Merv Hughes's moustache didn't quite please Raju
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In our new series, My Australia tour, Indian cricketers of the past describe their experiences while touring Australia. In our second instalment, Venkatapathy Raju speaks to Siddhartha Vaidyanathan about the 1991-92 tour.
My first visit to Australia was in 1986-87 when I was part of the under-19 squad for the youth World Cup. So when I went with the Indian team in 1991-92 I had a pretty good idea of the country.
The tour was a lengthy one since it involved the Test matches, the one-day tri-series and continued through to the World Cup. There was hardly any rest in between and the travelling took a lot out of us. The grounds in Australia are much bigger than you can imagine and it demands a very high level of physical fitness to play there. We came very close to winning the tri-series final and that was the highpoint of the summer. The Australians were too good for us in the Test matches and the World Cup was also a disappointing affair.
It is very difficult to bowl against such an aggressive team. They have a fixed plan to score at a very fast rate and have the ability to convert good balls into boundaries. The Kookaburra ball that is used there does not have as prominent a seam as the SG ball that we use in India. The SG ball has a bigger and harder seam and it is tough to get used to the Kookaburra.
Apart from the intense cricket on the field there were several other factors that worked against us on that tour. The media were particularly intent on putting us down. I remember an instance when Azhar got a hundred in a tour game but the newspapers showed a picture of him getting bowled. They never wrote about a good bowling performance from our side. The present Indian side will do well to ignore the media completely and just get on with their game.
Sledging and mind games are part of the Australian team's gameplan. It is very common in their domestic cricket and it carries on into the higher level also. You have to completely isolate yourself from the verbal games.
Having studied in a boarding school I have always loved to mingle with people from different cultures. Geoff Marsh and Merv Hughes were very good friends of mine and I remember the delicious barbecue that we had in Marsh's house in Western Australia. I also remember taking long walks on the streets of Melbourne with Javagal Srinath. It is a very beautiful country for a tourist but due to our hectic schedule there was very little time to go around.
I remember batting in Melbourne when Hughes was pitching it short and I got hit on the helmet a couple of times. He was constantly growling at me when I reached the non-striker's end. After the game we met on the flight and I told him, "Big fellow, I don't like your moustache" and gave it a hard pull. The entire Australian team was in complete splits to see a tiny guy like me pulling Big Merv's moustache. That is one moment I will treasure always.