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Zuoz Budapest tour

So this was the weekend Milan Cricket Club is normally in Zuoz, Switzerland- picturesque, social, many old friends, some good cricket and a competition we have never won, but finished second in last year.  Oh, and sometimes a little cold.  This year, some wise men elected to allow some other teams to join the competition, and Milan Cricket Club instead decided to take this weekend to tour to a whole new destination – Budapest!  Was it a wise decision?  Well, all I know is that if it was hailing and storming in Milan on Saturday afternoon, then it was probably Arctic conditions in Zuoz.  Whereas in Budapest, it was 28 degrees and sunny.  Wise men ideed!!

The weekend started with the arrival of the Fab Four who left Milan at 11pm on Friday night by car, arriving at the hostel in Budapest at 9:30am on Saturday.  Now that is what I call true dedication.  Bhupi, Yogesh, Gurmail, Balraj – we tip our hat to you.

After taking a rather extended taxi journey to the ground (picture National Lampoons Vacation at the Champs Ellyse), we met the Hungarian Invitational XI for our first match.  On arrival, we found a nice outfield with a rather “interesting” pitch.  It was one of those mats you would normally find around a pool, or buried in grass at posh places to stop people sinking in the mud. But this was simply nailed down on the grass.  Interesting it would prove to be

How would MCC fare against the jet lag and driving fatigue?  We had travelled many hours to get here, so it was agreed to get a decent game in – 40 overs.  Craig won the toss, and on the basis that he had absolutely no idea how the pool mat would play, he put the Hungarian team in to bat.  The start had what appears to be becoming a familiar feeling – Sunil’s first ball sailing straight back over his head for six (had the Hungarians put spies into Italy in advance of our tour?).  But from that point, MCC took control.  Despite a fair number of dropped catches (more on that later), MCC managed to skittle the Hungarians for 61 all out, in only 24 overs.  Pick of the bowling was Yogesh with his usual economic style (1-5 off 4 overs), Nand with his usual “let me at ‘em” leggies (3-12 off 7 overs) and Pramod with his nice loop and dip (3-4 off 2 overs).  Our friend, “Mr Wide” was the second highest scorer for Hungary, with 10.   With such a small total to chase, could MCC really choke?

Bhupi and Craig opened the innings, with the first wicket falling with the score on 34, Craig out for one, victim of a cunning plan – Bhupi driving a catch straight back to the bowler (Shobhit – later adopted as an honorary MCC player), only for him to pretend to drop the catch and deflect the ball on to the bowlers stumps and have Craig stranded.  Fortunately , Gurmail came in to help and the two polished off the innings with 30 overs and 9 wickets in hand.  Bhupi finishing on 38 n.o. and Gurmail 17 n.o.

MCC – 1: Hungary – 0

So, we had travelled 1,000km to be here to play cricket, and we were done by 2:30pm on Saturday afternoon.  What should we do – play another game of course.  So a 20-20 was agreed. 

MCC batted first, with the order being shaken up a bit to share the fun.  This was going to be a buffet after the first game.  Hang on, what was that?  Is this the same team that just played 15 minutes before.  Somehow MCC switched off, and loss all concentration.  Yes the order was changed around a bit, but what the ****.  Wickets started falling almost constantly.  Yes, the sun had come out a little, but had the plastic mat really changed that much?  Man after man threw away their wicket.  Only Sunil could put some runs on the board (30).  Milan all out for 105, not even batting out their full 20 overs (more on that later as well!).

The Hungarian boys came in and signalled their intentions early – the sun was out and they were making hay.  More dropped catches swung the game further away from MCC.  At around 70-2, Hungary was coasting.  To be fair to the bowlers, they tried their hearts out, but Hungary were too good, getting the runs in 16 overs, 5 wickets down.

MCC – 1: Hungary – 1

The evening was spent discussing tactics over a few beers, goulash, stroganoff and whisky.  How else do you think the Hungarians had such power in the past years?

The game on Sunday was the main event – a 20 over game against a local team – the Baggy Blues.  Underpinning this game was a rivalry that had been building for months between Craig and the captain of the Baggies – Sean.  This game was on a different ground – very similar to the new MCC ground (a soccer pitch in the middle of a running track).  But two important differences – (1) the ground was covered in thick lush grass, making the ball run a little slow, but fantastic to field on, and (2) instead of a purpose built pitch, the pitch was a piece of the aforementioned lush grass with lines painted on it.  How would this one play?

MCC lost the toss in the car ride there, and having seen the pitch, the Baggies chose to bat first.  The Baggies started strongly, with one of their openers taking a liking to the MCC early bowling.  A change of pace slowed the run rate.  Again, MCC looked like a bunch of seals with flippers trying to catch – officially awful (your truly being the worst culprit with a weekend tally of 4 dropped catches and one held!).  Some tight bowling held the Baggies to 7-120 off their 20 overs.  Pick of the bowlers were Yogesh (2-14 off 4), Gurmail (3-14 off 3, and he took two wickets with his last two balls, so will be on a hat-trick next game) and Craig with 1-12 off 3 overs – his first roll of the arm for almost a year! The only downside for yours truly was that I dropped my arch rival Sean off my own bowling when he was on a duck. (Writers privilege – you get to write whatever you like about yourself.  You could as well if you elected to write one of these reports!)

MCC actually batted with poise and intelligence this time (perhaps that goulash helped, or was it the whisky?).  Bhupi and Gurmail got MCC off to a great start, with a partnership of 50 odd.  Bhupi out for 23.  Gurmail took a liking to this pitch, and dispatched some beautiful strokes down the ground (one caught by a guy who fell into the soccer net, converting it into a 6 instead) and finished his innings with 51 to his name.  Sunil then worked with a few others to polish off the total, ending 20 n.o. and MCC home with 3 overs and 5 wickets in hand.

MCC – 2: Hungary – 1

Overall, it was a wonderful weekends cricket.  Our hosts were superb – special mention to Adrian from the hostel who hosted us all in his place, and provided a great choice for dinner, and arranging transfers, taxi’s etc.  And also to Shobhit, who started the weekend on the Hungarian team, but ended up playing with MCC, and staying with us through the weekend to show us around.  Theirs is a team that also likes to travel and host travellers.  The offer was made to host their team in Milan one day – lets not let that opportunity slip by. 

Finally, a few parting thoughts from a former club captain who may not be playing too regularly going forward, but feels very close to this club:

-         BAT OUT THE OVERS – it sounds simple, but we often fail to do it.  Big shots do not win matches – partnerships do.  (Jonathan – keep up the mantra – I do read them!)

-         As well as partnerships when batting, CATCHES WIN MATCHES when fielding.  Our success rate this weekend was probably around 30% (that might be generous).  Try to get to games a little early each week for some simple catching practice.  We do not train at all during the year.  The only chances you get today are in games, and we do not want to be dropping them there.  Take 15 minutes before each game and try some close and some long distance.  It will make a big difference.

-         And finally, KEEP SMILING – it is nice to win the game, but for me, it is better to lose a close game played in good spirits than win a close one played in bad spirits.  One of the things I love about this club is the attitude – it is part of the fibre that makes the MCC what it is.  Never lose sight of that

Keep swinging

Your former skipper and life long follower






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