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SLCD-XI in ENG (1)
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Diary

Ranji in Ireland, Hazare in Mumbai

In part three, our correspondent takes in Dublin, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai

Subash Jayaraman
Subash Jayaraman
20-Dec-2014
Cricket played on the streets of Mumbai, March 2, 2001

Street games in the subcontinent: a don't-miss for any world-touring cricket fan  •  Getty Images

Day 46
The first morning in Dublin, Google Maps helps us identify a cricket ground near our guest house, that of Leinster CC. It's a ten-minute walk away but when we arrive the gates are shut. Luckily an elderly member, Tony Hyland, spots us while he's walking in for his Lawn Bowls match. On finding out that we are on a cricket world trip, he lets us in and gives us a tour of the place. Founded in 1852, Leinster CC has a long history. WG Grace brought a team over for a set of matches in 1873 and 1874. As we part, Tony hugs us and says, "I'll see you in heaven."
Day 48
Kathleen and I met at Penn State University in the US, so we couldn't pass up an opportunity to watch our alma mater play a College Football game. In Dublin! Pep rallies, beers, food and cheering till our throats are hoarse give us the feeling of being at home for a day, six weeks in to the trip.
Day 49
The in-laws are here from the US. Drive to the west coast of Ireland, from where Kathleen's ancestors set sail for the US many generations ago. One of the family members who still lives on the ancestral land meets us at the property and suggests we dine at the nearby Ballynahinch Castle, which used to be the summer residence of Ranjitsinhji. Giant portraits of Ranji and framed letters written by him cover the walls of the castle.
Day 50
Drive to Dingle peninsula, whose rolling hills make it one of the most beautiful places on earth. The owner of the place we are staying at is a British expat. He talks of playing club cricket in Ireland and playing alongside Jack Short, who turned out for Ireland but captained France against a visiting MCC team in 1989 and beat them handily.
Day 56
Drive back to Dublin and head straight to Malahide for the first of three Ireland-Scotland ODIs. Not more than 200 fans dot the boundary rope. Some of the boundary fielders are just a few feet away, giving the impression of it being a weekend club game rather than an international. The quality of the cricket, however, dispels that notion quickly. Ireland win easily.
Day 59
Attend a "cricket evening" hosted by Cricket Ireland and the Nightwatchman, the Wisden quarterly, in Dublin. A member of the panel discussion on Ireland and the future of Associates cricket in the wake of the ICC revamp is ESPNcricinfo contributor Tim Wigmore, who is writing a book on Associate cricket. The evening ends with a documentary on Irish cricket. Learn about socio-political changes in Ireland at the turn of the century that brought the Gaelic Athletic Association into the forefront of Irish sport and pushed cricket to irrelevance.
Day 70
In India. On a train to Pune and, on a cricket journalist's advice, check in at the Deccan Gymkhana. The sight of the cricket ground from our room, and little kids in whites, raise my hopes of being able to watch some play. Spend the evening at the ground watching the training sessions of boys between the ages of eight and 17.
Day 71
Visit the "Blades of Glory" cricket museum. The owner, Rohan Pate, picks us up from the Gymkhana and gives us a personal tour. Awed by the collection of cricketing memorabilia.
Day 72
Have a proper Maharashtrian breakfast with a cricket journalist, who suggests we should visit Chandu Borde, the former Indian cricketer and chairman of selectors. Spend two hours with Borde, talking about Indian cricket. When I ask who he thought was the greatest of them all, Borde shrugs as if it is obvious: "Sir Garry Sobers, of course. What a cricketer!"
Day 82
A friend gets us tickets to the CLT20 final in Bangalore. First time watching a T20 match in an Indian stadium. The crowd noise is through the roof. Plenty of Chennai Super Kings fans decked out in yellow. The traffic is a mess getting to the stadium. But we get to our seats easily enough. Feels like a breeze compared to previous experiences at the Wankhede for Tests. Leave the ground with nine overs remaining, even as Suresh Raina is batting like only he can in CSK colors, because the incessant loud thumping from the speakers becomes unbearable.
Day 83
Our train to Chennai goes past the town I grew up in. Small fields along the tracks dotted with kids playing cricket on a Sunday morning. Memories from ages ago flood back. Cricket, lovely cricket.
Day 86-87
Catch a fair bit of gully cricket in some of the famous corporation grounds of Chennai, including one that was featured in the movie Chennai 28 (as the kids there are quick to inform us). Children wearing EPL jerseys playing cricket - a definite change from when I was a kid. One group even lets me play in a match, making me keep wicket as they think, rightly, that I'd be too slow in the outfield.
Day 88
Interviewed by the Hindu for a podcast about our world trip. Feels surreal to be inside the offices of a newspaper I used to read religiously while growing up.
Day 89
Back in Mumbai. A journalist friend takes us to the Legends Club meeting at the Cricket Club of India at the Brabourne Stadium. It's the 103rd birth anniversary of Vijay Merchant, one of India's greatest batsmen. Meet former Indian cricketers Madhav Apte and Nari Contractor. Hear stories about Merchant, Vijay Hazare and Polly Umrigar. Feel lucky to have the chance to interact with these gents.
Day 90
Meet India bowler Snehal Pradhan. She encourages us to visit a bat-maker in the Marine Lines area, and we do. Many current and former Mumbai batsmen come here to make small adjustments to their bats.
Day 91
Get a tour of the centre of the cricketing universe - the BCCI headquarters. Get to see the 1983 Prudential Trophy, which first sowed the seeds of a love affair that continues to the day.