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Cough! Cough! (22nd October 1999, Kanpur)

The cell phone blared out its alarm as usual at 7.00 in the morning. With a deft jab from a prone position the electronic pest was silenced. A couple of hacking coughs later, with a forehead on fire I crawled right back into bed to rest a few more minutes. Every attempt at waking up was thwarted by a fever that threatened to end all reporting abruptly. A few more failed attempts later I decided that it was just impossible. When I next looked at the clock it was 10.17. The match was very much under way and in my condition there was no way I could make it to the ground. So we flicked on the television and I watched as Cairns perished after smashing one big six. The Kiwi innings folded up after the departure of Cairns and there wasn't much action happening with Ramesh and Gandhi batting.

Finally without thinking I got out of bed around noon and we headed of to the ground. Having stumbled all the way to Green Park we found that the one power connection that we have for out two lap top computers was on the blink. Every now and then there would be power for a little while but hardly enough to stop the battery from discharging rather quickly.

Having gotten thoroughly cheesed off with the time it took to send a simple fax we attempted the unlikely - to get an Internet connection at the stadium. After half an hour of dialing and a plethora of error messages later we called the help desk of the service provider. He said he would f'ix something and that really Fixed things. It wasn't even possible to get an error message after that point!

At the end of play the media were informed that David Trist, coach of the New Zealand was available to speak to the press. Since I had to complete and file my end of day report before the telecom facilities closed Duane made the long walk across the ground armed with microphone and dictaphone. The working style of media management at Indian grounds ensures that it is impossible for all possible press men to be at any given interview. By the time Duane could reach the scene of the interview, Trist had already expounded his opinions on various topics. Veteran Kiwi commentator Brian Waddle was having an exclusive chat to Trist Meanwhile Kapil Dev flatly turned down any requests to speak to the top scorer of the day Devang Gandhi. He made it clear that all interviews and press conferences would have to be scheduled at least one hour before the close of play. Some journos were clearly unhappy with the arrangement and argued that if Kumble took a hat trick with the last over of the day they would need to talk to him and that would be impossible to schedule in advance. Though it is a good argument in theory, the way Kumble is bowling currently doesn't inspire me to put any money on any last minute hat tricks!

While I was away filing my copy someone had come to my designated Criclnfo desk and swiped my cigarettes. Just what you need at the end of a tiring day.

Since we were stymied at the ground we decided to wander out into the city of Kanpur in search of an Internet browsing Centre. After asking virtually everyone who recognised the word Internet we found that there was actually one such place in Kanpur. But it was not in walking distance. So we got our first taste of cycle rickshaws at Kanpur. A sprightly lad agreed to pedal us to the place in question and we were off. The two of us with our two computers and various other gear barely fit in the rickshaw. The novelty of cruising long in itself made the ride well worth it. When he got off the chap was charming as ever and demanded 50 rupees. Knowing fully well that this would happen I had made enquiries about the possible cost of our trip before we embarked. I was told that 4 rupees was a reasonable amount and 9 rupees would be very well received. I informed the pilot or our chariot that I might pay that amount if he took us from Kanpur to Lucknow! He did not appreciate my humour and asked what I would pay. Beginning at 4 rupees we finally settled at 10. A huge come down from 50 I would think.

Having reached the exact address I was given I saw no sign of a browsing Centre. A browsing Centre by any name doesn't smell the same it seems. A shop did have a Xerox machine and that was the height of technological advancement I had seen in Kanpur. So we went in and made more enquiries. The kind gentleman ushered us in to the back of his shop and showed us a room at the back of his shop. In the Centre of the room there was ... a computer! Perhaps that's what they mean by browsing & Centre in these parts. As it happened the computer was occupied by a fellow journalist from the Midday newspaper. After waiting for one and a half hours we got a crack at the machine. Surprisingly, the connection was rather stable if not much faster than Venkatesh Prasad's slower ball. After doing a quick scan of mail I gave way to Duane who had a lot more to do. After he had read 92 of his pending emails and made necessary updates to the New Zealand page we were politely asked to relinquish our position as it was closing time. We did so reluctantly and accepted Vijay Lokapally's (of The Hindu) and Joseph Hoover's (of the Deccan Herald) invitation to join them for dinner.

We wound around the various streets of Kanpur asking for directions to the Host restaurant where Vijay and Joe were waiting for us. We discovered once again that the average Kanpur local has no idea where anything beyond 50 metres is. We asked three people for directions and they all sent us in different ways. Tired, coughing and still running a temperature we decided to give up on the locals and head towards the biggest brightest lights we could see. As it turned out that was the wisest thing to do. In five minutes we found the team and settled down to our first full dinner in many days on tour. We finished a simple dinner of Dal and Naan and walked out of the restaurant only to find the rest of the press army trooping in from various directions. Journalists from different newspapers, different cities, staying in different hotels all managed to make their way to the one restaurant that we were in. After a lot of backslapping and friendly chat the members of the big happy press family went their own ways!

We reached our room and once again it was well past 4am when I started my tour diary. Watching a children's movie about mermaids I tip tap typed away as Duane drifted off to sleep in boredom. I guess that's the way this thing works. Being on the road and writing all the teaches you appreciate Coca Cola's slogan "Eat writing, Sleep writing, drink only Coca Cola!"