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Walking out to defend a modest total against Bengal in the quarter-final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, I told my players that we needed to give it all we had, to ensure that we get another opportunity to walk on to the cricket field as a team. A loss in that match would’ve meant the end of the road for Delhi. We had an early start to the season because we had to play a couple of extra pre-season games as a reward for winning the Ranji Trophy last season. So our sojourn together was quite a long one, where we saw more lows than highs, especially when compared to the previous season.
When you know that it’s all going to end, albeit only for a few more months when the drama would begin once again, you want to hold onto it for as long as possible. It might sound a little clichéd and inspired from the movie Chak De, but our last 47 overs on the field (the match was reduced to 47 overs a side) reminded me of that ‘Yeh 70 minute’ speech that Shah Rukh Khan gives his players before the finals.
Of course, the cricket was not going to stop with this game and most of us were going to represent the North Zone and play in the IPL, but it’s never the same. It's the fact that we were not playing for Delhi that would be missed most. Sadly, we faltered and the sand that we were desperate to hold within our fists slipped away right in front of our eyes, and we felt helpless.
Anyhow, life moves on, and we’re in Cuttack for the Deodhar Trophy. I’ve been to Cuttack a few times in my cricketing career but the last time we came to play a Ranji Trophy game was a decade ago. We’re staying in the same hotel in which we stayed back then. It’s called Dwaraka and is right beside to a cinema hall. There are two big open drains in the vicinity as well.
Nothing has changed in the last decade including the state of the rooms. The placement of the television set is so peculiar that it’s nearly impossible to watch it if both of us, my roommate and I, are lying in our respective beds. The bed sheets are invariably dirty and a look at the bed cover might make you feel like throwing up. It was badly stained with oil marks and looked as if it hasn’t seen the laundry for quite some time. Unfortunately the plight doesn’t end here. There was a cockroach found in the food ordered by one of my teammates.
What bothers me more is that Cuttack is not an off-beat venue and has been hosting international matches for quite some time. Of course, the international teams don’t stay in these hotels and I’m not even suggesting that they make us stay in five-star hotels (though why not), but I do believe that there could at least be an effort made to improve the state of the hotels. After all this is the premier domestic tournament.
Do I need to mention that the bus that brought us from the airport in Bhubaneswar, which is about 30 km away (an hour's drive), was not an air-conditioned one? It’s pretty hot in this part of the country and an air-conditioned bus is a necessity rather than a luxury. This is a domestic tournament and so is the IPL but there’s a huge difference in the treatment meted out to the players in these two tournaments. No wonder all the players are eagerly awaiting the IPL.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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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.