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Boycott's sandwiches and an Irishman's tears

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Adam Mountford | 03:02 UK time, Thursday, 3 March 2011

After last week's musings on my first seven days at the Cricket World Cup, here are my thoughts on a second week which took me from Nagpur to Bangalore, eventually - but boy was it worth it!

Thursday 24 February

Back to the VCA stadium in Nagpur to attend the pre-match press conferences ahead of Friday's Australia v New Zealand match at the ground. I bumped into two of our commentators for the game who had just arrived in town, Bryan Waddle and Glenn Mitchell.

Throughout the tournament our ball-by-ball commentary is also being broadcast to radio stations in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa so we have assembled an international team and it is always good fun to catch up with friends from around the world.

Glen was keen to remind me of the score in the recent one-day series down under, stating: "The Ashes don't really matter to us, we are just pleased we stuffed your blokes 6-1 in the series that really mattered."

Bryan, or 'Wadds' as he is affectionally known by the rest of us on TMS, sat next to me in the press conference room while we waited for the Australian captain Ricky Ponting, who was an hour late.

We had heard earlier that Ponting had been fined by the ICC after a TV was damaged in the Australian dressing room and Wadds suggested : "He's probably been down the electrical store to buy a new television..."

Although there was plenty of good-humoured banter the mood turned understandably sombre as both Ponting and the New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori explained how difficult the match would be to play after the earthquake which caused such terrible damage in the Christchurch area. Vettori reveals that two members of his backroom staff have had to return home to help their families.

Friday 25 February

Arrived at the stadium at 7.00am. The day did not start particularly well as our commentary boxes were both locked and again, there was no power in our part of the stadium. So began a frantic search for the elusive 'keeper of the key' with the clock ticking towards the start of our broadcast.

Eventually a man arrived with a huge bunch of keys and proceeded to try each one. Unfortunately, none of them fit so another frantic search began for a maintenance man, who then broke into our commentary box just in time for me to get our lines working.

The game was a bit of a disappointment as Australia won a one-sided encounter and the highlight actually took place in between innings as the players from both sides linked arms together in a gesture of support to the victims of the earthquake.

Throughout the day I was on the phone to Alison Mitchell in Bangalore where there were distressing scenes of people being struck by police officers as they waited in a huge queue to buy tickets ahead of the India v England game, and I was also in contact with Tim Peach, the producer, in Dhaka where Ireland start their World Cup campaign against Bangladesh.

It was a full house at the Sher-e-Bangla and we had a pretty good crowd at the VCA, especially as the stadium is a long way out of the centre of Nagpur. We noticed bus loads of spectators arriving throughout the day - as a result, when we made our way back to the hotel a couple of hours after the game, hundreds of people were trying to hitch a lift back into town.

Saturday 26 February

Today was an example of what can happen when you travel in this part of the world. We were booked on an early flight from Nagpur to Bangalore via Mumbai and left the hotel blearly eyed after a 5.30am alarm call.

Our flight was scheduled for just after 8.00am and we were all a little concerned when we arrived at the airport to see our flight number missing from the boards. Our worse fears were then realised when we found out that our flight had been delayed for five hours for no apparent reason.

The delay meant missing a connection at Mumbai for Bangalore, so there seemed a real chance we might not get there before the next day when India were playing England in the biggest match of the World Cup so far - and I was desperate to get to the ground as soon as possible to sort out our broadcast lines.

It quickly became clear that this would not be possible, I made a call to Alison Mitchell and Simon Mann, already in Bangalore, to tell them that as well as covering pre-match press conferences, they had the job of making sure we could broadcast.

My mood was not improved by Simon's tweet: "@alisonmitchell and @cricket_mann charged with sorting out techincals as rest of TMS team stranded #absolutelynochanceofgettingonair."

Our wait continued at Nagpur airport but we were buoyed by a subsequent tweet from Bangalore which showed a smiling picture of Simon and Ali, microphone in hand, having made contact with the studio in London.

Eventually we made it into the air, but as we circled around Mumbai for what seemed like hours it became apparent that our connection would have been and gone.

