Coaching in cricket-mad India is the stuff dreams are made of – and for Timaru’s Maria Fahey they have come true.
The 28-year-old former White Fern decided she wanted to coach after retiring from the international arena, and through contacts ended up in Guntur, in the southeast state of Andhra Pradesh.
“I still had a huge love of cricket and realised I was passionate about coaching.
“I also loved playing in India and approached them to see what was available and it has worked out nicely.”
Fahey says it is another new adventure and she is so grateful to the sport that has given her endless opportunities as a player and now a coach.
Her role is developing the women’s game and she is in charge of an academy that oversees a senior state side as well as under-19 and under-16 teams.
The facilities are a bit like Lincoln’s as they are also attached to a type of university, she said.
“They are absolutely accepting of women playing cricket and it is well-supported by Indian cricket, paying for tournaments as there is no sponsorship.”
Fahey says there is no other place quite like India.
“You have no idea what you are going to see next.
“Every day you are almost guaranteed to see something you have never seen before and it is brilliant, and through it all make it work.
“There are no rules or regulations but somehow they make it work, it is a life we don’t have.”
On the field Fahey has had success with the under-16 and 19 teams winning their championships, while the women’s side is halfway through their competition and Fahey heads back there early in the new year.
While the men’s game in India is awash with money, Fahey says she is doing it more for the love of the game.
“The experience is invaluable and who knows where it might lead.”
Fahey is the only foreign coach and lives in her own room at the academy’s hostel, which is basic but functional.
The highlight of her stay so far is watching the girls progress.
“They are keen to learn new techniques and develop their game.
“Their understanding of English is a lot better than I expected.
“At the start I thought I might have needed a fulltime interpreter.”
Fahey is also trying to learn the language but that is a challenge as there are hundreds of dialects.
She has also had a few laughs along the way but one of the real highlights was not really knowing what to expect, day to day.
Fahey and seven players had to squeeze into a tuk-tuk designed for only four people. “It was the only one available if we wanted to get home – there wasn’t a choice.”
Guntur is extremely small by Indian standards.
Fahey says they squeeze 700,000 people “basically into the size of Timaru”.
And she says the choice of food has also been a challenge at times.
“You don’t always know what is being served but have to be polite and give it a try.
“You do learn to say no, more and more as time goes on.”
Fahey jokes she is on to her 136th day of curry, so coming home has some real benefits.
“I love New Zealand but am also looking forward to going back.
“It is a real adventure.”