(This was one of a series of daily columns I wrote during the 2011 Cricket World Cup in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka)

The Pride Hotel is on Wardha Road, directly opposite the entrance to the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport in Nagpur. It describes itself as the finest five-star luxury hotel in Nagpur, which it palpably is not. It has a few stars too many. Ask any of the South African team what they think about the hotel and they will decline to comment, taking the fifth.

The best bit about the Pride is that it is close to the airport, directly across from the entrance. Which is probably why the International Cricket Council and the BCCI have made it their base for the matches that will be played at the 44 900-seater Vidharba Cricket Association Stadium. South Africa are already here, the Indians are coming tomorrow, and the ICC are also in house. The Netherlands, England, New Zealand and Australia stayed here. A source, an impeccable source, a source beyond reproach (Now, in 2020, it can be revealed that the source was Graeme Smith), related a story Ricky Ponting had told about there being a bit of extra protein scuttling around in the dining room.

The story goes that around the time of the Australia-New Zealand match here on February 25, the Aussie players and media were eating at the hotel when a cockroach took a runner across one of the platters of food. The waiter, horrified that the insect might bring shame to his hotel, Nagpur and his nation, grabbed the offending beastie and popped it in his mouth. The Australians who saw this happen stopped dead. Forks, knives, spoons and jaws dropped. The waiter avoided their looks and walked around with a District 9 extra in his mouth. An Australian pointed out the obvious to him.

“Mate, you have a cockroach in your mouth.”

The water shook his head and kept his mouth shut, issuing a denial: “Mm-mmm.”

“Mate, you bloody well do. We saw you put it in your mouth. Open your mouth.”

Again a Mr Bean-type, bulging cheeks denial. Again the Australians asked him to open his mouth. And then demanded he open his mouth. The waiter began to chew. And chew. And then swallowed. Then walked away, still chewing the bits that had refused to be swallowed, the bits that will still be around should a nuclear bomb ever hit Nagpur. Behind him the Australians may have said “ ’Strewth” although I’ve never heard an Aussie actually say that.

“Every time I eat there I have this image of this waiter crunching down on a cockroach and then swallowing it,” said the impeccable source, the one beyond reproach. “You have to have respect for the waiter, though. He obviously had so much respect for his hotel and his guests he didn’t want them to think bad of him and took one for the team.”

Hotel dining areas are a matter of much importance when on a long tour of another country, which is probably why we saw the ICC boys and girls eating at our hotel, the Sun and Sand, 15 minutes up the road from the Pride Hotel, rather than the Pride itself. The ESPN Star television crews are staying with us, the men who tweak the knobs and mix the vision. I was greeted by a very familiar voice at breakfast today as I walked in. Robin Jackman has arrived early in Nagpur ahead of Saturday’s big match. Jackers is a legendary man to tour with, a bag of laughs, stories and insights. I can report that he was eating eggs on toast yesterday morning while flying through a cross word in the local rag. We may spend some time in the bar together this week.

Neil Manthorp, the journalist and commentator, is here at the World Cup in his other guise as the media manager of Zimbabe. The Zimbos are sharing a hotel with Pakistan, who were well beaten by New Zealand the other night. Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal missed not one but two catches against New Zealand, giving batsman Ross Taylor a life as he flayed the Pakistan attack to all parts.

Manthorp saw Akmal at breakfast yesterday morning and reported that “Kamran Akmal just dropped his toast at breakfast, twice. I swear it’s true. It was obviously hot and tongs are required, but twice…” Perhaps he had spent some time at the Pride and has heard the cockroach story. Dining halls are not quite the same after you hear that little story. Crunch.

 

Cricket World Cup 2011: Nagpur, India