I was sitting next to the always optimistic Vic Marks, who kept telling me he thought we'd be alright, and when we landed a large group of us, also including former England captain Michael Atherton, were ushered away to a coach bound for our connecting flight.

There then followed a hilarious roll call, reminiscent of Rowan Atkinson reading out the register in a famous sketch, as we were checked onto the bus. As Jonathan Agnew and Michael Atherton's names were read out everybody jeered in true pantomime style.

To cut a long story short, we made the flight, which was then delayed by high winds and later, following awful traffic in Bangalore, we crawled into our hotel at 9.00pm after a 15-hour journey, only about three hours of which was actually spent in the air.

Sunday 27 February

With India set to play England, I made an early call to Geoff Boycott to let him know what we needed from him during the day. "I'm sitting on my bed listening to Wet Wet Wet, they are absolutely brilliant," he informed me.

Boycott later told us about his experiences in Delhi a couple of days earlier when he was part of the BBC team at the South Africa v West Indies match.

Firstly, he was dropped at the wrong ground by mistake and had to flag down a vehicle to get to the correct location - but then the fun really started. Boycott always brings freshly made sandwiches with him and on that day had a salmon sandwich in his bag. For some reason, the soldier at the gate decided that sandwiches were not allowed and confiscated his lunch.

Geoffrey was having none of this and refused to budge until "a general" was called to sort it out. "I want someone with an arm full of stripes and badges," he apparently said. Eventually an ICC official arrived and Boycott's lunch was saved!

Despite fears about extra security, getting into the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore was fairly painless and the atmosphere was just amazing, especially once the game got under way and Tendulkar started going through the gears.

Joining the TMS team for the first time was former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, the 'Prince of Kolkata', and I felt a little nervous to be meeting someone regarded as one of the toughest competitiors in the game.

During the Ashes series I met another of cricket's hard men, Steve Waugh, and even though he was long retired, I could still see straight away why he intimidated opponents.
But Ganguly was absolutely charming and, if anything, he was nervous about his radio debut - a role he grew into throughout the day.

The match ended up being an absolute classic, described by Jonathan Agnew as "probably the greatest 50-over match I have ever seen" - and from Jonathan, that was really saying something.

Got back to the hotel still buzzing and couldn't sleep, so I spoke to my daughters - and by the magic of modern technology, my eldest managed to show me the gap in her mouth where two teeth had fallen out earlier in the day.

Monday 28 February

My hopes of a small lie-in were dashed when I was woken by an early call from the Radio 4 Today programme. Overnight a newspaper interview had been published with England wicketkeeper Steven Davies about his private life and there are various requests for reaction to the story.

The day is then spent working on that story as well as talking to the other members of the BBC World Cup team. Because the tournament is so widely spread it is impossible for one commentary team to cover all the games so we also had producers in Colombo and in Dhaka, and I had to try and co-ordinate our coverage across all three countries.

This normally involves me desperately trying to work out time differences which I find almost impossible to fathom especially when it involves half hours!

Tuesday 1 March

At the ground in Bangalore for the pre-match press conferences ahead of England against Ireland, I am stopped by a member of All India Radio as I go to check our commentary box, who asked me if I was Michael Atherton. It was very flattering as the only cricketer I have ever been mistaken for in the past is Eddie Hemmings!

Just before the Ireland press conference, I met former Ireland captain Alan Lewis, our summariser for Wednesday's game. He played 121 international matches but these days is best known as a rugby union referee, and had actually been on the line for the England v France match at Twickenham, just two days earlier.

Later, the highlight of England seamer Tim Bresnan's press conference was when he was asked whether, as a slower bowler, he expected to have some success against Ireland. "I though I was one of the quickest," he replied, looking a little hurt.

Wednesday 2 March

The day began in a fairly low-key fashion as the crowd for England v Ireland was fairly small and the atmosphere obviously muted, compared to that at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday.

All seemed to be going as we might have expected as Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen gave England a strong start and we manage to track down Indian legend Rahul Dravid to join Aggers for the interval.

