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Kiwi nets, lost in the city and small town fame (21st October 1999, Kanpur)

Ok. So now I'm in Kanpur. Only after getting here and reading the newspaper did I actually figure out that I was in Uttar Pradesh. But I've never been too hot on geography. The city at first glance is a bit of a put off. The streets are exactly what you would expect of a smallish North Indian city. Filthy would be putting it mildly. It's not that there's poverty in your face like Delhi or Bombay. But for some reason the whole place looks unkempt. But that's ok.

We had time on our hands to walk about and get a feel of Kanpur. So we walked one way for 15 minutes and couldn't find our way back. After asking several locals for directions we found that the hotel we stayed in wasn't even in any of the local maps of Kanpur. I guess 'Paradise' isn't high on the list of important locations for the people of Uttar Pradesh.

Instead we found a Baskin Robbins store and I made my bad throat worse by thulping mint and coffee ice cream. With ice cream in hand I went to a pharmacy and asked for cough syrup. He looked cluelessly at me till I demonstrated my cough and asked for a cure. After several back and forth conversations in Hindi- English-Hindi it was ascertained that he had no such preparation on the premises.

On the day before the match, we went to the ground and got ourselves seats at a good vantage point and secured an electricity connection for our computers. Watching the New Zealanders practice was interesting to say the very least. The New Zealand team slogged it out in the 2'o clock heat at the Green Park stadium in Kanpur. On first glance it was immediately obvious who was in charge. A strapping man in his fifties sporting a handle bar moustache who goes by the name David Trist was conducting the practice in the same manner a conductor would wave his baton at an orchestra. The Kiwi team went through the practice session with enthusiasm, alertness and professionalism.

At the three batting nets, Astle, McMillan and Vettori had a long knock against an assortment of bowlers - both Kiwi and Indian. The local under 15 cricketers had their dreams come true when Trist yelled out "Can I have a leg spinner please". Immediately there would be five kids volunteering. A local coach picked out the most suitable boy and sent him over to roll his arm over against Astle or McMillan. Alongside these rookies were the New Zealand bowlers steaming in and having a thorough workout on the practice pitches in the outfield.

At the ground I had the rare privilege of snapping away with a point and shoot camera while my partner, Duane Pettet of Canterbury, New Zealand was mobbed by enthusiastic autograph hunters. He did his best to explain that he wasn't a cricket player but that didn't seem to deter the persistent kids who would not go away till they got his autograph. At 6'4'', wearing a 'clear Black Caps' cap it was easy to see why he was mistaken for a Kiwi cricketer. In shock he signed the autographs - the only way to get the kids to go away! Resigned to small town fame and glory he walked out of the ground with me, followed by a small pack of youngsters who just couldn't get enough!

Day's work done we returned to the room to our standard evening session. Pepsi by the gallon for our teetotaler friend and a couple of beers for me thank you very much. Conversations ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime, and a solid background of cricket talk kept us going well past 4 am. With a match to cover starting tomorrow morning it might be a wise idea to sign off now and get horizontal in a hurry.