Up until the infamous ‘bio-bubble’ season of 2021, Jonty Rhodes would take his Enfield out into the vast Indian country, coming directly in contact with the vibrant culture and norms of the nation.
Rhodes, one of cricket’s biggest household names, began to experience India in its essence only after his retirement, curious about the country from the minimum exposure he’d had thus far. “As a cricket player (when I used to come to the country) during my playing career, you would only see the airport, the cricket ground, and the hotel. And you wouldn’t really step outside any of that,” he said.
Once retirement set in, things changed for the legendary fielder. “I would go out, especially on a Saturday or a Sunday morning, with a group of riders, and try and experience as much of India as possible,” he explained. Finding these trysts with India to be much more intimate at a ground-level than simply flying over, Rhodes began developing a more profound spiritual connection with the country he was visiting.
Growing up in an apartheid-era South Africa, where communities were divided on the lines of racial segregation, Rhodes found himself more and more drawn to the diversity in Indian society. “The diversity in India, across states, is pretty incredible. It is a great opportunity for me to come here and experience that diversity, because no matter how many times you come back to India, there is always something that surprises you,” he explained.
It didn’t help that he fell in love with Indian food, on the way, with his delightful confession that he now only eats local food whenever he takes a jaunt into the country.
“From a spiritual point of view, it has definitely been an awakening where there is such diversity. And then experimenting with the food because when you came as a cricket player, you are always anxious about eating food, and don’t eat anything which is unfamiliar because you didn’t want to get sick or an upset stomach since one has a whole day of cricket ahead,” he added.
At his prime, Rhodes was perhaps the world’s most famous fielder in the game of cricket. Now, one has to wonder if the former cricketer would ever venture out into showbiz like some of his peers.
“No, definitely not in India because I can’t dance. I move around a lot, but I’m not a very good dancer. And I think Bollywood requires, even if you are a hockey player or a runner, it still requires you to dance. So, I don’t have that aspiration,” he joked.