Nine things I learned watching Test cricket in India

Kris Swales Columnist

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Sachin Tendulkar advertising cement (Image: Kris Swales)

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The India series is over. The baggy greens have been bagged.

The whites are being whitewashed, much like their owners. And the post-mortems into Australia’s 4-0 capitulation to an Indian side in a not dissimilar rebuilding phase have begun.

I don’t profess to have the answers to Australia’s cricketing woes, except that the selectors could perhaps experiment with a novel “pick batsmen with a Test match temperament” approach.

What I can tell you is what I managed to glean from three days in the stands of the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in New Delhi, having successfully completed a sporting pilgrimage some 15 years in the making.

1. When it comes to buying tickets, “be prepared” is a myth

You might think you’ve done it tough trying to secure tickets to a sporting contest or music festival before, but you’ve obviously never tried to buy Test cricket tickets in India.

There was radio silence through official channels, while month after month of futile Google searches for “India Australia Cricket Delhi Tickets 2013″ turned up nothing but red herrings.

Then all of a sudden, on the day before the Test started, a classified sized ad turned up in the Times Of India directing you to two websites, or bank branches spread across town.

Website ticket collection happened outside a jewellery store nowhere near the ground, from guys working out of a metal suitcase, half an hour AFTER play started on day one. Take that scalpers!

2. You’ve never had a day at the cricket as cheap as this

I’m yet to properly crunch the numbers, but I’m 99.94 percent certain that it’s cheaper for me to fly and accommodate myself from Sydney to New Delhi for five days of Test cricket (give or take a couple of days) than it is to fly from Sydney to Melbourne for the same.

Season tickets to the match for $10, ice creams for 80 cents, and there’s no beer on sale to torpedo your budget.

On the subject of beer…

3. It really is possible to watch live sport without a beer in your hand

I’m not making this up. No, really, I wouldn’t joke about something so serious.

As an added bonus you actually remember every intricate detail of the day’s play, and your liver doesn’t start calling for back-up somewhere around the first drinks break on day three.

4. Tubes of sunscreen are on the banned substances list

Presumably because they’re potentially a weapon…against skin cancer.

5. Indian cricket fans aren’t much different to Australian ones

They have a young larrikin contingent leading simplistic chants (roughly translated for me from Hindi as “Who’s going to win? India! India? Who’s going to lose? Australia! Australia!”) and taunting opposition outfielders with “Four-Zero, Four-Zero!” cries.

They have elders who want to talk about Lillee and Thommo. (Umm, sorry guys, I’m not quite an elder yet.)

They politely applaud opposition brilliance and go berserk at Indian singles.

And speaking of berserk…

6. The unintentional cult of personality surrounding Sachin Tendulkar is a sight to behold

With the possible exception of King Wally in his State of Origin heyday, I’ve never witnessed an Australian sportsman being regarded as bigger than the team quite like Sachin is for Indian cricket fans.

And it’s not just adoration, or even blind worship (though there’s plenty of that) but what appears to be true love – and it’s reciprocal.

They cheer when he waves at them in the outfield, they cheer when he misfields, they chant his name when two of his teammates are putting on a breathtaking century stand.

And the roar and chant of “Sachiiiiiiin, Sachin!” as he strode out to bat on day two – as 30,000 fans sounded like 60k-plus – had the hair on my arms standing on end. Incredible scenes at the Shah Kotla.

7. When Sachin needs to harden up before a big game, he only eats at Jaypee Cement (pictured)

Perhaps Australia’s sport scientists should look into it.

8. If Australia are looking for a new batting coach, they could do worse than Peter Siddle

Hey, I’m an as much of an armchair selector as the rest of you.

9. If you’re a cricket fan, you’ve got to experience test cricket in India at least once in your lifetime

And if you do it once, you’ll definitely want to do it twice. Hopefully I’ll see you in the stands next tour.

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