Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Thoughts about the UK tour

Back home in Australia there is now opportunity to reflect on the two over 60s cricket tours in the UK during June and July 2015.

There were a number of team  milestones achieved by the Australian over 60s team:
  • Winning 11 of the 14 County games played
  • Winning the Test Match against Wales convincingly 
       and definitely
  • Winning two of the three Test Matches played against England including the two day game at the end of the tour
For Robin there were a number of personal milestones:
  • The opportunity to play cricket in England
  • The opportunity to play cricket in England for Australia
  • Playing in two Test Matches for Australia
  • Opening the bowling for Australia in one of the County games
  • Opening the batting for Australia in one of the County games
  • Owning a baggy green with a number 
For me it was great being able to travel with both the teams, meet the other players and their partners, watch the games played on attractive grounds as well as explore parts of England.

Generally the cricket grounds on which the matches were played were great. Even in small villages the games were played on turf wickets and well tended outfields. As can be seen from most of the posts about the matches the grounds were usually in picturesque settings.

For the Australian tour we hired a number of cars to carry the players plus a van to carry the gear. The aim was to provide flexibility especially on rest days allowing people to go in different directions. During games the WAGS could also use a car to go exploring. Generally this worked well except that only a limited number of people were designated drivers. This placed additional strain on match days for the driver as sometimes it could take one and a half hours to drive to the ground where the match was played. Often the driver would then play cricket and after the game would have to drive back to the hotel.

For the VOSCA tour we had a coach and driver to take us to the hotels and games. We were very lucky as we had a great driver, Steve, who would sometimes, during a game, drive the WAGS to a nearby location so they could do some exploring, and then collect us two or three hours later. Steve also took us on the scenic route when we travelled from one hotel to another including stop-overs at places to explore. This provided us with much of the flexibility we had with the cars without the players having the strain of driving. This, of course, may not have been the case with another driver.

Basically the English summer that we experienced was similar to late autumn in Melbourne. The temperature was normally in the mid to high teens, occasionally low twenties. It was often overcast. On many days there was a very cold wind for at least part of the day. We were lucky with the Australian tour as it mainly rained on rest days. Rain did shorten one match but there was still a result while on another occasion the rain started just as the game finished. The VOSCA tour was not quite so fortunate as two games were washed out. There was light rain during another game but the players only came off the ground once. There were three days of what we would call summer at the end of June with temperatures in high twenties and low to mid thirties. On one day the temperature reached 35 degrees in London. These days came out of the blue taking everyone by surprise, especially as the English do not use air conditioning.

With all the English cooking programs it is disappointing that much of the food served in hotels and pubs is mediocre. What we really missed were vegetables. Vegetables, when provided were lots of potato (chips, mashed, boiled or occasionally baked) and peas (normal or mushy). Occasionally carrots were served and once we were offered cauliflower and broccoli. Breakfast was another issue. Most of the hotels provided a hot breakfast but for those wanting a continental breakfast the choice was usually limited. I normally have muesli, fruit and natural yoghurt for breakfast. There was no guarantee that any of these would be available. In the end I resorted to binging my own fruit to breakfast. There is a wide variety of fruit and vegetables available in the shops - just limited in restaurants.

The other thing that we noticed was that curry seems to be becoming the national dish in the UK. During the first week we had curry for dinner four times!

We stayed in a variety of accommodation during the two months in the UK. Generally the hotels in which we stayed during the Australian tour were old mansions converted to hotels. On the VOSCA tour most of the hotels were Travelodge (plus a couple of other chains). Generally the rooms were fine but the problem faced in most of the hotels was lack of air conditioning resulting in stuffiness in the rooms. We immediately opened the windows to let in some air but often outside noise meant that the windows needed to be closed if you wanted to sleep. If the corridors had no windows they were worse. However all but one of the hotels had a central location making it easy to explore the local area.

Having a shower can also be a challenge as each hotel seems to have a different set-up. Most of the hotels with the shower in the bath provided safety rails and non-slip surfaces, but not all. There are also many varieties of taps.

Another challenge, when travelling with medication requiring refrigeration, is that most hotels in the UK do not have fridges. All the hotels allowed my medication to be kept in a staff fridge but one hotel refused to put my freezer pack in a freezer for OH&S reasons!

General observations
There is history everywhere you go.

The British love their dogs. There are dogs everywhere.

Prices are expensive, especially food and drink.

There are lots of different shades of green in the English countryside.

During summer the cities, towns and villages all have vivid displays of flowers in containers and hanging baskets.

It was a great two months. Lots of cricket but also lots of sightseeing. At the team dinner at the end of the Australian tour we were all asked to give our views about the tour. The general consensus was that not only was it was great to have the opportunity to play cricket in England but also more importantly the players, at the age of 60 plus, were able to participate in such a tour. This sentiment also applied to the VOSCA tour.

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