Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
Siddhartha Mishra| The News Minute| December 10, 2014| 10.00 pm IST The scene is typical of most domestic cricket matches played in India.  For a majority of Indian cricketing fans, interest in the sport restricts itself only to the international matches the Indian Eleven play against other countries. The domestic ones, like the Ranji matches fade into obscurity or at least those last pages of newspapers. The same logic, however, does not apply to one not-so-young couple from England.  On a bright sunny day in Kerala’s Wayanad, a stadium which for an international or an IPL match would have been bustling with activity remained vacant except for a few spectators scattered amongst the stands as a Ranji Trophy match was played between Kerala and Goa . And amongst those few are Ian and Susan Jones.  Ask them what they are doing in the small town of Wayanad watching a Ranji match of all the possible activities they could possibly do and the couple reveal that this is what they have been doing for the last 13 years – watching Ranji matches in stadiums across the country.  “It’s interesting, and a lot more quiet”, says Ian to the News Minute, on being asked why he has been watching the sparsely attended domestic cricket tournament in India with such religiosity.  The 55-year old who lives in Yorkshire with his wife first began watching cricket in 1970. “And I’d first come to India in 1981 when England toured”, he adds. “I’d come again when England toured in 1985, and again in 1993”, he says, talking about the beginning of a love affair with the domestic version of the game. Later, Ian started watching the Ranji trophy and soon it became an annual affair. Not considering his interest in the game, he has a deep fascination for some of the stadiums he visited in the country. “The stadiums at Nagpur and the newly rebuilt Wankhede in Mumbai are the best” he says, when asked about the best ones in India.  He seemed particularly fascinated with the “one at Dharmasala and the one here”, in Kerala, but remained seemingly unimpressed with the rest of them. “They look like big bowls, and alike”, says the man who has watched more than 300 first class matches and close to 130 test matches. When it comes to Indian cricketing history, opinions about a certain curly-haired legend cannot remain far behind. In 1992, Sachin Tendulkar from India became the first overseas player to represent Ian’s county of Yorkshire. “I’d seen Sachin in his first season of county cricket”, he says. “Well he was a young lad, had just come on the scene and was learning his trade”, he adds.  The Britisher, however, didn’t seem too impressed with his record back then. “Well he only scored only two hundreds all season”, he chuckles. Well within the past, he seemed to have forgiven the since-then retired cricketer. “Tendulkar and Dravid are players I like”, he says, “and Kumble too, he’s a good bowler”.  On being asked of his most memorable moment, pat comes the reply. “When we beat India in 2006, Bombay”, he says, of the time England broke an eleven year duck by winning a test in India. The last time was during Ian’s second tour of India, in 1985.  It’s a unique and lonely quest that the couple is seemingly on, with not many Indians turning up to watch domestic cricket. There are no available statistics for average attendances in stadiums and the BCCI, when contacted, seemed to have no numbers either.  The logistics of it all and travelling halfway across the world could bother most and to make life easier, the Jones’ set up base in India every year.  And as they travel from place to place watching the Ranji matches through the season, they do a little bit of catering. “We stay in Goa for close to six months every year and then travel from here to all the games”, says Ian while adding, “It costs us £3000-4000 every time”.  As any cricket fan would agree, that’s money well spent. Tweet Also read- When Mc Donald's clown, Mr Bean and Monalisa came to Kerala
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