tuc-tuc.” There were, we counted them.

“That is milk,” he says, pointing at a van with a huge fuel-tanker on its back. “That’s fuel,” he says as a motorbike overtakes with two milk-churns weighing it down. We pass a man lying on a trailer being pulled down the motorway by a cow. The man is sound asleep. “And that is auto-pilot,” the driver explains, barely registering. “The cow knows the way home.”

Much like the English teams’ reaction to Twenty20 in India, the road situation has opened my eyes to what is possible: the variety of over-taking techniques, just how much space is available on the open road if you use all of it (hard shoulder, gaps between lanes, the opposite side of the road etc), why queuing is over-rated, hesitate and you’re gone.

And much like Twenty20 cricket in this country, you have to experience it to understand it.

Edward Craig is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in Champions League | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Edward Craig: Batting on an Indian road”

  1.   kiwi says:

    I enjoyed the sign on that same bit of dual carriagway when I was out for the last Test Series which read
    “Please drive in this direction”

  2.   Robin says:

    It’s all been written before, Ed. I’ve read a million similar stories on foreigners discovering India. I guess Ed found it necessary to record his novel experiences. And cricket is not really worth writing about in Twenty20, I suppose.

  3.   Johnboy says:

    I guess Robin found it necessary to post some needlessly self-satisfied comment.

    On reading and rereading this blog I’m not sure that there is anywhere that Ed claims his experiences are novel Robin. Personally I have enjoyed his blogs over this Champions League – there is more to a tournament than the cricket itself…

  4.   Robin says:

    Well Johnboy, one can be excused if one expects more cricket on a WISDEN blog, I hope. Robin doesn’t claim his experiences are novel, but this genre - discovery of confused or dysfunctional Indian roads, offices, and dishonesty of tour operators - has been flogged to death, I think. These are the obvious things. But to be fair, I guess one has to be based in India to do *real* stories.

  5.   Johnboy says:

    You’ve either got Michael Vaughan third-person disease Robin or are getting yourself confused with Ed. Thanks for the caps too, I’d almost forgotten which blog I was on.

    Agreed, these are not new themes, and I’m sure Ed will take the feedback on board, but there are more constructive, less snide ways to make a point, especially given the excellent quality of the cricket-related stuff he has produced over the tournament.

  6.   Som says:

    Nothing outrageous or eye-opener about the piece and two words sum it up — creative bankruptcy.

  7.   Cricket Betting Blog says:

    Bloody Hell, calm down, I’m glad there is no controversial cricket views expressed on this blog, imagine the arguments you could of had then.

    Lets be honest, the two English teams that went out there didn’t provide much to write about.

  8.   kiwi says:

    I may be biased but I have thoroughly enjoyed the blogs

  9.   King Cricket says:

    I like cricket articles where the writer tells you what the score was at lunch and then says how many balls it took for a batsman’s hundred.

    Less of this colourful and entertaining writing that reminds me that there’s a wider world out there.

  10.   Richie C says:

    kiwi-why might you be “bias”? Surely you New Zealanders are not going to stick up for a Pom

  11.   Axeman says:

    Actually, what I really enjoy is reading an article about a topic that has been written about approximately 2 quintillion times before. That ol’ familiar feeling. Mmmm..

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