She’s a right Goa

Jenny Thompson

Women and cricket always interests me. I was out for dinner in Goa the other day, as you do, in Benaulim, with my English friend Anthony and his friends, the lovely De Mello family, Goans through and through. They are Paul and Theresa and their two daughters Mary-Lou, 16, and Mary-Jo, 14.

As we sat outdoors at dinner – I had a seafood curry, a Goan speciality – the buzz of the first match between India and Pakistan made for a typical backdrop … We weren’t really watching the match, but the conversation headed that way. I asked Mary-Jo was she interested in cricket and she told me she wasn’t. Then a wicket fell. “Oh, Harbhajan is always run out,” she sighed, just a casual expert.

Then various people were identified: Bob Woolmer, Kapil Dev etc. Maybe they are quite famous – but I can’t imagine any of my friends naming Duncan Fletcher, nevermind telling me he’s Zimbabwean. Mary-Lou confirmed that all of her female classmates could name at least six of the Indian team. Given that the ECB’s pre-Ashes target was for the public to pick out three England players by 2010 … then I reckon six is pretty good myself, don’t you

Need I say that cricket was everywhere in Goa – on the beach, in the fields, in the grounds of a hospital? Thought not. So I’ll say a little bit about the place instead.

As if Goa isn’t amazing. Wide, white sandy beaches and lush seas … South Goa I’m talking now. The north, I hear, has been turned into an oversized Blackpool . Eugh. Now I like Blackpool in its place but its place is adding a bit of cheer in grey-soaked England. I’m certainly not going to go on a political rant – especially as I was myself a tourist and there is the element of trade helping the local economy – but it was quite sad, I thought, to see all the shells of hotels and apartments that will make even south Goa explode soon, and the beaches overcrowded. I hope not.

So … Anthony and I zoomed all over on his scooter, taking in the fish markets and the veg markets and of course the beach (all 20 kilometres of it) and it was as refreshing and exhilarating as you like. And in the evening we had dinner with the family who couldn’t have made me feel more at home – and I do – if they had tried, inviting us back to their place on the second evening for a proper Portuguese-Goan dinner; again lots of spicy seafood. Theresa even gave me a lesson on how to make the perfect chappati – mine always fail; the secret is extra-kneading – and how to cook prawns to perfection. Ain’t this just the life?

Jenny is my colleage at Cricinfo. While in India pretending to work, she took a brief trip to Goa with a stranger. We pretended to be concerned…

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