What's the most challenging aspect of the IPL? Bowling to Chris Gayle? Deciphering Muttiah Muralitharan’s masterpieces? Or dealing with the pace of Dale Steyn? No chance, try managing your match-day ticket allocation.
These tickets are always in high demand, but never have they been more precious than for our last home match against Pune Warriors. The requests usually start weeks before from the local guys in our squad. I can only imagine what it must be like for them trying to satisfy friends and family, and in an effort to help, I always end up half promising my allocation to three or four guys. It can be a little awkward on match days when it is delivery time and you have no tickets to give, but I think the guys understand.
A few of us were treated to a fantastic round of golf on Thursday. We were kindly asked if we could spare some tickets, which of course we want to oblige to. But then I remember that I've promised a sponsor six tickets (already two more than our allocation, which I'm hoping to get off Morgs [Eoin Morgan]) and so the ticket-juggling cycle begins.
On the rare occasion that the tickets aren’t taken until the day of the match, the housekeeping guys at the hotel are always in luck. They are all pretty clued up on their cricket and always politely enquire about tickets. It’s great to help them out, provided they haven't been fiddling with my bats! It's probably the most hassle-free way of dealing with the allocation anyway.
You can call it an occupational hazard and I have seen players dealing with ticket requests in various ways. The responses vary from a gentle “no, sorry” to a curt “No.” I like the way [Dale] Steyn has chosen a treasure- hunt approach with his tickets. On each match day he tweets a location, where the first person to present the tweet can collect the tickets. I'm not sure if this would be wise or safe in cricket-crazy Kolkata.
Coming back to the field of play, my unblemished run in India has come to an abrupt end this week and I've been bed bound with flu and fever. Apart from the uncomfortable symptoms, the frustration of not being at the matches, especially the big ones like the Pune match, is annoying. I woke up during the ninth over when KKR were flying, and watched through half-open eyes and a pounding head as Warriors chipped away at our score of 150. At one stage it really looked like Dada's fairytale was unfolding, but Sunil Narine stole the show and we bagged a very important two points. The build-up to the game was massive, there's a lot of loyalty towards Sourav [Ganguly] here. Gauti's [Gautam Gambhir] handling (within the camp and publicly) of the build-up was superb, his actions with the bat complemented it nicely.
Tonight we play Daredevils in Delhi. It's Gauti’s hometown and he's made sure that his ticket demand has been met the day before the game. Preparation is key to any good pro. I'm just happy to be back with the team and feeling alive again.