KEEN EYE: Steve Waugh has taken a passionate interest in India since first touring the country in 1986. Picture: Trent Parke

Steve Waugh captures the spirit of India’s cricket obsession with his camera lens | The Canberra Times

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STEVE Waugh famously never conquered India. In 2001 the Waugh-led Australian cricket team was poised to finally triumph in their final frontier – winning a Test series in India for the first time since 1969. Hundreds from the dominant duo of Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist in the first Test at Mumbai had handed Australia a 10-wicket win over the hosts. Come the second match in Kolkata the Aussies were again in a dominant position when Waugh posted 110. A Glenn McGrath-led bowling attack then cleaned up the Indians for 171, gifting Australia a 274-run first innings lead. At that moment Waugh made a fateful decision. He enforced the follow-on. It was a typically aggressive ploy made by a captain whose ruthless brand of leadership had steered Australia to a world-record 16 straight victories. An incredible 375-run partnership between V.V.S Laxman and Rahul Dravid turned the tide for India and Australia capitulated on the sun-baked dust bowl. Waugh became one of just three captains in Test cricket history to lose after enforcing a follow-on. India would eventually win the series 2-1 and Waugh’s dreams of winning in India would go unfulfilled and remain the only blemish of his legendary 168-Test and 325-One Day International career. Despite India being the site of Waugh’s greatest anguish as a player, the 55-year-old has long held a deep affection for the Asian sub-continent nation and its intoxicating culture and people. So much so, that in January Waugh returned to India this time armed with camera – rather than a bat – with the aim of capturing the spirit of cricket in India through photography. “I had this idea in the back of my mind,” Waugh tells Weekender. “When I was travelling as a cricketer in India, I always sat at the front of the bus to check out what was going on outside. I saw these incredible sights. “We’d drive past kids playing cricket in alley ways or in front of mountain ranges or in the park in these impromptu games of cricket, and I thought I’d love to get out there one day and capture that and find out what is the spirit of cricket in India and what makes it a religion.” The 18-day journey took Waugh to nine cities and villages. He spent time in the dusty parkland maidans of Mumbai where up to 22 games of cricket are played simultaneously in organised chaos. He toured the backstreets of Kolkata and Jodhpur, where he was mobbed by passionate fans, and Waugh often jumped off the bus to document local roadside matches in between. Waugh’s travels also took him to far flung corners of India. To the desert and to the foothills of the Himalayas to photograph a team of cricketing monks. Other points of interest were a cricket bat and ball factory, meeting physically-challenged cricketers and visiting the first women’s cricket academy in Dharamshala. This journey is presented in Waugh’s The Spirit Of Cricket – India, a 220-image photo book. In order to make the most of the opportunity, Waugh enlisted the help of celebrated Newcastle-raised photographer Trent Parke, the only Australian member of the prestigious Magnum Photo Agency. “I thought I need someone to help me on this trip, so I put an SOS out to Trent and thankfully he cleared his calendar and said for some reason, ‘Yeah I’ll come along and help you out’,” Waugh says. “He was invaluable and taught me a lot about photography, particularly how to use the light and how to capture the moment and the emotion of the photograph.” Parke first developed a love of photography at 12 after the trauma of witnessing his mother die from an asthma attack. Parke discovered his mum’s camera and photography and cricket became his dual passions. At one point cricket threatened to succeed. Parke was a talented leg-spin bowler and was selected in the NSW Colts side alongside future international stars Adam Gilchrist and Shane Lee. But eventually photography won out. On finishing school in 1989 Parke worked for the Newcastle Herald and fellow Hunter newspapers, the Singleton Argus and Cessnock Advertiser before joining the Daily Telegraph and The Australian. As a photographer with The Australian Parke would regularly photograph Waugh and the pair became friends. “I was always fascinated by their lifestyle,” Waugh says. “It was very tough being a photographer back in the ’80s and ’90s. Just getting photos out of countries like India and Pakistan was a huge challenge for those guys. “Sometimes they’d be up all night trying to get it through the communications to get the photograph back to Australia. “I’d watch these guys when they’d always sit out in their little box or seat for seven or eight hours a day. At the end of the day’s play I’d check in with how they went and see whether they got the shot they were after.” It was fitting the two old friends were reunited in India. The country is the site of arguably Parke’s most famous photograph, when he shot Waugh at the 1996 World Cup meeting the now canonised Mother Teresa. The frail 85-year-old Mother Teresa handed both Waugh and Parke her business card which read: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service.” That business card is framed in Parke’s Adelaide home. Waugh has also acknowledged that meeting Mother Teresa inspired him to dedicate his life post-cricket to charity and establish the Steve Waugh Foundation, which raises money for children suffering from rare diseases. Having travelled to India and snapped literally tens of thousands of photos, did Waugh come to grasp the spirit of cricket in India? “I think after seeing all that it came down to my definition of the spirit of cricket, which is attitude, energy, enthusiasm and imagination,” he says. “That’s all you need besides a bat and ball and that sums up the people of India. “If they’ve got a bat and ball they can manage to somehow to get a game going.” It’s a spirit Waugh acutely felt growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney playing backyard cricket with his twin brother and fellow Australian great, Mark. However, he senses that the spontaneity of playing backyard or street cricket has waned in subsequent generations. “I think we’ve always had that, but we’ve lost our way a bit in Australia in regards to playing those games,” he says. “I think backyards are smaller now, especially in Sydney, so we don’t have the same space to play. “Back in the ’70s and ’80s it was, ‘Go out and play cricket, just make sure you’re home for dinner’.” Since retiring from cricket in 2004 Waugh has had minimal involvement with the sport. Instead he’s focused on developing and raising money for his charity, publishing books and serving as a mentor for the Socceroos and 2008 and 2012 Australian Olympic teams. Then last year Australian cricket coach and former teammate, Justin Langer, invited Waugh to join the national side as a mentor during the Ashes series. “I really enjoyed being back amongst it, seeing what life is like back on tour again and an Ashes Tour is always something special for anyone in the Australian squad,” he says. “It was real privilege to be involved. Going forward if there’s an opportunity, I’d like to get back in there and help out once again.” The Spirit of Cricket – India is released on November 1 and the ABC will screen Capturing Cricket: Steve Waugh in India on Tuesday, November 17 at 8.30pm.

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