Dravid is a true gentlemen and always fascinating to listen to. He hopes to be in England this summer but will not take selection for granted. "I am clearly nearer to the end of my career than to the beginning," he told Jonathan. "I will try and make the most of every day I am lucky enough to play this game."

Back on the field things seemed to be going England's way as Ireland are reduced to 111-5, but suddenly everything changed as Kevin O'Brien played a quite phenomenal innings. With his hair dyed pink to help raise money for an Irish cancer charity, he bludgeoned the World Cup's fastest-ever century from only 50 balls.

When O'Brien reached his hundred, I was standing in the press box. Normally journalists are a fairly cynical lot and don't get too carried away by what is happening on the field, but most stood and applauded, English, Irish and Indian alike.

Then, at the moment Ireland completed a famous victory, Alan Lewis was on air with Simon Mann. Alan is a man who now spends his time standing up to huge rugby union players, but as the winning runs are struck the emotions got to him.

"I'm virtually in tears...I can barely speak...the most incredible day in Irish cricket history...we need more of this...if we've done anything, I sincerely hope we've woken the world up to say we can compete at this level".

It was a truly amazing moment and as you might imagine my phone was suddenly red-hot with requests from radio stations and TV programmes from across the world. Kevin O'Brien's proud parents, Camilla and Brendan, joined us in the commentary box and after they finish talking to various programmes Camilla turned to me and said: "We'll be back in here on Sunday after we beat India!"


  • Comment number 1.

    Certainly an incident packed tournament for you and the BBC team and we've only had the first two weeks, please keep up the diary.

    One small moan your TV colleagues only gave yesterday's game a 30min highlight slot that did not do the game justice.

  • Comment number 2.

    Dear Adam, as professional as your commentators are. when England played Ireland there seemed to be a fixation about how Trent Johnson was after all an Aussie and 'Cusack of course was born in Australia' from Simon Hughes. just at the point when Cusack started to open his sholders. Can Hughes maybe keep reminding us of the fact that Peterson, Trotr, Strauss and Prior are also South Africans when they start to do something positive. there seems to be an underlying current of resentment of any imported players to any team other than England it seems to have validity when its england...double standards..

  • Comment number 3.

    The England selectors were rightly lauded for the squad and team selections for The Ashes, they deserve plenty of brickbats for the squad selected for the World Cup!

    James Treadwell (he is a member of the squad, isn't he) seems to have been selected just in case Swann and or Yardy are struck down with illness on the morning of a match. I suspect both would need to be struck down. I don't see him as an ODI player, surely a back-up wicket keeper would have been more use. Particularly given Matt Prior's form with the bat.

    Luke Wright is not a good enough to be selected as a batter, and doesn't appear to have the faith of the captain as a bowler. So where would he fit into the team.

    Presumably, if Eoin Morgan (is he thinking about "defecting" back to Ireland?) was fit, he'd be in the team. So who has been his replacement in the team for the last two games? Yardy or Collingwood? hardly a fair swop.

    James Anderson is completely out of form and seems to proving the point that it's harder to get out of the team than be dropped.

  • Comment number 4.

    stuart broad is only selected because his hair is marketable.

    the ashes would've been much harder to retain had he stayed fit, heres hoping he tweaks a hamstring and is replaced again :-)

  • Comment number 5.

    I followed the game yesterday at work all day via TMS commentary, which was excellent. Can I say especially how much the contributions of Alan Lewis added to the programme - whoever got him on, well done, an inspired move. He was lucid, very listenable, and talked a lot of sense. As the game went unfolded, his own emotions became clear which simply added to the magic of what was happening - nobody minds gentle partisanship and if you were Irish, why wouldn't you be emotional after such an incredible performance? With an already strong commentary team in place, Alan was very much the final piece in the jigsaw. My thanks again to all for a great day's work.

    Can we have much more of Alan and far far less of Michael Vaughan this summer please?

  • Comment number 6.

    Great match,My dad rang me and told me about Irish getting close to win the game,then I witnessed irish conquering the game.Good innings by Kevin o'brien but very poor fielding from england boys

  • Comment number 7.

