AT THIS time of year cricketers are often abroad plying their trade in sunnier climes to prepare themselves for a hectic summer campaign.
Last month, one of Lancashire County Cricket Club's employees, Adam Pearson, jetted off to India.
Although he managed to find some time to play cricket, the Projects Manager at Emirates Old Trafford, did some important work with a local community on behalf of the BEGAP charity.
Here, Adam explains his visit to the subcontinent.
In January 2014 I was fortunate enough to spend a month in India on behalf of a charitable organisation called BEGAP. I’ve been a trustee of the charity for a few years but this was my first visit to our Indian project – a cultural heritage and education centre in a remote part of North East India, in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Being a keen cricket fan and employee of Lancashire County Cricket Club I was excited to see whether cricket was as huge as everyone says it is in India - the answer is undoubtedly yes. On my first day I was throwing a tennis ball around on the beach with a friend and before we knew it we were involved in an 8 a side 20 over cricket match with a piece of driftwood used as a bat!
Everywhere you go people are playing cricket, kids and adults, men and women, cricket is absolutely everywhere. The reaction I got when explaining to people that I work at Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground was amazing – it literally opened doors for me and the charity as some very important people wanted to sit down with us and hear all about what is involved in preparing for the arrival of India in the summer.
We’ve been working with the endangered Toto tribe for the last 5 years, teaching English alongside documenting their language, songs and cultural ways. We’ve built a traditional house and have almost completed the construction of a school in the village. Our focus now is bringing in funding and increasing tourism in the area – to bring money to the region but also to fund our continued work within the community. This was my main task while over there and it seemed to go as well as I could have hoped although there is a lot of work to still be done now I’m back in England.
Towards the end of my trip we decided that it would be good to organise a cricket tournament within the village as a celebration of my time in Totopara. With my experience of helping plan and organise events, particularly cricket matches, and the Indian passion for cricket we thought this would be the ideal send off.
Having being involved in an Ashes series which saw over 100,000 people attend over 5 days and an average working day lasting 16 hours, I really didn’t think a small village tournament would be a problem but how wrong I was!
The language barrier as well as the Indian attitude to planning and commitments meant that even on the morning of the tournament the plans changed at least 6 times. We had 3 meetings with the various tribe leaders and were told the pitch and food had been booked and paid for – only to discover on the day that no one was expecting us and nothing was arranged.
Despite the various challenges and problems the tournament did go ahead (albeit 2 hours late!) with three tribal teams and a team from the local Indian Army camp. Nearly 50 players and around 100 spectators was a good turnout from a village with a population of just 1000.
I was honoured to be asked to play in one of the tribes teams and was impressed by the standard of the cricket, although my own personal performance left a lot to be desired as I was bowled first ball in our first game! I fared better as a bowler but it wasn’t enough as the army team came out victorious in the final just as the light was beginning to fade.
The team went home with the trophy, the player of the tournament award and the compulsory live animals that form part of the prize pot in all Indian sporting tournaments, on this occasion 2 chickens.
I am now back at Emirates Old Trafford and beginning to plan for the busy domestic and international season we’ve got ahead of us. My experience in India already seems a distant memory but I’ll never forget the hospitality and kindness shown to me by almost every Indian I met, hopefully we can give them a similar reception when they visit Manchester in August for the Investec Test Match.
To find out a bit more about the project and what we’re doing then please take a look at this video link http://igg.me/at/totopara and if anyone is looking to volunteer or would like to find out more then please send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org