Will this be the tour when Steve Smith’s men finally conquer the last frontier just about every other Australian team that’s travelled to the subcontinent failed to master?

The frontier I write about has nothing to do with overcoming the local pitches in the devastating fashion Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon did to sweep the Aussies to an incredible three day victory over the home team in Pune.

It has nothing to do with the mind-numbing heat, the tummy bugs that tortured poor old Matt Renshaw when he was batting or even the masses of people.


The simple reality is Australian teams have struggled over the years to accept India is different to home and that the best way for them to deal with being out of their comfort zone is to dive in and go with the flow.

There’s been a lot written about the first Test and the reasons for Australia’s comprehensive victory, but I wonder whether the Aussies have benefited from finally accepting India is an endless assault on your body’s senses.

A constant barrage of noise and vibrant colour that’s accompanied by the ceaseless 24/7 hum of humanity in every shop, every park, every bus, every street corner and even every hotel foyer.

I’d like to think players such as Smith, Mitchell Starc, Dave Warner and Nathan Lyon have comprehended India is a place where personal space is rarely recognised because, well, with over 1.3 billion people there is no personal space - not even for an international cricket team.

India is a favourite destination of mine because I love the people, I love their inquisitiveness and zest for life and I gain so much inspiration from their music, fashion, culture, beliefs, the landscape, the bustling city streets and bazaars.

However, I’m hardly revealing anything new by writing that not all of my former teammates shared my love and passion for all things Indian.

In fact, when we toured there we had a ‘whinge-o-metre’ which was used to monitor the number of complaints made throughout the course of a day – and there were times when it threatened to explode!

It’s also possible – if you allow it – to actually talk yourself out of the contest before it even starts.

As I’ve said, cricket in India is played in extreme heat, and as a fast bowler it could be so easy to ask ‘how am I going to get through 20 overs today when the forecast here in Delhi is muggy and 44 degrees and I have this niggle in my hamstring?’

You don’t think like that when you’re playing in Hobart and the weather is expected to be 18 degrees.

If anything, you relish the challenge.

I have no doubt the attitude of dread that’s accompanied many Australian teams to India were shaped by the experiences of the players who toured there in the 1950s and ‘60s.

In those days the teams weren’t booked in to the five star palaces my generation enjoy, and the stories they returned with would probably shock even the most world-weary of backpackers.

Those days have changed.

India is a sophisticated nation and the cuisine available there - and the hospitality - is the benchmark for the rest of the world.

While Steve Waugh was one person who liked to immerse himself in the Indian culture, others elected to confine themselves to the luxurious hotel we were based at; barricading themselves from the mayhem – and life – out on the streets.

In my first trip to India I realised if I was to stay upbeat and positive I needed to accept little things could – and would – go wrong.

The ‘little things’ could be your laundry not returning on time; your room not being ready; your food arriving from the kitchen stone cold and not piping hot or; arriving to a ground after battling the traffic to find instead of having the three nets you were promised to train in there was only one.

While all of that was frustrating I didn’t allow for it to weigh me down.

A lot of travellers to India complain that they get frustrated by the Indian tendency to not give a direct answer to a question, but I see it as an endearing and warm trait.

What I’ve realised is the reason a concierge or operator doesn’t want to say ‘no’ is simply because they don’t want to disappoint you.

India is populated by 1.3 billion people and I reckon there were times when most of them crammed into our hotel foyer wanting an autograph or a selfie at any given hour of the day – or night!

Most times when you went downstairs to the breakfast room there’d be a queue of people by your table wanting you to sign something in between your next mouthful of food.

It was a far cry from Sydney, for instance, because I remember how there was always a cordoned off area for the team to eat and it guaranteed some privacy.

However, I accepted I was in India; it was a different experience and you were better off savouring it than getting annoyed.

Sure, it could sometimes be overwhelming, but even in those moments of mayhem I received great acts of kindness and generosity.

In India people will disarm you with their heartfelt praise for what you’ve achieved and they speak eloquently of how something you did inspired them.

Rather than dwell on what some players saw as negatives, I focussed on the positives and I definitely benefited from that approach.

And there are unexpected magic moments that make deep impressions.

For instance, there were times when I’d return to my room after slogging my guts out to find a beautiful cake made in the shape of a bat that was made by the staff to celebrate a milestone or what they considered to be a special performance.

I always looked for the good in India and I was rarely disappointed because there is an abundance of it.

If this is to be the Australian team that sees India for what it is - not home, but a place of beauty, wonder and excitement - it could be the beginning of a new love affair for the men in the Baggy Greens.

And they’ll find as I have, it’s a love affair that will endure.

Brett Lee, exclusively for Sportsta.

Brett Lee Contributor

View Comments (0)