March 3, 2009

E-ticket to ride

The joys of auto-check in. Chess in a public square with giant pieces. And meeting an international cricketer who also happens to be colleague… sort of

Alice-in-Wonderland chess? Must be Christchurch then © Cricinfo Ltd

February 20
Human senses respond to the colour green. It's been 27 hours on the road - well, about 16 of them in the air - to come from one garden city to the other. It has involved seven airport transfers from Bangalore to Christcurch, and numerous immigration checks. But jetlag seems overrated when one lands in Christchurch. The greenery and the beauty hit the tired body like a balm. Sleep is not required for the next eight hours. They should rename it New Zeal Land.

February 21
Bert Sutcliffe Oval, half an hour away from the city centre. What a painter would come up with after reading an old English writer on countryside cricket. It's India's base camp until their first Twenty20. Ideal conditions to practice in.

Watch John Wright meet some of his old wards. Visibly emotional. "Very good boys," he says. "Good to see them again. I miss them. I miss India. Once it gets under your skin, it's hard to get it out."

February 22
Walk barefoot in the city centre in Christchurch. It's not uncommon to see people walking barefooted on the streets. Also learn Josh Stevenson, the veteran of the Coast to Coast multi-sport competition, conducted over some of the roughest terrain South Island has to offer, covered 243km in bare feet last week. It's a city for walking, ChCh is. Motorists actually stop to let pedestrians cross. And then smile. Christchurchers like smiling. And talking. Especially the tram drivers.

Play chess in Cathedral Square on a Sunday afternoon. It's no ordinary game. The pieces are knee-high and the tiles on the ground are the board. Step on the board to move the pieces. It's like being part of an actual war.

Time stand stills in the city centre. If the sun is out, reading a book in one of the street cafés is the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Step into an Indian restaurant for dinner. Realise how the Chinese must feel at coming across overpriced and not-so-authentic Chinese food in India.

February 23
Gary Kirsten is pushing the Indian team hard. Virender Sehwag has had too much of it and rests behind the sight-screen. No longer has he sat down than Kirsten shouts, "Viru, you are in the first group [for nets]."

"I can't," says Viru. "I'm tired."

"I'll send across a bed for you," says Kirsten.

"Thanks Gary. Get me a room too."

February 24
Norm has been driving the Indian team around in his coach. He has done the job for various sports teams for a long time now. The first time he went into the bus this time, he saw Sachin Tendulkar in his customary first seat, and his jaw dropped. "Jeez you are famous," Norm said.

A few of Norm's observations: the Indians are immaculately behaved; most of them put on their iPods when they board, except for Tendulkar, who is always seen laughing with Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan. Norm keeps the bus keys away from Sehwag. Never know when he feels like a drive. Alone. Most of the teams Norm has driven have been well behaved, but for Australia. "Because I am a Kiwi, they take the piss out of me. I give 'em back good." Trans-Tasman wars.

John Wright catches up with an old colleague © Getty Images

February 25
Editor emails, forwarding some reader feedback. The correspondent is peeved at one quip too many about New Zealand's weather. Go back to how it feels bad when foreign writers write about being duped at an Indian airport. Or how exotic they find the cows and snake charmers on the streets. Try to be careful with comments about New Zealand next time. Even if they are meant to be harmless. The weather, by the way, is lovely. As a north Indian living in the south, I miss the winter. This is like back home, minus the dust. Er, hope Indians don't mind.

AMI Stadium. It's raining sixes. Sehwag is in one of his moods. But New Zealand are clinical and pull India back and take the lead in the series. Get some stick from New Zealand fans on the way out. It's all good fun. Not supporting any one team anyway.

February 26
Flight to Wellington. Auto check-in on a computer. Throw the bags on a conveyor belt and they will reach the aircraft. Neat. But wonder if somebody else can travel on my e-ticket. There has been no identification check to make sure that the person carrying the ticket is indeed the person to whom the ticket was issued.

February 27
Bryan Young doesn't work as a security guard. Wikipedia, take a note please. He made a big career switch (from being a wicketkeeper who could bat to a specialist opener), but not so huge as is alleged. He is a marketing manager in a construction firm.

March 1
Flight to Napier. Try to kill the e-ticket curiosity. The summary of what the volunteer explains: there is no identification check. So if somebody finds a lost e-ticket on the street, he can check in. But if the real owner of the ticket comes along and approaches the airline, there will be a tiebreaker. Whoever has the passport flies. The impostor gets imprisoned and is barred from flying Air New Zealand again. The volunteer doesn't remember any such thing happening, though. Don't know how it is in places like England or Australia, but in India photo id is mandatory. With no security checks, a new curiosity begins.

March 2
Fancy meeting a colleague who plays for New Zealand. Well, "colleague" is taking a bit of creative licence, but Iain O'Brien's written work does appear on Cricinfo. His self-deprecating humour works a treat. When he got Sehwag out in Christchurch, the leg stump flew out of the ground. They must have watered the stump-holes more, Iain wrote. Also like the speed at which he writes. Tell him about the problems with internet in the motel in Napier. "I have good internet at my hotel. My blog will land before your report then," he says. Oh well.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo