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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Features

Bikes, Rhodes and the discovery of India
Dhiman Sarkar, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, April 25, 2013
First Published: 00:24 IST(25/4/2013)
Last Updated: 01:39 IST(25/4/2013)

For most international cricketers, past and present, India, during this domestic T20 competition, is a whirligig of stadia, airports and hotels. For Jonty Rhodes, it is also an opportunity to hit the road. Who knows, some day he may write his own motorcycle diaries.

Rhodes loves the outdoors - not unnatural for someone who's spent seasons in the sun patrolling backward point - and loves his Royal Enfield Classic 350, though he's also tried out the Thunderbird 500. And thanks to a charmed circle of friends in India, he gets motorcycles and bicycles delivered to his hotel. Exploring 'the real India,' eating street food his travel buddies don't recommend, therefore, seems the most obvious thing to do.

"They were shouting 'Bryan Adams, 'Bryan Adams' as I drove through Goa with my fiancé," the Mumbai Indians' fielding coach told HT as conversation veered beyond the boundary. It's not always that easy to be incognito but Rhodes said things have never got out of hand. Once he almost went under a bus in Mumbai but Rhodes mentioned this so casually that it is evident the experience hasn't scarred him.

Almost at home
So, whenever Rhodes has the time in Mumbai, he drives to a bike maintenance shack - "a family business they've been running in Colaba for 50 years" - sits on the footpath, sipping tea and watching life go by.

So far, he's got lost only once. "I had to get to the Mumbai race course from the Wankhede. I got out of the wrong gate and took the two left turns I was told to and got completely lost. And though in India, it is usually easy to find people who speak English, that night it wasn't. It took me a while to find someone who was going that side and I followed him."

Reliable companion
It's not just in Mumbai that Rhodes has zipped around. "The Classic goes anywhere so, I've been to the desert from Jaipur. I hope to do that again on April 28," he said. He's also done the backwaters route in Kerala, he said.

Riding a bicycle is a lot tougher in India so, again thanks to "friends who are interested in cricket; everybody in India is," Rhodes said he hitched up with a group of guys who drove three hours from Mumbai and then rode through the interiors of Maharashtra, places "where you hardly see 10 people on the road."

Twice, in 2011 and 12, he went snowboarding in Gulmarg. "Those were the best three days I've had in a long time," he said. "And one of the things I've got to do in my lifetime is to go to Ladakh."

Evidently, the country whose Test team he debuted against means more to Rhodes than cricket. He is living the incredible India experience.


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