Monday, February 25, 2008

Fly back to the States

After a successful completion of the tour to Argentina we flew back to the USA on 25-FEB-2008. Oh by the way, we celebrated Sir Lincoln Harrison's 75th birthday on the flight back to the USA. He was very humble to receive a good cheering from a flight full of tourists, businessmen and some Mad Dogs.

Looking back at the tour here are some highlights. Cricket in Argentina is now 100+ years old. In my opinion, due to a strong influence of European colonization (mainly British) Argentina was left with some great sports facilities - Polo, Cricket, Rugby, Golf, etc.

Warm climate (for the most part), warm people provided us with an awesome experience. City of Buenos Aires has lot of history - Museums (incl the great club ;)), Parks, Clubs, Pubs, Restaurants - always a happening city, a city on the move.

Tips to the tourist:
1. Do not exchange money at the airport. They pay 15% less than local banks.
2. Learn little Spanish before arriving.
3. Talk to people who have been there before for ideas and suggestions.
4. Plan your trip way ahead of time.
5. Use only taxi's that say "Radio Taxi". Buenos Aires has about 25,000+ taxis and the ones that are legit and most likely "would not take you on a ride" are the ones that say "Radio Taxi". The others will most likely take you on a city tour every time you get into one.

One thing that caught our attention is - there were no clocks to be found around the city. The traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) slows down around 3:00AM'ish - an easy indication of the time to call it a night. Wednesday nights, 2000+ people, partying until 4:00AM - might be very few places in the world that showcase such a party facade of the city.

Neil Kimberley, before going on the tour told me - "if you like beautiful women and big steaks, you will enjoy the tour". Looking back now, "you will enjoy the tour" is clearly an understatement. As Jaideep would put it - "muchos mazaa (fun in Hindi)".

Beef is a primary export of Latin American countries - they have some of the lovely steaks to cater to the palette of a tourist and South America definitely presents us with quite charming and beautiful women. As part of their culture women kiss men on their cheek. I must admit that I have never been kissed so many times on my cheek in such a short span of time. I like their culture, obviously ;-)

We picked up some Spanish while we were finding our ways through the city. Enjoyed our games thoroughly. Received great hospitality. Towards the end of the tour, I had misplaced my camera - on the last day - and was quite worried, not because I might have lost my camera, but because I have some very important pictures on that device. After an hour of searching around, I finally found my camera to a great sigh of relief. I am a happy soul now :-)

Some pictures from the tour -

End of tour on a winning note

We packed our bags and loaded our luggage into the bus by around 9:00AM. A perfect day (Sunday 24-FEB-2008) to play cricket, initially threatened for few hours in the morning by looming dark clouds. We reached Belgrano Athletic Club - a 20min ride from our hotel - to play against Belgrano Cricket Club.

This facility is the 2nd best facility we have seen so far - 1st being Hurlingham Sports Club. A lush green outfield, must be quite nostalgic for both the Brits and the brats on the team. Game was reduced to a 40 over contest, keeping our departure time (to the airport) of 6:30PM in mind. Mad Dogs CC lost the toss and were asked to field first. Derek McDonald and Neil Harrison bowled tight and restricted the home team to 172/10 in 35 overs.

Mad Dogs CC reached the target in 35 overs losing 7 wickets (incl. 2 retired out). Derek McDonald played a great innings and Jaideep gave a good support to him out in the middle. I made a meager 5(10). The wicket a bit grassy - the ball was "stop and come" kinds. I played too early - on the front foot and the ball missed the bat to hit my pad above the rings to be given out LBW.

Mad Dogs CC vs Argetina Cricket Clubs - the score was 2-3. If not for the washed out game we would have very well leveled the series. We cooled off with last sips of Quilmes - Argentine beer and some pizza before heading out to the airport.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Washed out game at Hurlingham Club

Today's game got washed out due to an early morning thunderstorm in Hurlingham. We were all excited to play a good game of cricket and look forward to winning another game, but weather in Buenos Aires had other plans for us.

We relaxed a bit at the hotel until it stopped pouring and went out for more sight-seeing. We went to this place near Rio del Plata - the river - called Puerto Cristal. Awesome food, great service and great desserts.

