When India tour England, they are sure to bring with them an army of fans, media types and supporters …including a Bharat Army of dedicated fans. Even if Indian support will be thinner on the ground at Trent Bridge this week, that should not diminish the passion, or volume, of support that the tourists will find. There are thousands, indeed tens of thousands, of UK-based Indian cricket fans ready to cheer their team on.
One such is Dr Ravi Badge, an orthopaedic consultant who moved to Nottingham three years ago and is already passionate about the ground and the game. “I love coming to Trent Bridge”, he said, “and the Indian team know that this is a great place to bat – it’s a high-scoring wicket that suits the Indian game”.
Ravi Badge has fond memories as his time as a volunteer for the 2019 World Cup, though typical British weather almost robbed him of his big moment. “My most memorable moment at TB was at the India match against New Zealand”, he recalls.
“As a part of protocol, I was supposed to hold the Indian flag for the national anthem ceremony before game starts. “But the rain set in and the teams never got onto the pitch.
“It was great to go through the rehearsal of how to hold the flag and walk in a coordination into the ground without any changes to flag hosting protocols. I was bit nervous as this was not just for the fans present on the ground but to the entire Indian population worldwide.”
He was given a surprise chance to wipe out the disappointment and was invited to do the flag-bearing duties in the Indian’s next game at Old Trafford. “To walk out with the team and stand their singing the national anthem was a dream come true”, he said proudly. “I don’t think I slept for the two night before that match”.
“Although there will not be as many people coming from India this year”, he said, “I still expect the support to play a very big part in the series”.
Even at Trent Bridge where, to the chagrin of the Bharat Army, musical instruments, are not allowed, he expects the noise and enthusiasm to be very evident.
Writing on the website of the Bharat Army, travel writer Krishna Poddar said, “Nottingham is a wonderful part of England and with the cricket and city experiences on show, you are in for a real treat”, underlining the fact that the world’s third-oldest test ground is treasured by Indian players and fans.
Rakesh Patel, CEO of the Bharat Army and one of its founders back in 1999, has particularly fond memories of Trent Bridge. “Nottingham was where I saw India live for the first time”, he recalls, “It was a Texaco Trophy match in 1990 and India won easily, so I was very happy.
“I have been back many times – and will be there again for this Test – and the place still has the feel of being a cricket ground where so many of the famous grounds around the world are now more like sports stadiums”.
Rakesh and his team would love to have permission to bring the full Bharat Army ‘experience’ to Trent Bridge with all the horns and drums and banners that are a feature of Indian support around the world. “Trent Bridge delivers great cricket”, he said, “and we’d like to match the energy of the game on the pitch with our efforts in the stands”.
Sriram Iyer, a passionate cricket fan from Lincoln, knows what it’s like to wait to see cricket at the world’s third-oldest Test ground.
“Growing up as a cricket fan in India in the 70s, we had radio commentary of the Test Matches to follow the fortunes of our favourite cricketers”, he remembers.
“England tours were particularly fascinating as we listened to commentators’ gripping accounts of not only the games, and the settings in which they were played. As a result, Edgbaston, Headingley and Trent Bridge were quite well known among cricket followers.
“Many years later, when some of us made England our adopted home, it was only natural to want to visit these grounds to watch live cricket.
“My first visit to Trent Bridge was in the summer of 2002 when England hosted the touring Indian side for the Second Test. We were very excited and travelled early on the day not just to see live cricket, and some of our favourite players, but also to set foot on the ground we knew intimately – but only through the words of others.”
Sriram also has a fondest for the intimacy of Trent Bridge. “I still remember my first reaction as I walked in to have my first glimpse of the green turf. It looked so compact and intimate, with the players warming up on the outfield almost at touching distance”.
He brought his cricket-loving father to the ground with his own son and the three generations enjoyed test cricket together.
“Although I have watched cricket at most other venues around the country in the last 20 years”, he concludes, “Trent Bridge continues to be a firm favourite.
“Even walking through the pavilion to see the photographs of the legends who have played for Nottinghamshire in the past, I feel connected to the history of the club. I can’t wait to see India against England this week, and to catch the Trent Rockets live at the Hundred.”
An Indian team – an all-Parsee amateur side – first played at Trent Bridge in 1886 and it was not until 1959 that the ground staged its first Test against India (In fact, India have played more Tests at Trent Bridge in this century than in the whole of the previous one.
The ground is now a much-loved regular part of an Indian tour – even if the Bharat Army are (a little) quieter here than elsewhere.