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Best laid (travel) plans…

Posted in England in New Zealand 2008

When the England team tours abroad there are always a myriad of travel arrangements to endure, including numerous flights and countless coach rides to and from grounds and hotels. With so many travel schedules to negotiate on tour there’s bound to be the odd change of plan or delay along the way. Today was one of those days.

After another successful Twenty20 encounter against New Zealand last night, the England camp awoke in their Christchurch hotel this morning to the news that the local airport had been closed down due to a major security breach. This would prove a problem in light of the fact that we were due to fly to Wellington later in the day for a quick practice session at Westpac Stadium before our opening ODI the following day.

After several reports from various sources – some accurate, some wildly inaccurate - we were to learn that an early morning passenger had attacked a pilot and a bomb threat was made to the airport shortly thereafter. Naturally upon hearing the news the players were concerned for the safety of the passengers onboard the flight, but once these fears were allayed everyone’s attention quickly turned to the day ahead. We all knew that our plans were about to be thrown into disarray.

The airport closure meant we had to remain at our hotel for several hours longer than initially scheduled while another flight to Wellington was found. A number of the players managed to keep themselves occupied with endless games of poker and cards, while everyone else seemed to wear the batteries down on their iPods.

For me this meant a barrage of calls from the media looking for updates as to when we would be travelling, when we would be practicing and whether or not we were caught up in the airport drama. Constant updates kept the local and travelling English media up to speed but in the meantime some news outlets back in the UK decided to run stories suggesting we were stuck right in the middle of the security threat and that the tour could be in jeopardy.

These stories couldn’t have been further from the truth. Not only were we safe and sound at our team hotel when the drama unfolded, but we were safe in the knowledge that we had comprehensive security arrangements in place.

After much waiting around we finally made our way to the airport and onto a smaller than usual plane, bound for the country’s capital. There are always a few eyebrows raised amongst the players when we’re required to fly on smaller planes, as is the case from time to time. Despite having flown on many, many flights in various countries all around the world, some England cricketers just don’t like flying.

On this particular flight I had the pleasure of sitting next to James Anderson and in front of Ryan Sidebottom… both terrible flyers. They weren’t exactly pleased to be flying to Wellington in such a small plane on such a windy day.

This coupled with the general nervousness permeating through the airport and the fact that we actually had to return to the departure bay just before take-off due to a faulty computer onboard, left them both literally on the edge of their seats. As expected we made the journey without any hiccups and with minimal turbulence.

Our plans of practicing the evening before our first ODI were well and truly scuttled but nevertheless we made a quick stop at the ground to get a feel for the venue and get our bags into the dressing room. The pre-arranged media conference with Ryan Sidebottom at the ground also had to be re-jigged after the travelling English media decided to drive – via a ferry – from Christchurch to Wellington. It’s often forgotten that when England’s travel arrangements are altered the vast number of media covering the series also have to change their plans as they essentially shadow the team throughout the entire tour.

Having to cancel a final practice session on the eve of a one-day series is far from ideal but it shouldn’t prove to be a problem in light of all the hard work the players have put in over the past two weeks. A strong showing in the two warm-up matches against Canterbury was followed up by two impressive Twenty20 wins against New Zealand. Everyone in the England camp, however, is expecting the home side to bounce back in the 50-over game which should lead to a fascinating series between two sides keen to make strides in the one-day game.

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