We visited a decommisioned ship "Sarmiento", built in 1896 that toured about 45+ times between Spain and South America. Most of the ship is still intact and kept in a good condition.

We had couple of drinks at to cool off at Spell Cafe and head towards the restaurant called "Follow the Cow" - one of the best carne in Argentina. Most of the boys were tired to party tonight as they were worn out from extensive partying and gaming and preferred to hit the bed early.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Day off for shopping

We had a day off on Friday 22-FEB-2008. We went around the town to check out the Zoo and Museums. The Zoo was closed due to an early afternoon rain. We walked around to visit nearby art museum and Eva Peron museum.

Eva Peron - the first woman president of Argentina, has an impressive track record as an artist, actress, socialist and a little of a politician. We spent about an hour or so to go around the museum.

At night we went to this dance club called Crobar. Even though smaller in size compared to the club Museum, it was packed with more friendlier folk and presented us with 80's music. We got back to the hotel at around midnight (I was told to be realistic about the time we got back to the hotel - it was infact 4:30AM ;)) to get a good night sleep before the game tomorrow.

Win against ACA Presidents XI

Mad Dogs CC finally won a game on the Argentine soil. A wonderful day to play cricket and one of the best cricketing facilities I´ve seen so far. Hurlingham Club has history that dates back to the 18th century.

Mad Dogs CC won the toss and promptly elected to bat. I went in at #3 and scored 37 (50 balls) - (3x4s, 1x6s). Got out to a sweet inswinger by this Aussie bowler Ryon Butta - who is trying to get into Argentina National team.

The outfield is immacculate - just perfect to play your natural strokes as opposed to playing ariel shots like back home in the USA. We put a total of 214/8 in 40 overs.

At the start of the ACA Presidents XI innings rain interrupted the play for about an hour or so. To our surprise, the ground dried up in just under 10 minutes and the play resumed as normal.

I bowled leg-spin and got 1 wicket (7-1-22-1), took a catch in the covers and a stumping (make-shift wicket keeping). We rounded up the ACA Presidents XI for 170 in 39 overs.

Ryon Butta was to take the match away from Mad Dogs CC. The turn of the game is attributed to Mr. Lincoln Harrison bowling a teaser to Ryon Butta who skied it to cover area where Tony Boyke took an awesome catch running backwards.

In my opinion the player who impressed me the most is Mr. Lincoln Harrison - 74 yrs old. The other 74+ old to have played cricket that I know of is Sir Ranjit Singhji (spelling?).

We had a good reception hosted by the Hurlingham Club - snacks and drinks. We came back to our hotel, had dinner at a Mexican joint nearby and went out to an Irish pub called The Kilkenny to celebrate our victory.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Shopping and clubbing

After the game on Tuesday (19-FEB-2008), we got back to the hotel, got fresh and went out to down some drinks and grab a bite. We had a good dinner at this place called El Trepiche - good food and great ambiance. It looked as if most of the boys did not want to behave in this wild city of Buenos Aires. After the meal we stepped out to check out a couple of (night) clubs. The rest of the story is to be censored.

Yesterday (20-FEB-2008) was a rest day and we woke up late (usual after effects of late night partying.) We grabbed a decent lunch at a local joint and discussed how we lost the game the previous day. After the meal we went around downtown Buenos Aires for shopping (and to burn some calories from the heavy meal.) We got back to the hotel to catch a quick nap only to get ready for partying in the evening, again. This time it was not a night club, but a regular restaurant/dance club called - The Museum.

The Museum is a huge place - 4 flights high and has seating for regular dining on the 1st floor until 10:00PM at which point they clean up the floor for dancing. I have yet to visit a club - anywhere in the world - where there are 2000+ people dancing on a Wednesday night, till 4:00AM in the morning. Aptly named "The Museum".

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

First game @ St. Georges

We got ready after a good breakfast to hop on the bus that took us to St. Georges College. After about 30 minutes ride we reached the ground - the ground is just as perfect as the weather to play a good game of cricket. Match was cut short to 40 overs a side, due to delay in the start of the game.