    4. At 1:13pm on 03 Mar 2011, cheeky_nffc_im off for a davis and leacock wrote:
    stuart broad is only selected because his hair is marketable.


    It's a pity he cut it all off then!

    I agree with some of the comments here though. An important caveat to make is that ODI is almost a different game to Test cricket and requires a different set of skills, for batsmen and bowlers. One player who has surprised me is Trott: I never thought he was an ODI player in a million years. However, he has done well- but he is a gritty accumulator, not a player who can biff it around like O'Brien did. If you play the likes of him, you have to have players around him who can play shots. Currently we have too many gritty accumulators (i.e good Test players) in the ODI team and not enough batsmen who can hit boundaries without giving their wicket away.

    I'd like to see this as our ODI team eventually: Strauss, Pietersen, Trott, Morgan, Bopara, Davies(w), Rashid, Bresnan, Swann, Shahzad, Tremlett.

    If Pietersen quits ODIs then bring Bell in.

  • Comment number 8.

    Just have to say a hearty congrats to the Irish boys. Sport is all too often looking at your own performance and blaming your own failures as to why a win did not materialise. Time to applaud an absolutely stunning innings.

  • Comment number 9.

    We shouldn't really be surprised about England's One-Day woes. They were in shocking form coming in to the tournament and unsurprisingly that hasn't changed. An early exit might actually do our fatigued Test players some good ahead of the real business of hosting India for the proper cricket in the summer.

  • Comment number 10.

    Lets first of all say brilliant performance by kevin o'brien and the irish lads well deserved victory.

    As for England it is so frustrating when we turn in performances like that, whats wrong with a yorker? I think we managed one between all three fast bowlers. Plus the fielding was pretty bad, cant believe we had 2 sub fielders on and neither of which was Bopara and one of those who came on was tredwell who doesnt seem to have the best of arms!

    Another problem is i must agree with other comments in this blog about selection for this world cup. Firstly we miss morgan as i would much rather see him striding to the crease after bell and trott had gone than anyone else in the england side. Not to get too down on the batting as it has been good this WC but just need a finisher down the order. Next although Yardy has done a good 'containing' job he is (for his county at least) a batsman that can bowl rather than the other way round. Surely someone like Adil Rashid could have been a better selection for tredwell or Yardy as a second spinner. I must say that Priors selection before this world cup was a curious one, what did Davies do to lose his spot? I think Prior is a good aggressive player in test cricket but he has had plenty of chances in the one day arena but has flattered to deceive (at both international and county levels).

    Even after a rant like that the irish played very well but a very good irish performance should not beat a good england side. I think our performance against the Netherlands has been put into perspective due to their last two games. We are not out of this world cup but our bowling and fielding must improve markedly for us to even have a chance to get into the quarters.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    2. At 12:35pm on 03 Mar 2011, karlwbrown wrote:
    Dear Adam, as professional as your commentators are. when England played Ireland there seemed to be a fixation about how Trent Johnson was after all an Aus...
    Here here!

  • Comment number 13.

    I would just like to put into context how much of a minority sport cricket is in Ireland..there are only a handful of clubs around the country, the big national games of gaelic football and hurling take most of our able athletes, with soccer and rugby accounting for another large chunk. Cricket would come well down the list behind Athletics and Handball as a played sport in Ireland. It is akin to England been defeated by the Neatherlands in upset of epic proportions.

    Imagine how good Ireland would be if a small percentage of hurlers (the fastest feild sport in the world, a game also involving bat and ball with crazy skill levels) who couldn't make the grade at intercounty level took up cricket..Test match status in no time. A point in case is Eoin Morgan.

    Well done Ireland, England, hang your heads

  • Comment number 14.

    This was a truly magnificent win for Ireland that should be celebrated. This result brings the world cup to life and shows that the ICC need to concentrate more on developing the game outside of the established test nations. The recent decision to reduce the number of teams playing in the 2015 world cup flies in the face of this and should be reconsidered.

    With the increasingly global nature of sport, cricket will not thrive unless it learns to broaden its appeal. This can be done by growing it in more countries far more effectively than by simply playing more matches in more formats between the same teams. Irelands' result shows that the ODI format is a good one and that there is a case for more opportunity for 'minor' nations to play at this level.

