Tuesday, November 14, 2006


It was earlier this month on the 3rd, 4th and 5th that I was back in Bombay for a bit, covering the final of the Champions Trophy...

For starters, it was one of the more fun tours I have had in recent times, in that there was a whole lot more than just the Australia-West Indies match on offer.

On the 3rd itself, there were the annual ICC awards, which thankfully didn't have a single Indian award-winner. There was just Rahul Dravid who was named captain of the best Test XI of the year, a consolation prize obviously, seeing that Ricky Ponting was in the team as well, and so was Mahela Jayawardene, who was named captain of the year. Quite scandalous actually, but no one protested...so guess it wasn't too big a deal. Also got a to spend a lovely few minutes with a rather drunk Gundappa Vishwanath. Went to him for an interview, upon wrapping up which I caught Vishy waiting for me to have a detailed chat on a particular question I had asked him. That meant a further few minutes with one of my favourite batsmen of all time. Didn't really watch too much of Vishy live, but have seen enough recorded footage of his batting, and - memorably - his last innings in a first-class match. If memory serves me right, it was an Irani trophy match at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta, where - again, if memory serves me right - Vishy scored a duck, batting for Karnataka against the Rest of India lot. Am not sure about any of this actually, but I do recall him playing three consecutive square cuts - rising up on his toes - which went to the wide-gully fielder. Each of them.

Anyway...Day Two in Bombay brought with it the ICC Executive Committee meeting, where the decision was taken to sack Darrell Hair from the ICC Elite Panel of umpires. That was, of course, not the only big story of the day, as Malcolm Speed had been asked to 'shut up' by the rest of the ICC Executive Board for his inappropriate comments against the BCCI. Plus, Ata-ur-Rehman's life ban was being lifted. All of which added up to it being a fun PC. Percy Sonn - the ICC President, and Speed were put under serious fire by all of us. At least three of us in a group of 50-odd journalists, got both Speed and Sonn quite worked up; enough to elicit responses like 'meet me outside the room afterwards' and 'you don't have the right to cross-examine anyone' and stuff like that.

And then the evening was spent at the new BCCI headquarters at the Wankhede Stadium - lots of old (even ancient ones like Bapu Nimbalkar) and new cricketers were present, including people like Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, who you don't ordinarily catch during your travels. And of course Mohammad Azharuddin, who was greeted by a bigger applause even that the usually-reserved-for-special-attention Tendulkar.

But all that was about work, which concluded the following evening with Australia's easy win over West Indies.

Off the field, yours truly actually spent three nights at the Taj Mahal Hotel. Just opposite the Gateway of India, with it's magnificent lobbies and huge French windows and general old-world charm and opulence. Admittedly, the modern wing we could afford to stay in was not as magificent as the old wing, which is reserved for the big special guests from abroad and the Indian rich and famous. But even the modern wing had a special something about it that my usually non-capitalistic self couldn't help but fall in love with. Another of the great things about the Taj is the documentary on the Taj that you can catch on the room television sets. It's hosted by Roshan Seth and stars every single important brick at the Taj, and tracks down some of the historical events that have taken place at the venue down the years.

Mornings were spent walking the cobblestoned streets around Gateway of India, followed by free (or, complimentary - but I prefer going with 'free') sumptuous breakfasts at the Taj coffee shop, where ancient looking Parsi couples were a staple.

Most of the days were obviously spent at work...but the evenings were fruitfully utlised with the kebabs from the fabled Bade Miyan and seafood from the Didia-recommended Trishna at Kala Ghoda. A quick bite of chilli beef was also managed at Leopold with old friend Himmat for company.

In all, great fun was had. Which, of course, is usual at the most beautiful city in the whole world. Nothing beats Bombay. Nothing at all beats Bombay. It is the city to beat all cities, be it with the general sights and sounds, the appearance of the people, the variety of food and the variety of prices for all varieties of food, the constant presence of things to do with Hindi films, the names of the roads and other places, the smell around the Colaba-Kemp's Corner area, Brabourne Stadium (where I saw a match for the first time in my life; it had been the Wankhede before this) and so much more. Oh yes, the language, which gets me going each and every time and the general relaxedness of the people, the clothes people wear, the way they carry themselves.

It's all a different world. And it's a beautiful world.