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Hasib
October 13, 2003, 08:14 AM
Much more than cricket

Glenn Turner

October 6, 2003



Touring India, assuredly, is much more than Phil Tufnell's poverty and elephants. Newcomers must adjust not only to a country of vast contrasts and stunning diversity but also to pitches and match atmospheres unlike any other in the world. In the third of the My India Tour series, Glenn Turner, the New Zealand opener, talks about his special memories from the 1969-70 tour of India.

It's a pity that we have to talk about the cricket – on my tour to India many other interesting things happened that would play a big part in my future life.

When I first toured India in 1969-70, I was an impressionable youngster. My batting position was shuffled time and again: first I was asked to bat up the order to see the shine off the new ball before the spinners arrived – and that usually took four overs. Then, in the series-decider at Hyderabad, the team management sent me as low as No. 10, which I thought was ridiculous. We were charging to victory in that match when rains arrived on the final day. As soon as the weather cleared, the players joined the ground staff in trying to dry the field: women were lifting water in buckets, men were trying to use clothes to soak up the wicket. Graham Dowling wanted us to lend a helping hand to expedite things, but I was frustrated and refused to help as the damage was done. Being young I was just angry at the situation.

I leant quite a bit from that tour, though. New Zealand were treated as a secondary team in those days, unlike the English and the Australians who were given first-class status. We stayed at the grounds, not in luxury hotels, and the timing of the series – in the middle of September, when most of the country was in the throes of the monsoons – illustrates the point that a tour by New Zealand's cricketers wasn't a high-priority event. By playing that early in the season when the rains were still around, there was no time for the soil to bind well, which meant that the pitches would not be firm enough. However, we were happy with our performances on that twin tour to the subcontinent: after beating Pakistan 1-0 we almost beat India 2-1.

Personally, that tour had plenty of significance for me as I met Sukhinder Kaur, my would-be wife, at a social function one evening during the Bombay Test. She was studying at the University, and it was pretty difficult for two young people – especially a female – to socialise during those days.

Actually we were supposed to move to Ahmedabad, the venue for the first Test, but due to riots there the match was shifted to Bombay, which meant that we ended up spending 21 days in Bombay. That gave me ample time to explore the locales and the surroundings.

We lost that Bombay Test – the Indian spinners capitalised on the innocence of our batsmen against slow bowling. During those amateur days there was no one to coach the players, so it was left to the player himself to sort things out. I was lucky in the sense that I was already playing for Worcestershire, which gave me some exposure to different types of pitches.

Also our allowance in those days was a pittance– it wasn't even sufficient to buy a bottle of beer. We couldn't buy beer in Bombay anyway as it was a dry region. And in those days beer in India was far less palatable than it is today.

The tour also gave me the opportunity to spot two youngsters who would excel in future: Sunil Gavaskar, who played for the Universities, and Vishy[Gundappa Vishwanath], who represented the Board President's XI.

Glenn Turner was speaking to Nagraj Gollapudi.

Other My India Tours
'The dinner service was all gold' - John Reid's tour in 1955-56.
'You could score a hundred if you keep your head down' - Bruce Taylor's tour in 1964-65.
'It was like a sauna' - Richard Hadlee's tour in 1976-77.