March 04: The Indian women's cricket team was making its historic touch down on the shores of South Africa and the whole team was pretty excited about it. We passed through immigration and customs without a fuss. However we were held up for a long time at the conveyor belt as two of our cricketers found their hand baggage missing.
Incidentally, their hand baggage had to be sent down after we ran out of space in the overhead lockers. After about half an hour's wait Mithali Raj and Arundhathi Kirkire could breath a sigh of relief as Fiona Fernandes (our manageress) walked in with the baggage.
Outside the airport, as usual, it was photograph time - here a click, there a click, every where a click, click. Soon we were on to the team bus and ported across to Sandton City. Having been given a warm welcome the girls soon found their way to their rooms as all of us were weary after a long journey (close to 15 hours from the time we left Delhi).
Around four in the evening we went out for a stroll and to grab some food - as we had only had something very light on our flight in the early hours of the morning. We filled our tummy with some Chinese food, which turned out to be great for the non- vegetarians and a pretty sour one for the veggies.
Most of the girls are vegetarians - about 10 to 11 - and they normally suffer with their food and this was their first dose of things to come. As we had entered a shopping mall the girls ended up feeling their way through the mall and checking out on possible things they could buy (the girls did not end up shopping as they were just checking out). We spent about 2-3 hours at the mall with girls in a jovial mood.
Talking of the teams being in a jovial mood, we have quite a few characters, who keep the team in high spirits. Let me take the pleasure of introducing them to you. High on the list is Neetu David, who is one hell of a character. There is no way you will find her in a sober mood and if you ever do then you will know that there is something wrong. In fact, none of us like it when she stays quite. Next on the list is Hemalatha Kala, who keeps the team entertained with her witty remarks and her taste for enacting her teammates mannerisms.
The girls, however got a taste of some good Indian food for dinner as Ma'am - as she is fondly know- got us parceled some Indian food.
March 05: After a good night's sleep, we assembled at the hotel coffee shop for breakfast. As usual the girls were in for a Western bite and soon had a sunken face as there was nothing great for them on the menu. However, with a good spread of fruits, bakery items and juices the girls were after all not left high and dry.
We moved on to have our first practice session, which was not all that pleasant with the Mark's Club ground being densely grassed. The grass out there had a spongy feeling to it and with it not being mowed the girls found it an effort even to walk. Nevertheless, we did a little bit of limbering up and headed for the nets. Due to the grass being thick the medium pacers found it very difficult to bowl. However, we had a good long session of practice after which we headed to a sports shop.
In fact, we were being treated for some delicious Indian lunch by the owner of the store, who happened to be an Indian and somebody who had a close association with the South African cricketers. After a yummy meal - for the first time the vegetarians really felt at home - we soon descended on the store to do our first shopping of the tour. And boy did we shop!
With Mr;;;; giving us a fair discount, the Rands were soon out. From sports shoes to sporting glasses things were being purchased at a fair clip. We eventually ran out of time and we headed straight back home (Hotel) as we had a practice game the next day.
March 06: We had a decent game for our first outing. We rested both Jhulan and Neetu as we did not want to expose our main bowlers. The pitch was very damp and so our batsman did struggle a bit, however all was well as we ended up winning our first game.
That evening it was straight back home as we were being hosted a welcome dinner by the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA). We turned in a good hour behind time for the occasion, which had the guests annoyed, but all was well once the party got rolling. It was a hi-fi party as there were a lot of UCBSA officials and guests assembled.
It turned out to be a very nice evening with each member of the evening's function mixing around and allotted different tables. So we ended up with two Indian cricketers, two SA cricketers and two guests at each table. With a band playing some light back ground music it was a pleasant evening.