St. Georges team had a pack of young cricketers while Mad Dogs CC has fairly balanced team with an average age of 45.

Mad Dogs CC won the toss and elected to bat first. I went in to bat at #3 - supposedly aka "Sun tan position" (in Brit English). I made 15 (2x4s) in 25 balls got out to a straight forward catch at mid-off. Mad Dogs went on to make 199/7 in 40 overs.

St. Georges team was lead by a Dutch (national team) cricketer - Axela Buurman - a fast medium pace bowler and a top order batsmen. The rest of their team pretty much played around him to secure an easy victory, reaching the target 205/5 in 32 overs.

In my opinion, Mad Dogs CC were less aggressive in field placements and bowling changes that costed them the game.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tourist in Buenos Aires

I reached Buenos Aires at 11:30AM local time. Most of my team had already left for sight seeing (a small island near Uruguay) early in the morning. I was all alone and I had the chance to explore the city all by myself.

I set out to check out the downtown Buenos Aires. I put on my tourist hat and strolled around the city for 6 hours - conversing with strangers in my broken spanish requesting them for directions and/or to click a picture for me.

Towards the evening I was so exhausted that I was itching to taste the local "cerveza" - Quilmes. Later I grabbed some food, I got back to the hotel by around 11:30pm and hit the bed for my 1st cricket game in Argentina.

Plight for the flight

My flight was to leave at 3:50PM (17-FEB-2008). I reached the airport at 1:40PM, checked in my luggage, grabbed a quick bite and was waiting at the gate only to realize that the flight was delayed by an hour and the new time of departure is at 5:30PM. Little worried, I went to the counter to check alternate routes to reach Chicago so that I can safely board my 8:10PM (9:10PM EST) flight to Argentina. To spice things up, there were no alternate flights - all flights going into Chicago were delayed due to bad weather.

At 5:20PM EST we were all seated and ready to taxi only to hear the captain say "we will have to stay seated on the tarmac and the next update whether we fly out today or not will be relayed to us at 6:40PM EST." The lady next to me was worried and called her son-in-law to confirm the status of outbound flights from Chicago. The flight from Chicago to Argentina was to leave on time 8:10PM CST. There were 8 other passengers that were going to Argentina. They were letting people choose to get off the plane to stay back in NJ or stay on baord. I told the captain that I would like to get off the plane if we do not start by 6:40PM EST.

At 6:35PM EST we got the go ahead and our flight took off at 6:50PM EST. The captain said he will do his best to take us safely by 7:45PM CST and that the only thing we could hope for is we might make the 8:10PM CST flight - before reaching the destination airport, captains normally radio in on their position to request the connecting flights to wait, if they can.

The crew was kind enough to let all 8 passengers bound to Argentina to move to the front of the plane and sit in the 1st class. The crew announced that the connecting flight to Argentina was to leave from gate H15. We made it into Chicago at 7:45PM CST and we taxied to gate H17. We hopped off the plane at 8:00PM CST and hurried to board our connecting flight to Argentina.

All in all it was one eventful start of the journey to the Southern Hemisphere.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Start of the tour to Argentina

I am all excited about the upcoming tour to Argentina. I have been doing some reading about Argentina and some places to visit there. Lets see how well I can manage both cricket and tourism in Argentina.

A part of my cricket team (Maddogs Cricket Club) is about to land in Argentina now. I start on 17-FEB-2008 to reach Buenos Aires on the morning on 18-FEB-2008. I will miss out on the "Tango" dance at the bar on Sunday, because I will be arriving couple of days later than most of the team.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An offer up for grabs

One fine morning, I received an e-mail from Neil, VP of Marketing at Cadbury-Schweppes here in Stamford, CT. We had played some cricket last fall and he stored my contact information in his good books.

The offer was to go to Argentina with their team for a week to play 4 games and relax 3 days on the warm beaches of Buenos Aires. I had some vacation time left to burn (use it or lose it - kinds) and I jumped to grab the offer.

I took care of all the prep work that goes into being a cricket player in another country plus the tourist, on the off days.

The trip is scheduled to start on 17-FEB-2008 and come back home on 25-FEB-2008. I am really excited to be part of this voyage on my first trip to a Latin American country.