Cricket: Team treated like rock stars

By Kris Shannon

Despite being unknown in India, Kiwi cricket players such as Ronnie Hira receive star treatment there. Photo / File
Despite being unknown in India, Kiwi cricket players such as Ronnie Hira receive star treatment there. Photo / File

Cricketers in New Zealand don't often find a personal security guard waiting when they step out of an elevator.

They can usually travel to a stadium without a police escort, while a trip to the supermarket is greeted by fellow shoppers with apathy rather than attention.

But in India these are par for the course. Players who can walk anonymously in Auckland suddenly find themselves life of the party half a world away - even if their identity remains unknown.

When New Zealand tour the unofficial home of cricket, even the most obscure member of the team experiences the rock star treatment. Their instrument may be a bat or ball instead of a guitar or set of drums, but the impact is the same.

"It doesn't matter where you go, really," said Ronnie Hira, whose everyday life back home is hardly akin to Beatlemania. "If you're known or not, you're stopped for autographs.

"No one really knows who I am. Everyone just loves it here - they're friendly and they embrace cricket."

According to Hira, the presence of a couple of microphones in the hands of the dutiful media is enough to alert the public, particularly when coupled with the minder who follows every step of a New Zealand cricketer.

"It takes a bit of getting used to," he said. "I had Adam (Milne) with me a couple of days ago - we were waiting in the lobby and there were people staring in the windows trying to find out who we were. You've just got to take it all as it comes."

The fervour which greets the likes of Hira in India is nothing compared to what it once was, though.

Security has tightened in recent years, especially since the Mumbai bombings. Most hotels are replete with metal detectors and most cricketers are subject to the same sort of precautions.

Where in the past the New Zealand players have been able to wander the streets unimpeded - except, of course, from the adoration of the public - they are now more sheltered from these most ardent of fans.

"Unfortunately, our security is so tight now that there's not a lot of chance to really go out and get amongst it," said Jacob Oram, no stranger to touring India.

"It's just not possible. We were in lockdown last year [at the one-day World Cup] with military cordons around our hotel, so that makes it tough.

"It's just chalk and cheese as to what we're used to," Oram said. "You can even hear it from in [the hotel] - the horns, the noise, the hustle and bustle of daily life here.

"It's a lot different to how we know cricket and life back home.

"People like to draw a comparison between the All Blacks. We think we love rugby at home but it (cricket) just goes to another level here."

- APNZ

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