My Australia Tour

'Dennis, why do you swear?'

In our new series, My Australia tour, Indian cricketers of the past describe their experiences while touring Australia. In our first instalment, Karsan Ghavri speaks to Samanth Subramanian about the 1977-78 and the 1980-81 tours.

Dennis Lillee - more frustrated than a medium pacer
© Getty Images

There's so much to see in Australia, so many places to visit, that the tourism alone makes playing cricket there a unique experience. The wildlife was a big draw for me; to go to their well-maintained national parks and wildlife sanctuaries was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It's also interesting for the way the Australians play the game on their own turf. They're always very aggressive and in-your-face, although, as is well known, they never hesitate to be chummy off the field.

In 1980-81, we were all - the Indians and the Australians - invited by Sir Don Bradman to his house for dinner. We sat at a huge oval table for dinner, and Dennis Lillee and Kapil Dev happened to be sitting next to each other. So Kapil just asked Lillee: "Dennis, why, every time you bowl, do you swear at the batsmen?"

Lillee said: "Kapil, I'm steaming when I bowl express, and I look for a wicket with every delivery."

Kapil: "But I don't swear at the batsmen, and I look for a wicket with every delivery too."

Lillee: "You're not an express bowler. You're just a medium-fast bowler. With express bowlers, the frustration comes out more. When you become an express bowler, you will do the same thing as I do now."

Ironically, Kapil went on to win the match for India at Melbourne. On the fourth day, he did not come on the field because he was injured. But in the last innings, Australia were three down, and I'd picked up two wickets in consecutive deliveries. So on the next day, Kapil came in on painkillers and ran through the side on a pitch of uneven bounce.

The 1977-78 series was a very interesting one, because they won the first two Tests and we won the next two, and the fifth one involved us chasing a big target, which we lost by 40-odd runs.

During that tour, Ashok Mankad was a member of the Indian team. He and Jeff Thomson were very good friends, always having a glass of beer after the game. Thomson used to give Ashok quite a few gifts, because Ashok was very fond of western music, and Thommo used to provide him with all the latest songs in the evening.

On the field, however, the first thing he bowled to Ashok was a bouncer, followed by some colourful swearing. Ashok went down the wicket, tapping the pitch and meeting Thommo on his follow-through. He asked him: "Thommo, we're friends, man!"

Thommo said: "We are friends ... but not on the field."

The Australians are aggressive cricketers, and they play hard and fight it out. But off the field, they're nice guys, friendly and easy-going.