Boycott's sandwiches and an Irishman's tears
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!"