Last week Baroda hosted a cricket match between New Zealand and India... and guess where the teams stayed? Where else but WelcomHotel? It is, in fact, the most welcoming place around. At least that's what they tell me. As you can imagine, the staff went a little bit nuts preparing for the teams' arrival - but as most of it was beneficial to us, I wasn't complaining. We got new china for the buffet downstairs, as well as much more attentive waiters (they were so eager to please I often got two cappuccinos with my breakfast), brand new, gleaming white cushions for the pool chairs, and huge flower arrangements scattered around the lobby and lounges. Change is good. Except that the staff held a welcom party for each team - every time they entered or exited the building. And oh, the false wall! Why wouldn't you put up a fake wall in the hallway to separate "celebrity rooms" from the lowly guest rooms? Makes perfect sense. Behold:
This is what the hallway usually looks like.
Real wall? False. Fake. I have to admit, they did a pretty good job. Shriram couldn't believe it was fake. We had to take him up there and let him knock on it to see how flimsy it was. Ahh, India.
When the teams finally arrived on Wednesday, the hotel brought in the troops - stationing at least 100 guards and policemen in the lobby and upper floors, where they proceeded to collapse into any public seat available. When we walked through the Residence lounge, it looked like there was a carbon monoxide leak... semi-conscious guards with no shoes on sprawled over all the couches and chairs, too exhausted to even get up and check passports like they were supposed to. The best they could do was turn their heads and (try to) look menacingly in our direction as we walked through. Also, there were huge crowds outside every time the cricket teams went out of the hotel. It was semi- exciting staying in the same hotel as such huge celebrities (it would've been even more so had I known who any of these guys were.) Also, as I am way too cool and professional to take pictures of cricketers in the lobby (like all the rest of the guests), I didn't get any. However, I'm apparently not too cool to steal Shriram's pictures that he took off of Facebook. I never said I was a role model.
Team India player in the lobby. Don't know his name off the top of my head, but I call him "Indian Adam Sandler." Apparently all the ladies swoon for him. I don't see it.
Probably the best part of the whole debacle was the fact that our UOP guys kept getting mistaken for players from New Zealand. Every time they went outside people took their pictures and asked for autographs. They loved it. We even looked at the New Zealand roster online and found a cricket doppelganger for each of them just in case someone asked.
Apparently all white people look alike. This could easily have been Ben and Alberto from UOP as far as any of the fans were concerned.
I was feeling left out as there are no girls on the team, so I chose a match for myself as well. Behold:
Caitlin Correnti, aka Kane Williamson. The resemblance is quite striking.
Anyway, on Thanksgiving we had asked the hotel how we could get tickets to the cricket match, and our boy Mr. Faiyaz came through for us. Never mind that he didn't get us the tickets until an hour after the match started, and never mind that we don't really know the rules of the game, we were going, dammit!
We weren't allowed to take pictures in the stadium, so here is a picture of my ticket. Classy.
The game was not quite what we were expecting, what with the makeshift bleachers topped with plastic armchairs, but it was fun nonetheless. Also, cricket is slow. Like worse than golf slow. (I may have fallen asleep... several times.) We got there a good two hours after the match started, stayed for three and a half hours, and then left with at least three hours to go. The game was a total blowout - India won by 9 wickets with 63 balls remaining. (Don't be too intimidated, I don't know what that means either.) In closing, I'll give you what you want: more pictures of the beautiful celebrities (courtesy of Shriram the cricket fan).
Cricketer (we'll call him "Indian Mexican") and Shriram in the gym.
Gym worker, Shriram, Indian Adam Sandler (IAS) and a security guard. Apparently this picture was a great victory for Shriram and the gym worker. They'd asked IAS for his picture earlier and he said no. Maybe he was in a good mood at this point because they'd stomped New Zealand so hard with 9 wickets (what does that even mean?).
Zaheer. I only know him because he had his back to us the entire game and people were screaming his name and he kept turning to wave at the crowd. Nice guy. Shriram says he's "the most underrated on the team in the looks department". Seriously, Shriram? Get a hold of yourself.