What has turned Peter Chismon into a globetrotter? The 70-year-old Englishman says it’s his passion for watching Test cricket rather than the one-day format that has taken him to 54 venues around the world
It’s a rainy afternoon at the IC-Gurunanak cricket ground, venue for Tamil Nadu’s last Ranji Trophy group stage match-up against Haryana. The downpour is heavy and the likelihood of any cricket taking place seems remote.
“Looks like there will be no cricket for now,” says a voice in utter disappointment. “Their (Tamil Nadu) first game was rain hit, and the last seems no different.” My eyes meet a well-built elderly man, wearing a cap and dressed in a red checked shirt and brown shorts. “You can catch up with the India versus Pakistan One Day International at the Chepauk tomorrow, if at all the game is on,” I reply.
Anybody else would have snapped up the idea. But, not him. “I am not a One Day man,” he says. “I am off to Kadapa (in Andhra Pradesh) to watch Kerala play Andhra. Hope there is no rain there,” he replies. So much love for a format which after four or five days of cricket doesn’t even guarantee a result.
But 70-year-old Peter Chismon, a retired army officer from Ipswich in England, is one among the dwindling number of fans who are passionate about cricket played in whites. “You never get bored of it,” he says. As evidence, he points out that he even enjoyed the Maharashtra versus Uttar Pradesh game early in the tournament that produced 1433 runs for the loss of just 13 wickets without a single innings being completed.
Peter, a member of the prestigious Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London, has been touring the world watching cricket since 1994. His first trip abroad was to Australia and ever since he has gone to every Test playing nation, including Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
“I have been to 54 Test grounds,” he says. “There are only 107 Test grounds in the world and I am half way through,” he gleams triumphantly. His 55th and 56th grounds in all probability will be the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium at Hyderabad and Chepauk at Chennai where he says he will watch India’s final two Tests in its series against Australia in March.
For one who has been to so many venues, which one ranks the best? “The Driems cricket ground in Cuttack has the best out-field. It’s fabulous,” he says. World over, he terms the Wanderers at Johannesburg as the best stadium to watch cricket in, and Sri Lanka the best country to tour. The reason for the latter, as he says smilingly, being “You could go to around 15 grounds in a single bus ride.” However, with a penchant for good cricket — the India-South Africa series in the African nation in 2010-11 ranks among his best — he isn’t just interested in visiting new stadia. “I’d rather go for good matches than see Bangladesh play on a new ground,” he says in a lighter vein.
For now his focus is away from Internationals and firmly on the Ranji Trophy, the quarterfinals of which start on January 6. “Tell me where they are, you guys in the newspapers, will you? I need to book my tickets,” he says, as he parts company and gets ready for yet another round trip.