CAPE TOWN: While the first Test in South Africa did not go according to plan for Indians, the other events that unfolded on the sidelines were quite an experience. From a water crisis and sampling Ethiopian cuisine to a near run-in with anti-social elements, Express takes you through a 120-hour roller-coaster ride that brought with it many sights and sounds...
It is Day 1 of the Test in Newlands. The walls at Cape Town airport give an early indication of the ground situation: “Save Every Drop of Water.”. On the ground, India start poorly after South Africa’s 286. As Virat Kohli, after edging Morne Morkel, waits in the middle wondering what’s happening, the crowd gives him a send-off that he won’t forget anytime soon. Something that is expected to continue in the series. The rest of the evening is spent at the waterfront with fried calamari and drinks.
My first encounter with the water crisis takes place as the Airbnb host tells me not to fill more than one bottle. Having been told not to spend more than two minutes in the shower, I find Simon, my host, actually calculating the time. Two minutes later, the water stops! Yet another gripping day’s play ensues and Hardik Pandya’s communication with Bhuvneshwar Kumar is as entertaining as his innings. It is so loud, one can hear it from the grass banks (if one understands Hindi).
At the grass banks the locals are enjoying how it’s unfolding. “Come on KG (a nickname for Kagiso Rabada), Come on! Blow the Indians’ heads off,” they chant. It is so loud that even the Indian dressing room can hear it.
There is rain and Capetonians are having a ball, even though the chances of play happening look remote. Irrespective, people stream in. Elsewhere, the Swamy Army sings “rain, rain go away,” without understanding the drought situation. Then they realise that locals need rain and apologise. At the press box, the media contingent has beer to keep them happy. Remember there’s water crisis! After the day’s play — or the absolute lack of it — we head to Long Street in search of food.
It’s one of the most happening places in the city but it’s not that safe for tourists. A fellow scribe and I are followed by four people, who look intimidating, to say the least. For every step we take, they seem to take two. A few cops who happen to be in the vicinity rescue us from any potential situation. One of the cops tells us: “Are you guys aware that they were following you? They were trying to mug you. Let me take you wherever you intend to.”
Another exciting day of cricket which sees South Africa take a 1-0 lead in the series. They are chirping in the middle. Even as India bowlers are getting them back on track, the BCCI social media team only puts up images of Kohli, who has taken only one catch, on Instagram for reasons best known to them.
As I’m heading to the ground, I lose my way and I ask for directions. An elderly man tells, “Go straight and you will find a robot on the right. Cross that and walk further down, before you find another robot. Take left and there is the ground.”
Despite walking for 10 minutes, I’ve not spotted a robot anywhere. Then I learn the traffic signals are referred in these parts as robots because it replaced policemen in 70s!
As Ravichandran Ashwin is batting, one of the slip fielders is heard saying, ‘he can’t bat nor does he bowl. Get him soon, Big Vern.” But without him, India’s margin of loss could have been a lot worse. We head to the Long Street again, but this time more careful and early. We head to an Indian restaurant, which is the only one open way past 1 am and gets served a roti, which needs two of us to finish!
With the Test finishing in four days, you get a spare day. The team has an off-day, but four of their players arrive for optional practice. I contemplate whether to go or not, and I eventually make it. The wind is severe now, that I struggle to stand on my feet. The wind, in a way, spoils my plan as I can’t head to Table Mountains now because it won’t be open to the public. Instead, a fellow scribe takes me to an Ethiopian restaurant, called “Addis in Cape.”
It turns out to be the best place I’ve been here. Between three of us, we order Doro Wot (chicken marinated with fresh lime with Berbere and hit of Kibe), Kitfo
(Beef mixed with Kibe), Yenkulal Wot (eggs), Fish Addis in Dar, Shiro Wot (dried split peas) and mushroom tibs. Along with this, they serve something which is not very different from Appam (yes, the ones you get back in India). The only difference is this is so huge, three will struggle to finish.
Wake up early and head again to Table Mountains only to find, it is not open again because the wind is severe. I wait for three hours, but of no use. The five-day stint in Cape Town is over. Now over to Centurion.