    Meanwhile let's enjoy the memory of Kevin O'Brien's marvellous ton. To fully appreciate his innings just think about the context. He did it against England, not against a 'minor' team. He did it in fifty balls and set a new record for the world cup, bettering the previous record (Matthew Hayden) by 16 balls. Lastly he did better than anything managed previously by the likes of Ian Botham, Viv Richards, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulker and a host of other top players.

  • Comment number 15.

    13. At 5:39pm on 03 Mar 2011, shaggybeirne wrote:
    I would just like to put into context how much of a minority sport cricket is in Ireland..there are only a handful of clubs around the country, the big national games of gaelic football and hurling take most of our able athletes, with soccer and rugby accounting for another large chunk. Cricket would come well down the list behind Athletics and Handball as a played sport in Ireland. It is akin to England been defeated by the Neatherlands in upset of epic proportions.

    Imagine how good Ireland would be if a small percentage of hurlers (the fastest feild sport in the world, a game also involving bat and ball with crazy skill levels) who couldn't make the grade at intercounty level took up cricket..Test match status in no time. A point in case is Eoin Morgan.

    Well done Ireland, England, hang your heads


    This is the kind of 'Paddy is the best' boasting I didn't stop hearing from my father throughout my childhood. Yes, there are a lot of tremendous athletes in GAA sports, and no doubt Ireland would be a bigger player on the world cricket scene if it was a more widely played sport, but the fact is we don't know to what extent. Greater numbers doesn't always translate into greater success, and sometimes it can be a hindrance. My father always said England should win the football World Cup because it invented the game, but Messi's been playing football as long as Rooney, and William Porterfield's been playing cricket as long as Stuart Broad. Yes, the result was an upset, but upsets happen in sport, including to Ireland, which is part of why we love it. Great performance by Ireland, disappointing one by England. No-one should hang their head. There's another game coming up.

  • Comment number 16.

    Another top blog Adam.

    Is Alan Lewis covering any other games during the world cup? I'm a bit dissapointed that John Kenny was not part of the commentary team though.

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi David (post 16) Thanks for your kind words. Alan Lewis will be part of the team bringing coverage of India v Ireland on TMS and Five Live. Unfortunately he is only going to be in Bangalore so is not available for other games - i think he has referee duties with the Six Nations ! Also John Kenny did not make the trip this time with RTE so we could not involve him unfortunately. We will certainly look at working with both Alan and John again in the future.

  • Comment number 18.

    #4. What a witless comment.

  • Comment number 19.

    While in Germany over the half term hoiday I tried to listen to TMS on the internet only to find that as I was outside the UK I could not listen that way, so I logged on to ABC Australia and got TMS coverage including warnings about the shiping forecast and the highlights on BBC2, can anyone explaine this.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    I feel the Bangladesh fans have a bit of a cheek criticising their players, when they themselves cannot manage to stone the correct team bus.

    Fair enough, their team got skittled for 58 in 18 overs.

    But at least they managed to bowl at the correct wicket!

  • Comment number 22.

    Well done Adam. I read your blog and your human touch contents kept me reading from your first blog up to 3 March. I plan to skip your blog about the Proteas vs England UNLESS you want to hear my teary-eyed version of our yet-again-choking-and-could not-end-on-a-winning-note approach to a game we should have won on the trot. I fear we may not even progress beyond the phases round. By now everybody should know that I am a Proteas SUPPORTER! But I am hurting and no Protea player stand a chance of being included in my future Fantasy league team ......perhaps Steyn and Tahir.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Adam, thanks for the reply. Its a shame for John that he missed the match on Wednesday.

    What a cracking match again today!

  • Comment number 24.

    Hope England drop Yardy for next game v Bangladesh bowls runs for fun,can't bat and not to good in the field looks a bit overweight and my mum can turn the ball more.

  • Comment number 25.

    Well, I'm glad Ireland didn't go out and beat India in the end... at least that still leaves England with a chance after today's disappointing loss against Bangladesh :(


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