Steve Waugh on cricket in India and the spot that will make you love the game again – ABC News

If you want to fall in love with cricket again, there's one very particular place you need to go, says Steve Waugh.
It's not the MCG on Boxing Day.
It's not Lord's for the fifth Test of an Ashes series.
It's the dusty grounds of the Azad Maidan in Mumbai — a packed patch of earth that's home to 22 cricket pitches and thousands of passionate fans and players.
"This place reeked of cricket and I loved it," Waugh says.
Supplied: Steve Waugh
Waugh's first view of India was from inside a comfortable bus in 1986 as the Australian cricket team toured the country.
He would go on to visit dozens of times, including during his dream run as Australian Test captain and then later as part of his charity work.
Supplied: Steve Waugh
But on that first visit, he was a self-described boy from Western Sydney who was "wet behind the ears and lacking in life experience".
"It was like landing on another planet," he says.
"I was, however, immediately captivated by the spirit and energy of the people."
So, at the start of this year, Waugh returned.
This time with camera in hand and a plan in mind: to delve into the world of cricket in India in all its kaleidoscopic forms.
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His endeavours have just been turned into a new photography book, The Spirit Of Cricket, and a documentary of his trip will air on the ABC on November 17, titled Capturing Cricket.
"India gave me lifelong memories, but life-changing moments," Waugh said this week.
"The concept of this book was to try and find out why cricket is a religion in India."
Over 18 days, Waugh toured with acclaimed photographer Trent Parke, snapping cricket on the beaches, the deserts and the mountains.
Supplied: Steve Waugh
Playing against monks at the foothills of the Himalayas was a highlight, he said, as was seeing blind and physically impaired players finding ways to enjoy the game.
"They're quite amazing, these guys, flying through the air like ninja warriors and landing on these bamboo poles," he said.
It's hard to overstate the importance of cricket to a country like India, Waugh says.
"There's 800 million people living below the poverty line, but cricket gives them something to connect with," he said.
"It's a sport that doesn't take a lot of money. I mean, I often say about cricket, all you need is a bat and ball."
Supplied: Steve Waugh
What Waugh saw on his trip reminded him of his own childhood.
There were the makeshift stumps, using everything from bricks to fence palings or a backpack, and games popping up in any space that could even remotely allow for a ball to be bowled.
He recalls spending hours in his garage as a boy, hitting a ball encased in a stocking that was tied to the roof.
The goal was to hit it straight so it struck the narrow section of the roof. Eventually he'd get so good he could hit 100 in a row.
"I loved the challenge of testing myself," he said.
"Every time I witness kids playing cricket in India, I sense the same love of the game, that pure, unfiltered genuine connection to the sport.
"If you've got a good attitude, if you've got energy, enthusiasm and imagination then it all comes together, and you can get a game with your mates. And that's what happens in India."
Supplied: Steve Waugh
While most photographers try to slip into the background and be an unseen observer when they are on a shoot, it's hard to do that when you're one of Australia's most recognisable players in a county that adores the game.
"I don't think I've met a person in India that doesn't know [I] play cricket," Waugh said.
"So, straightaway you're recognised, which gives you a connection, and something to talk about.
"It was a little bit difficult getting some of the shots, because they want to be all around you and swarm around, get a selfie.
"One way I could manage that this time was to promise them a game of cricket after I took the photograph. So, it seemed to work out all OK for everyone."
Watch Capturing Cricket on Tuesday, November 17 at 8:30pm on ABC + iview.
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