When New City junior Aaron Green went to India’s Taj Mahal recently, he was mobbed for his autograph.
And it’s because he’s a cricketer from Australia.
It was a similar story throughout the cricket-loving country.
“Lots of little kids and kids from school came up and asked for autographs in their books and pictures,” he said.
“I’ve never really had to do that before.”
Green, who turns 16 next week, was part of the Wagga Warriors Indian tour.
It started by chance a few years ago when an Indian doctor took a junior team to a tournament in Bowral.
He was impressed by the standard and sportsmanship so he offered a cricket tour of the subcontinent.
“We played a game next to a school, which had 2500 students,” coach Craig Footman said.
“They were watching us play and after the game all the school kids would come down and meet the players.
“They would get autographs, it was magnificent for our kids.
“The best thing for our kids, it didn’t go to their heads, it was quite daunting for a couple of them but they really embraced it.”
Green was the only Cricket Albury-Wodonga player, with the rest coming from the Wagga-Junee areas.
They ranged from 12 to 16 years, with the two-week tour handing them a stark lesson in life perspective.
“First world problems don’t seem to mean too much, the players walked around and saw kids with nothing, but they always had a smile on their face,” Footman said.
It was an eye-opener for Green.
“There were lots of kids everywhere begging, but they were really nice, everyone there was really nice,” he said.
Those experiences and building resilience were more important than winning.
But Footman maintains everyone also improved on the field.
“Aaron Green bowled a number of no-balls, but he was just a machine,” he said.
“We did a little bit of work with him and probably added another 10 clicks (kilometres per hour).
“It gives you that time to invest some quality time, away from the club scene.”
Interestingly, Green would have been one of the quickest 15-year-olds in India, given the slow wickets and subsequent reliance on spin bowling,.
“You’ve got to work harder and trust your line and length,” Green said.
“You can’t bowl anything short as it just holds up.”
But it wasn’t just his bowling which improved.
“He started off batting 11 and by the end of it, we batted him at five in the T20 and did a great job,” Footman said.
“He batted at seven in one game and saw us through when we were in trouble.”