Aussie cricketers Michale Clarke and Shaun Tait blur boundaries of patriotism, profess love for all things Indian
From food to fashion and the fervour, a look at how they are good at being Aussie, Indian style!brunch Updated: Sep 25, 2017 17:31 IST
‘Indians have a kindness I love’
Australians do too, says Michael Clarke. But out here, it’s another level!
There’s a natural ease about former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke as he shuffles around at the exclusive HT Brunch photo shoot, posing for pictures. Changing from a three-piece suit into a patterned shirt-Nehru jacket combination for the shoot, he exclaims, “This is really comfortable!” For Clarke, fashion has much to do with comfort. “As men, we don’t do uncomfortable as well as women do – dealing with high heels and choosing looks over comfort,” he says.
Clarke’s made several trips to India since his Test debut as a 23-year-old in Bengaluru in 2004. He was also part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for two years, playing for the Pune Warriors. The former Australian captain says he now spends almost as much time in India as he does in his home country.
“Indians have a kindness to them that I really love. We have a big part of that in Australia too, but here it’s just another level,” he says.
“AS MEN, WE DON’T DO UNCOMFORTABLE AS WELL AS WOMEN DO.”
Since he announced his retirement from cricket two years ago, 36-year-old Clarke has had his hands full. He runs an investment business in Sydney, fulfils brand commitments, commentates, and spends as much time as he can with wife Kyly and 18-month-old daughter Kelsey Lee.
“The one thing I focus on every day is to try and become better, in everything I do. When I was playing cricket, I wanted to become a better cricketer. Now, I want to become a better commentator, better at business and a better father and husband.”
As the Aussie skipper, Clarke was flamboyant, with blonde streaks in his hair, a diamond ear stud, and the tattoo sleeve. Today, his ideal day comprises a barbeque at home with family and friends. “I take my daughter for a swim. My sister and my wife’s sister both have two kids so we invite everybody over. Breakfast turns into lunch and lunch into dinner,” he says.
While he loves to barbeque, his wife, with her Italian-Maltese heritage, is a kitchen goddess. “She loves cooking and I love eating, a combination that works for our relationship,” he says and adds that he loves Bollywood films and Indian food. He’s travelled across the country, but recently spent a lot of time in Kolkata, and is in love with the city.
“They have magnificent biryani, which is my favourite food. And the sweets, oh my god. I usually train every day, but when I get to Kolkata I need to train twice a day, because it’s impossible not to eat the sweets.”
Last November, Clarke began commentating full-time. “Just being around and listening to people like Sunny (Gavaskar), Ravi (Shastri) and Sanjay (Manjrekar) has helped me learn.” He also witnessed the iconic women’s cricket final between England and Australia at Lord’s last month and was ecstatic to see how packed the stadium was. “I love seeing women’s cricket grow. I’d like to see the women get paid more money,” says Clarke.
He is also very active on Twitter, where he has over 1.8 million followers. “I’m very grateful for everybody who supported me through my career and my life, especially the tough times. Social media is a way to allow my fans a little bit closer, to really know who I am and see what I do on a daily basis.”
Clarke might be back in India next month with his family. “I’m sure my wife will be investigating a few recipes as I love Indian food. And I’d love my daughter to experience the culture, the food and the people here.”
Clarke grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney, Australia. “My mum and dad both worked full-time to send my sister and I to public school, and to allow us to play the sports we wanted.”
He’s travelled to most states across his country and his favourite holiday destination is the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland. “I’ve always loved the water and boats, so Whitsunday is magnificent. I also enjoy a glass of wine in places like the Barossa Valley. Every Indian must visit this region in South Australia,” he says.
‘I never get homesick in Mumbai’
Shaun Tait may not speak Hindi well, but he loves being India’s damaad
One of the fastest bowlers in the world, Australian cricketer Shaun Tait is gearing up for his greatest challenge. “Mashoom (Singha) is expecting,” he reveals, “And I’m looking forward to it. I’ve always wanted to be a father.”
Tait met model Mashoom Singha at an Indian Premier League (IPL) after-party, and they married in 2014. “Our anniversary was just the other day. Every anniversary we’ve been away from each other – I’m either in Australia or India or somewhere. So it would be nice to one day spend an anniversary dinner at home together.”
Not that the 34-year-old is the kind to get all mushy about such things. “Australian men... there’s not a lot of guys I know who are romantic. It doesn’t come naturally to us,” he says. “I still buy Mashoom gifts, though. I sent her a yellow orchid this time, but I sent it to her work and forgot it was a public holiday that day. For our first anniversary, I was in London and she was in Australia and I forgot our anniversary – so my track record is not going well.” He pauses for a bit before adding, “She manages to laugh it off and find it funny. Deep down she’s probably fuming.”
“MY [INDIAN] MA-IN-LAW PAMPERS ME: SHE COOKS, GIVES ME HEAD MASSAGES… WHILE HER DAUGHTERS, SHE TREATS LIKE RATS”
Living in the hills of Adelaide near the vineyards, Tait says life is very quiet when he’s home. “We watch Netflix, go for walks, play with my dog and drink lots of wine.” When he’s in his second home, Mumbai, he says dealing with the noise is the biggest challenge. “I come from a small town, so just how densely populated India is, it never makes you feel like you have a moment to yourself. But it’s the only thing that’s changed my life besides cricket. I don’t get homesick here, unlike in other parts of the world. And I have some of my best mates here, and of course, family.”
He thoroughly enjoys being pampered by his mother-in-law. “She gives me head massages, she cooks for me, while her daughters she treats like rats, so they get jealous,” he chuckles.
Having acquired Overseas Citizen of India status in March this year, Tait is contemplating opening a restaurant in Mumbai. He’s a part-owner of a pub in Australia, Hotel Elliot, which has been awarded in the past for its food. Once dubbed ‘The Wild Thing’, Tait recently announced his retirement from cricket – so now what are his plans?
“When you’ve lived your dream for 15 years, it’s very difficult to find another dream. I love nature, I love animals and I hope to work with animals in some way. Money doesn’t inspire me – I like food, drinks and even farming.”
Does he have any Bollywood aspirations like his mate Brett Lee who made a debut on the silver screen with UnIndian? “I did a small part in Patiala House. And I was meant to play a small role in Kai Po Che!, but I had to fly back to Australia,” he shrugs. “My Hindi is terrible – I’ve been lazy about that. And the whole song and dance thing, it’s not my culture so it’s difficult to get why they do that.”
Tait believes that Indian captain Virat Kohli is one of the top batsmen in the world. “He’s world class. I’ve bowled to him towards the end of my career, and he’s very difficult to bowl to. He’s obviously a very emotional guy, which can sometimes get the better of him.”
And he’s also bowled to ‘God’. “When I first came to India, Sachin Tendulkar was considered God and probably still is. It’s an amazing thing – to become so famous for playing cricket. It’s not something that happens in Australia. Not only being famous but literally worshipped. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” he says.
From HT Brunch, September 24, 2017
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