My first cricket tour was to the North York Moors. It doesn’t sound particularly glamorous. It wasn’t. It was with my Latymer School 1st XI and we stayed in little pubs and for one night six of us dossed down on the floor of a local farmer’s sitting room. It didn’t matter. It was the most fantastic trip, leaving us with indelible memories, like the little ground at Goathland where sheep had to be shifted off the outfield to enable us to play and the evening match which was interrupted by rain and had to be finished in near darkness, illuminated by the headlamps of the school minibus positioned at mid-off. The friendships we made – with the school staff who travelled and the village players we met – have lasted until this day.
And that is the real point of cricket tours. Great memories. The time we travelled to play a village in Tamil Nadu and were greeted by banners across the main road ‘welcoming England cricketers’ and a crowd of 5,000 sitting patiently under temporary awnings. The sitting on the back of a ute until after dark at a ground in the middle of the New South Wales bush playing silly drinking games (and turning on the electric blanket in a sleeping player’s motel room that night when the outside temperature was 30 degrees: he lost about two stone overnight.) The Maharajas palace we ended up in one night during a tour to Sri Lanka. The large rat we tried to shoo out of a Delhi cricket club dressing room until we were told: “Leave him, he’s one of the members!”
Cricket tours are the best way that I know of seeing the world and making friends. The welcomes you invariably receive – usually garlanded in Asia – the hospitality you are offered, the places you end up (often playing at Test grounds), the food you eat and the insight you get into other people’s lives is fascinating and special. It is far better than being a tourist. Cricket – the nature of the game, the time it takes and its intrinsic sociability – gets you under the skin of a country, revealing them warts and all. It gives you a real sense of place as well as some unique experiences and you make friends for life. But always remember the golden rule: what goes on tour, stays on tour… unless you are caught on camera.
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