Sunday, April 11, 2010

Touring with one eye closed

Over at CI, Nasser Hussain is interviewed by John Stern. A decent interview, quite honest at all times. There aren't too many surprises but that's largely because we've heard Nasser say most of what is in this interview in various articles and pronouncements from the press box over the years. What I want to focus on is a comment of his about touring the subcontinent. I do so because I think it is revealing of the tunnel vision of sportsmen. Not English ones in particular, for I think this attitude crosses national lines.

When asked "How did the team's fortunes change?" Nasser replies,
We created a team. We went to the subcontinent in 2000-01, which really helped because there's not much to do socially there. We created a unity by ensuring that all our rooms were on the same corridor of the hotels. We'd leave doors open, there'd be PlayStation sessions and quiz nights, a lot of banter. People worked hard in the gym.
What is interesting here is the claim there is not much to do "socially" in the subcontinent. This gave me pause. What could Nasser have in mind? Does he mean there aren't any people to meet? That can't be it; the problem would rather more likely be that there are too many people around.

But more to the point, what is the problem in just walking around the streets of a part of the world you aren't too familiar with? (Indeed, when I travel, there are times I disdain a guidebook and just stroll). What, that is, is the problem with displaying simple curiosity about your location?

Perhaps Nasser has cultural entertainment in mind: music performances, theater, a visit to a art gallery. Yet, somehow, I doubt that Playstation-philic young men have these in mind. Perhaps it's a pub that's missing?

I'm not really trying to take the mickey here. I'm genuinely curious. When I say of a neighborhood in the American suburbs, that "there is nothing to do," I mean things like the above: it's deserted, there are no centers of cultural activity. But then, the American suburbs are reasonably familiar to me, and there isn't much one can discover by walking (unless rows of manicured lawns is your thing). The same isn't true of most locales that the English team would have found itself in. (I agree there might have been security issues in Pakistan and Sri Lanka during the tours that Nasser mentions that might have made moving out of the hotels difficult). Guides and guidance might have been needed but surely those could have been arranged?

As I said above, I don't intend this post to be just about the English and the subcontinent. I wonder how many of the cricketers that tour take the opportunity to soak up some of the locales they find themselves in.

To travel is to be fortunate; one wonders if the extent of this good fortune is known to the lads that go and do cricketing battle in distant lands.

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Anonymous Ducking Beamers said...

You hear this kind of talk all the time, unfortunately. Western cricketers will complain about having to tour South Asia -- I think Collingwood said something about there not being any golf clubs in Bangladesh -- and what a trial it is to get through the days.

As you note, there's a reasonable case to be made in the case of Pakistan (and to some extent India, of course). And Bangladesh may not be easy to travel in; I recall a Cricinfo piece on the long train ride the English team had to endure to get to a stadium on the itinerary.

But what irks me is that we never ask South Asians -- or any cricketers from the Third World -- what it's like to tour Australia or England (or even parts of South Africa still recovering from apartheid). It's always assumed to be a pleasure.

11:48 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

DB: Sorry for the late response. Good call on the lack of attention paid to other teams' touring concerns; Sunny Gavaskar pointed out that touring England wasn't easy in Sunny Days, but I don't seem to recollect anybody ever bothering to ask how cricketers dealt with things like diet, homesickness, cultural estrangement etc when touring First World nations.

10:42 PM  

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