By Ian Botha
India has always been one of the countries I wanted to visit. Even better, we also got to be part of one of the world’s greatest spectacles. My son André (13) and I both love cricket and with the school holidays upon us we set off on the trip with great anticipation.
At first we weren’t quite convinced if it was the right thing to do. Surely we as experienced backpackers (backpackers) had to overcome certain challenges.
Yes, it was definitely not easy! Upon our arrival it was already clear that we had to quickly adapt to the pulse of the Indians with their own habits and manners.
India, with its crazy traffic and honking horns, wants to make you hysterical if you’re not used to it. Everywhere there are hordes of people, holy cows walking the streets where children are all busy playing cricket.
Well yes. That was why we wanted to be here, the cricket!
Our first game was in New Delhi against Sri Lanka. What an experience. Although there were only about 10 of us South African fans next to the field, we could soon notice that cricket is big in India. It’s like a way of life.
The Indian fans follow the entire match ball by ball and do not simply leave the action to look for other distractions. There is neither time nor facilities to quickly grill a piece of meat or enjoy a beer next to the field.
It’s even impossible to get autographs from the players with the fences and moats that keep fans off the field. We could also only take a mobile phone and cash into the stage, no coins, cameras, GoPro, or anything else is allowed. Not even a stick for our flag! Nothing that can be thrown to the players side.
Our players are truly all heroes among the Indian crowds. Of course especially the celebrities who are also part of the IPL teams. For example, a Quinton de Kock and a David Miller are applauded every time they just briefly turn to the crowd. Sometimes they are also greeted and waved in front with loud applause. Yes, it makes one proud! The Proteas’ final score, which was more than 400 runs, ensured a great victory with many new records.
I’ve never been “famous”, but then it happened…
We are mobbed by the local people, even on a normal day without our Protea supporter clothes. Every second person wants to take a selfie with you. In cricket it is even worse. It later feels like we ourselves are also playing for the Proteas. Clearly we stand out as South African supporters.
On so many trips in the local transport, the toek-tuk, the driver will make a video call to his family or friends while we are driving to show them who is sitting in the back of his toek-tuk. Now I know how the Proteas must feel!
We felt as famous as the Protea players and had to explain every now and then that we are just ordinary people, just tourists, just cricket lovers who support our team, just like you! The times we sat in a lonely spot in the stadium, we were overwhelmed by everyone who welcomed us and made us feel at home in a wonderful and friendly way.
There were also the times in Lucknow where we played against Australia. Fans gathered everywhere to get their hands on tickets, causing chaos. Fortunately, security was able to help keep our new fans away from us.
Of course, don’t forget the beautiful Taj Mahal, interesting food, the Delhi belly and holy river of Ganges. Here in Varanassi where the Hindus flock to the holy river.
Something that we will always remember is the poor people who wanted to share the little they had with us.
Everything was not easy! Perhaps the culture shock made us realize once again what a wonderful country we have. South Africa with all its open spaces, fewer people, less litter and cleaner water – yes, truly a paradise.
We just fell in love with our taxis again…
Let’s keep our fingers crossed, maybe our Proteas make it this time and can hold the World Cup together with the Springboks! Truly an honor to be a South African.
- Ian Botha is a Free Stater at heart, experienced traveler and photographer.