CAP­TAIN STYLISH

AUS­TRALIAN CRICKET CAP­TAIN AND RIS­ING PUNE SUPERGIANT SKIP­PER STEVE SMITH TOGS UP IN CLOTHES BY IN­DIA’S YOUNGEST MENSWEAR DE­SIGN­ERS

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - FRONT PAGE - Text by Ja­mal Shaikh Photos shot ex­clu­sively for HT Brunch by Subi Sa­muel

A few hours be­fore the in­ter­view and shoot with crick­eter Steve Smith, I’m worried. I’m not a cricket fan – I hope I don’t get lynched for say­ing that – and the in­ter­view I’ve watched of the Aus­tralian cricket cap­tain Steve Smith with a se­nior jour­nal­ist on TV, is dis­cour­ag­ing. Sam­ple this:

“What ad­vice do you have for Vi­rat Kohli?”

Steve Smith: “I have no ad­vice for him.”

“How would this In­dian team do if it came to play in Aus­tralia?”

Steve Smith: “It’s hard to say, re­ally…”

As a re­sult, the half an hour in­ter­view now clocks at 12 min­utes, 25 sec­onds on YouTube.

Our plan is to get Steve Smith to talk about his time in In­dia; the joys and chal­lenges of play­ing for the IPL and liv­ing and trav­el­ling through this di­verse coun­try of ours. How do play­ers from other parts of the world feel when they must pledge their al­le­giance to a re­gion of In­dia…of this vast coun­try that we In­di­ans don’t know ev­ery­thing about? And, how do they en­joy liv­ing in a coun­try like ours? We’re not a sports mag­a­zine, so we aren’t look­ing for sta­tis­tics and trade tech­niques. We want Steve Smith to open up about rep­re­sent­ing an In­dian side at the IPL. Smith led the Ris­ing Pune Supergiant to a great fi­nal this sea­son, los­ing to the Mum­bai In­di­ans by just one run! We want him to talk In­dia: the young, talented Aussie’s dis­cov­ery of the coun­try and its cul­ture, about the foods he likes, the cities he wants to visit, the girls he has en­coun­tered. We also have a bag full of trendy clothes by In­dia’s youngest menswear de­sign­ers that we needed Steve to model in front of the cam­era.

But how does one break a sports­man’s de­fence of giv­ing clipped an­swers when handed a mi­cro­phone?

For­tu­nately, we stum­ble upon a pic­ture put up on In­sta­gram by In­dian Test Cricket vice-cap­tain Ajinkya Ra­hane. The photo shows Steve dressed in tra­di­tional Maratha at­tire, com­plete with a dho­tar (dhoti) and pheta (tur­ban). It is cap­tioned: “What do you think of @steve­smith49’s new Puneri avatar? We are lov­ing it!”

Then things get bet­ter. A video of Steve Smith mouthing Marathi lays the rest of our fears to rest. “C’mon Punekars,” he says. “Aaplya team la sup­port kara!” (Trans­lated: C’mon Punekars, let’s sup­port our team!) We know what will move our man.

IN­DIA ON HIS PLATE

On the day of the shoot at the ITC Mau­rya in New Delhi, Steve ar­rives on time and be­haves like any 27-year-old will. The stand­off­ish­ness of the TV in­ter­view is nowhere in sight. To set the mood, we be­gin with the Maratha out­fit. Steve warms up in­stantly: “Oh yes, it was very colour­ful, wasn’t it?” He laughs, al­most shy. “Def­i­nitely a lot of va­ri­ety in terms of style and pat­terns. Ajinkya is a friend and a proud Ma­ha­rash­trian, who loves his Marathi at­tire. It was a mem­o­rable mo­ment for me to wear that out­fit.”

An Aussie who can pro­nounce the word ‘Ma­ha­rash­trian’ and use Marathi in the same sen­tence can win any Mum­baikar’s heart in an in­stant. Steve has just done that.

As a nonIn­dian, what’s it like liv­ing in In­dia for months to­gether? I ask. In­dia can be an over­whelm­ing place; how does a sports­man get used to it all? “I love In­dia, and I re­ally en­joy be­ing here for long pe­ri­ods while play­ing,” Steve be­gins, a bit press re­lease-ish in his an­swer. “We come so of­ten, it has al­most be­come my home away from home. I even have favourite restau­rants. The food’s a bit spicy for me, but I can cer­tainly make out the difference be­tween North In­dian cui­sine and a South In­dian prepa­ra­tion. Outside, the tem­per­a­ture takes a toll on you, but the warmth of the peo­ple makes up for that.”

Steve re­calls the first time he came to In­dia. “I hon­estly didn’t know what to ex­pect. But the pas­sion peo­ple have for the game of cricket makes it so en­joy­able for a pro­fes­sional crick­eter to be here. If asked to pick one thing I love about In­di­ans, it’d have to be their en­thu­si­asm for ev­ery­thing: cricket, movies and life in gen­eral. If I have friends vis­it­ing, I’d like to take them to a cricket match… you can’t see In­dia through my eyes with­out ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the crowds and noise at a game. I’d also take them to Dharam­sala, which is so pic­turesque…”

PUNERI PRIDE

Sud­denly, Steve Smith does a dou­ble take. He has named Dharam­sala, but this year, he’s brand am­bas­sador for Pune. Quick on the up­take, he adds: “Dharam­sala is beau­ti­ful, but I must be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, and be­ing a Ris­ing Pune Supergiant, say Pune’s my favourite city in In­dia!” But that’s not the only rea­son. “Hon­estly, my sec­ond in­nings 100 in Pune re­cently is some­thing I rate as one of my best ever… and us go­ing on to win that test match was fan­tas­tic!”

Steve then gives us a few words he’s picked up in Hindi (see box), re­grets he hasn’t watched a com­plete

“IN­DIA IS MY HOME AWAY FROM HOME. I EVEN HAVE FAVOURITE RESTAU­RANTS... AND CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE BE­TWEEN NORTH IN­DIAN CUI­SINE AND A SOUTH IN­DIAN PREPA­RA­TION.”

Bol­ly­wood movie yet, and con­fesses that shop­ping in In­dia is some­thing he knows lit­tle about… “My part­ner Dani (Danielle Wil­lis) is usu­ally over here with me, so I don’t usu­ally have to buy gifts to take home. She re­ally loves the shop­ping here, es­pe­cially in Mum­bai.”

All the ban­ter has ad­e­quately read­ied the crick­et­ing su­per­star for the photo shoot, and we think it’s time to bring out the clothes. Steve slips into them with ease, doesn’t smile un­less prod­ded to, but looks stylish with­out much effort.

The TV host had re­ferred to Steve Smith as a dif­fi­cult man to “get out”, on the field and dur­ing an in­ter­view on cam­era. For the morn­ing he spends with us though, Steve Smith proves to be a clotheshorse and shows how, if not a crick­eter, he could well have been a fash­ion model!

“YOU CAN’T SEE IN­DIA THROUGH MY EYES WITH­OUT EX­PE­RI­ENC­ING THE CROWDS AND NOISE AT A CRICKET GAME”

PUNE’S FAVOURITE This In­sta­gram grab shows Steve Smith in tra­di­tional Ma­ha­rash­trian at­tire. Ahead of the IPL, he also posted a video say­ing “Aapla team la sup­port kara!”

Steve wears a shirt and T-shirt from Zara and jeans from Diesel

Steve wears a jacket by Ab­hishek Paatni, jeans by Diesel, shoes by Zara and a Fit­bit Charge 2

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