From the rather comfortable view I have from the Nimbus commentary box, I have been observing not only some great cricket but also great changes in the touring life in India. India was one of the great experiences of my life that provided me with some enormous challenges both on and off the field.
Life on an Australian one-day tour forms a three-day cycle, which simply consists of travelling, training and playing. Whilst playing against the best players in the world is always tough, it is the other challenges on tour that now appear to have changed.
Let's start with the food. Personally, I love Indian food — the spicier the better with the sougie chicken from Nagpur hitting the spot. Or, perhaps the fresh panner palak in Mohali is proving to be a personal favourite.
Most of the players embarked on the culinary expedition in discovering new tastes. Shane Warne famously shipped in baked beans and canned spaghetti on the 1998 tour, while Jason Gillespie would simply refuse to try anything spicier than tomato sauce. The humble omelette became his staple meal with him joking that he had eaten so many eggs that he would turn into a ‘chook’ (Australian term for chicken).
It seemed that everyone fell ill at some stage, which was not great preparation before a Test match to be played in 38 degrees temperature. This is what contributed to the almighty challenge of playing in India.
The next challenge to deal with on tour is the hotel pillow. Just like a person’s fingerprints, no two are the same and finding a good one and waking up without a sore neck proved tough work. Shane Watson has addressed this by bringing his own pillow from home, which makes perfect sense.
Finally, how do the players occupy themselves in the little time available on tour? Steve Waugh would bring a camera and Matthew Hayden a
‘breadmaker’. Whereas today, the players bring a rather nifty device in the Playstation 3. It is the perfect machine that contains all your movies, thousands of songs and you can play games against your other highly competitive teammates all in the comfort of your own hotel room.
Things might have changed since I last toured India but then again, there is still the heat, and there is still the most enthusiastic crowd in the world. There is one other thing that is still there and should never change and his name is Tendulkar.