Kashyap's email said, "I have booked my tickets. You should too."

I checked his itinerary and booked myself on a Fri morning BOM-NAG and Sun evening NAG-BOM. India played South Africa on Saturday afternoon in Nagpur's new VCA Stadium. But what about the match tickets and hotel, I asked him. He said, "Just leave it to me." Nagpur's IPS officer Deepak, and Kashyap's good friend, had a few spare tickets and a spare room in his guest house. So on Friday morning, I woke up at an ungodly hour to catch the Nagpur flight. A dreary-eyed half-asleep Kashyap joined me in the check-in queue at the Bombay airport. The flight was full with hip crowd and celebs flying in for the cricket match.

At Nagpur airport, we hoped that a car from our friend's office would pick us up. No one picked us up. When we tried to call Deepak, no one answered the phone. We looked around for breakfast and found a guy serving idlis and dosas from a stall he created out of his scooter. After he finished selling his stuff, he vanished without leaving a trace behind. After an hour or so of waiting, and not knowing how to get to Deepak's place, we decided to go hang out in some coffee shop in the city. The auto-wala boasted that he was dropping us at the biggest shopping mall in Asia.

Deepak eventually called (too much fun in the party previous night!, we were told) and got us picked up from the shopping mall we were at. The SRPF campus that Deepak headed was a lovely estate and this was the first time I was experiencing the babu-hospitality. Everything worked in auto mode. The doors opened automatically, the luggage got arranged, the lunch got served, and plans got made. I just had to float through them.

In the afternoon, we drove to Pench National Park, about 70 kms from Nagpur. There was barely any chance we would spot tigers in this short visit (are there any tigers at all in the Maharashtra side of Pench?). But the view of the dense bamboo growth alone was worth the drive to this park. Our cars climbed up a hill as the sun began to descend. Giant steel towers carried grid electricity wires over the jungle treeline. Deep inside the park, we sat down on the edge of Totladoh reservoir and stared at the purple sky and the navy blue waters that fluttered beneath it. The birds chirped and the fish jumped out of water. The solitude in wilderness was rewarding.

After returning to Nagpur, Deepak ensured a long and fun night in his bungalow's gardens. Dinner was served in the wee hours of the morning.

On the match day, we drove to the stadium in Deepak's car. The road outside stadium, unsurprisingly, was jammed bumper to bumper for a few kilometers. The new VCA stadium had been recently renovated. Sehwag went in and blasted the South Africans. Sachin chipped in with a brilliant hundred (111). His 99th century, and who knew he would not score his 100th for another year! Fireworks were expected from Dhoni in the closing overs but Dale Steyn (5-50) made sure the Indian tail got nothing more than a wet blanket. Still, 296 was a respectable total. In the second innings, South Africa fought hard and clawed back into the game over by over. In the 50th over, the visitors needed 13 off 6 balls. And they got it, no choking this time.

Except for the result, this was a near perfect match. After the match, Dhoni had some strong words for the Indian batting collapse. "You don't play for the crowds, you play for the country," Dhoni said. In hindsight, this loss helped Indian team to peak at the right time in the tournament and win the cup.

Plan for rest of the night? Deepak's bungalow, rinse, repeat.

Sunday was the relax and recuperate day. After a large and lazy breakfast, a masseur who came from a family of masseurs showed up at the guest house. The guy made sure I befriended every single muscle I had forgotten in my body. Later in the evening, Deepak dropped us at the Nagpur airport in his lal-batti and a short flight brought us back to Bombay.

Watch a cricket World Cup match live in stadium - check. Watch the Indian cricket team that brought home a World Cup live in stadium - check.



Tags: India, Sports

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