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Meetings and beatings

View of the scoreboard at Seddon Park, Hamilton Hannah Johnston / © Getty Images

March 1
Napier. Rains make sure that Lionel Richie can't perform at the Mission Concert. Somehow 11,000 people gather at the venue, a winery, going where involves a steep climb. Napier's population is under 60,000. The gates open at 3pm and it takes the organisers until 6.30pm to call the concert off. Is the ICC managing the event?

March 3
India register their first win of the tour - in the first ODI. Mark Greatbatch is around. Formerly a pinch-hitting opener in the 1992 World Cup. More formerly a dogged Test batsman. Sells apples now. With Martin Crowe, he owns an apple business, and is planning to start exporting to India. Each apple has a sticker with the name and picture of either worthy. Observe there are more Martin Crowes than Mark Greatbatches in the carton the latter is carrying. Mark is not complaining about it, though. Bloody journalist, looking for stories everywhere. Steal four apples as consolation.

March 5
Back in Wellington. Cricket fans have ensured all hotels are sold out. Another reason to hate these popular shortened formats of the game. Stay in a hostel called Wellywood, which is actually what the local film industry is called, along the lines of Hollywood, Bollywood and so forth. Can work only in the lounge, the only place with wireless internet. It's quite chaotic. There's a giant TV showing rugby, there's three guys jamming in a corner, there's two guys playing table football; the pool table is temptingly untaken. Everybody's having a good time - save for one guy typing what looks like a thesis. What a nerd.

March 7
Christchurch. Feels like home. Know everything about ChCh from the previous six-day visit. Take the shuttle from the airport, as opposed to a taxi. Travel within the city on buses. Use the pass as opposed to paying cash. Somewhat like back in Delhi, where, however, passes are often not required: when the conductor asks to see your ticket, just uncouthly say "staff" or "student". Sometimes it doesn't work.

March 8
Sunday Bloody Sunday. Poor bowlers. Thirty-one sixes are hit, 726 runs scored. Sachin Tendulkar is 37 short of what could have been a double-century when he retires hurt, with five overs to go. New Zealand give India a scare, but fall short.

Read how Vic Pollard used to detest cricket on Sundays. A religious man, he even declined the 1970-71 tour of Australia because of Sunday involvement.

"Wear a t-shirt with inscription in Punjabi script. A man on the street reads it out loud. Hamilton is full of Punjabi immigrants"

Given the small boundaries - as small as 40-odd metres - the mishits would be sixes any day of the week.

March 9
Christchurch-Wellington-Hamilton flight. It's a clear day, and there are vast stretches of light-blue water underneath. It's like the sky has been inverted. There is activity in the waters - ships, which look like white specks from above. Ever seen stars in the day? Staying with U2, it's a Beautiful Day.

March 10
Wear a t-shirt with inscription in Punjabi script. A man on the street reads it out loud. Hamilton is full of Punjabi immigrants.

Meet Glenn Turner. The Practical Perfectionist. The Unpopular Practical Perfectionist. New Zealand's own Geoffrey Boycott. He's married to Sukhinder Kaur, a Punjabi he met on the 1969-70 tour to India. Get Glenn to swear in Punjabi. He is too gentle to have any effect. Bishan Bedi calls him "Singh". Because Kaurs usually marry Singhs. Glenn Singh Turner it shall be, then.

March 11
Watch Virender Sehwag go berserk from the famously rickety press box at Seddon Park. These are portable cabins mounted on scaffoldings. Ian Botham famously refused to commentate in one. Learn that said box was more than 100-feet above the ground, on the fifth level. Today we have the first and second levels. Interestingly only the Indian media gets the rickety box. NZC must think it is a tourist attraction.

Wonder whether Sir Ian refused because of fear of heights or because there is no elevator. Both equally viable reasons.

March 12
Call Dion Nash before leaving for Auckland. Set up an appointment for 3pm. Reach his plush sea-facing office at about 3.05pm. Notice "3pm" written on the back of his left hand.

Listen in delight to some of the stories he tells, and his guttural laughter. One of the less funny ones, but one that could explain just why the injuries never left him alone: "I played my first Test in Zimbabwe. We had to stop the game after 20 minutes, because Robert Mugabe turned up to shake all our hands. And we stopped the game for 10 minutes. All these armed guards were there. We shook his hand, he walked away, got in his Mercedes and drove off. I have wondered ever since if it was a good thing to have my Test cricket blessed by Robert Mugabe. Not so sure."

March 13
Have dinner with Jude Menezes in a revolving restaurant atop the 328-metre-high Sky Tower in Auckland. Jude is a former India hockey goalkeeper, an Olympian. Remembers a penalty shootout against Pakistan in Dhaka. Sohail Abbas was quite the terror then. Goalies used to be scared of Him. It happened to be his shot. "I had to do something," Jude says. "I started giving him the verbals. 'Bada striker hai to bol ke maar [If you are such a great striker, tell me where you will hit it].'

"And Sohail could do that. He could tell you which side he was going and still beat you. So he asked me where I wanted him to hit. I asked him for top-right, and there he went. And he just pulled it too far. More verbals flew. The referee couldn't understand any of what went on." India won the game because of that miss.