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Day before yesterday we left our houses at 11am to catch the 1pm flight to Mumbai en route to Rajkot for the sixth round of the Ranji Trophy. As it often happens these days, both our flights got delayed somewhat and it was nearly 8pm by the time we reached our hotel rooms in Rajkot. It amazes me that it can take so much time to reach anywhere within the country by air. But we're seasoned travellers and nothing surprises us any more.
There's always a different set of memories attached with every destination, especially when we frequent these places regularly. We have come to Rajkot often in the recent past and they have brought with them a few pleasant and a few not-so-pleasant memories. I vividly remember our journey to Rajkot to play in the Irani Trophy game against Mumbai at the start of last season.
Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra and I were flying together from Delhi. We decided to take the afternoon flight to Mumbai and a connecting flight from Mumbai in the evening. To our utter disbelief, the flight from Delhi refused to take off and just kept getting delayed. The other flights to Mumbai were also running a little late and no matter which flight we decided to take, we were cutting it too fine to make it for our connecting flight to Rajkot.
Since the flight from Mumbai to Rajkot takes about 50 minutes, we were tempted to fly down to Mumbai and take a cab to Rajkot in case we missed our connection. Luckily we asked around before taking this gamble and were told that our intended cab drive would take about eight to nine hours. So Mumbai was ruled out. We flew to Ahmedabad and took a cab from there. We reached the hotel at 1am and woke up our room-mates to be. Since it was our miscalculation, we brushed it aside and didn't crib. Had it been arranged like that by someone else, we would've complained at the top of our voices. We humans tend to forgive ourselves very easily.
Then there was another incident about travelling to the same venue and then to Vijayawada after finishing the game. That time we flew to Ahmedabad and then drove down to Rajkot in a bus, which took nearly four hours. Reaching Rajkot was quite okay but what followed after the game left us all tired. Have a read at the schedule and make up your own mind. The game got over at noon on the final day but since we were asked to check out from the hotel in the morning (to save the rent for a day because the check-out time was noon), we stayed put in the dressing room for the next six hours before leaving for the airport to catch the 8pm flight to Mumbai. We reached Mumbai at 9pm and then had to wait until 2am to board the next flight to Hyderabad.
Going out of the terminal wasn't really an option so we whiled away our time by loitering around when we had the energy to do so and later crashed onto the seats at the airport. The flight reached Hyderabad at 4am and then we were told to wait in the lounge for our next connection to Vijayawada, which was at 2pm. Our limbs and minds had given up by that time and we decided to go into the city to look for a hotel. Searching for a hotel in the wee hours of the morning didn't sound very exciting as it was still quite dark. But you put a bunch of young and fun-loving guys in this melee and it could definitely become quite an entertaining excursion. We roamed the city in a fleet of auto-rickshaws and had our fair share of fun. We crashed upon our beds as soon as we got into the rooms and woke up just in time to make it for the next flight. Thankfully, it wasn't delayed by much. But it took us an hour to reach the hotel even after landing in Vijayawada. So by the time we checked in and settled down in our rooms, it was nearly 5pm.
Someone must've designed this itinerary and he must be human too. But I'm not sure that 20 sleep-deprived tired souls would've been able to muster enough compassion from within their tired hearts to forgive the person responsible for making our journey so happening.
Well, there are a lot of other little stories from various venues but I shall leave them for some other time or perhaps you can read them in my book. Right now I must focus on our must-win game against Saurashtra and since we've managed to stop Cheteshwar Pujara from making merry at his favourite venue we must take the initiative by batting well tomorrow.
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Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.