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Steve Waugh: If you fall out of love with cricket, come to the maidans

Steve Waugh made an unusual entry into the Cricket Club of India on Monday. He wasn’t armed with his Gunn and Moore with which he scored a hundred the last time he played a first-class game at the Brabourne Stadium (106 not out against Mumbai in February 2001), but a camera.

And he walked in from a side gate, not the main entrance which leads to the hall where he was accorded a life membership of the Churchgate club in 2001. Waugh, 54, is in Mumbai to capture cricket-related images for his forthcoming book, The Spirit of Cricket—India.

Waugh’s presence afforded a pleasant surprise to those spending their afternoon at the Wet Wicket bar.

Ex-Aus captain Steve Waugh at the CCI yesterday. Pic/Clayton Murzello
Ex-Aus captain Steve Waugh at the CCI yesterday. Pic/Clayton Murzello

“It is always good to come back to India and Mumbai. It’s one of my favourite places. I have some good memories of this place—a Test victory here [in 2001] and good friends,” said Waugh post lunch as he was taken around the club by his old mate Sachin Bajaj.

Exactly 20 seasons ago, Waugh played against an Indian team that couldn’t win a game against the Australians on their two-month tour in the summer of 1999-2000.

Today, India are steamrolling opponents with incredible regularity. Waugh wouldn’t agree that they are near-invincible. Nor would he say that he is surprised by the transformation. He put it down to good systems in place. “They [India] are a very good team. Australia and India are two sides that are always going to stay strong—good systems, good history, good tradition. India has been amazing and the IPL has a lot to do with that,” he said.

Waugh spent some time in the maidans and was awestruck. “Over the last couple of days I’ve seen the passion of the people; how much they love cricket and every game they play is the most important game they’ve ever played whether they are playing with friends or trying to become first-class cricketers. You can really see the spirit of cricket in Mumbai. If you fall out of love with the game, come to the maidans and you’ll fall in love with the game, watching these people.”

And what sort of thrill does he get from photography? “It’s a real challenge. I call myself almost a novice. I enjoy it. I have taken a lot of photos on tour and worked on the premise that if I take thousands, I am going to get some good ones,” he said, getting ready to head to the CCI dressing rooms.

Waugh was being modest with his “almost a novice” comment because he is no stranger to photography, having published several highly-acclaimed tour diaries whose pages were spiced with photographs that went beyond the interesting category.

“I’m really enjoying the process of trying to get better as a photographer. Cricket taught me to persevere, have patience, work hard and you can achieve anything. I am trying to do the best I can,” he told mid-day, pointing to some, “amazing people” teaching him; one of them Trent Parke, who went along with Waugh to visit Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata back in 1996.

Waugh and gang will soon visit other parts of the country and click away for a book that will weigh more than three kilos. He’ll probably find it easier than what it took to score 1439 international runs on Indian soil and he’ll have a lot of fun too.

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