Clad in our maroon Proudly Habsani T-shirts, we set off from Cape Town International Airport for a first-time trip for most to the motherland, India.

The Habsani Royals cricket team were geared up for cricket, but experienced so much more.

Encouraged by a rousing round of applause when the pilot announced that the Habsani Royals team was on board for a summer of playing cricket in Mumbai, the boys and fellow supporters were amped before touchdown.

Upon arrival at Chatrapati Shivaji Airport, the hazy Mumbai skyline -sights, sounds and smells embraced us, familiar to some and completely new to others. Packing the luggage of the players and supporters onto the bus was quite an exercise in strategic placing and maximisation of space. This was the introduction to Mumbai and many of the characters and characteristics we would encounter.

Through the bus windows, the players absorbed the colourful and simultaneously chaotic everyday life in Mumbai.

Day 1

A full day of cricket was planned in Mumbai with the boys kitted out in their brightest whites and the supporters creating a stream of maroon with their T-shirts and turbans. The match was played on an island of green in the heart of the city. The videographer captured close-ups by literally standing on the field of play. It was an exciting game of cricket which left our boys with browned and torn pants and T-shirts and in search of Caxton Sports Shop to purchase new kits!

Day 2

Another round of cricket, but this time the juniors played separately to the senior team. The juniors played on a huge field where about 10 cricket matches overlapped ranging from 6 year olds to 36 year olds playing cricket. The boys witnessed how the locals live cricket. It was a tense match which required pep talks in the dug out to an exhilarating final performance by the batsmen to lead us to victory. All the team, management and supporters ran onto the field in great jubilation with flags flying high and the team manager, Uncle Atawullah, doing his celebratory jive.

Day 3

The entire group set off to the village in two air-conditioned luxury buses which had to seriously navigate the gravel roads. After finally arriving hours later in Walwat the boys stepped off the team bus to crowds of village kids cheering them and welcoming them. They felt like true professional sportsmen right then. A presentation of garlands and a dinner was organised for the team and supporters.

Day 4

A day of cricket in the village played on an open field in Arawi. The boys once again received a warm welcome from the MC/commentator amidst Indian music blaring. The pitch and conditions were different to what the boys were used to and found themselves being cheered on from the boundary rope by all who had come out. The passion of cricket is relentless particularly in the village, where the village team created fierce competition which resulted in an intense and tense match.

Day 5

It was a long hard day of cricket with the sun beating down. Amidst much action and getting to know the village play, the team secured the trophy. Celebrations on Arawi beach ensued under a majestic sunset. In the days that followed the boys enjoyed village life and took to riding motorbikes, enjoying local cuisine, playing with the kids, getting to know their families and understanding their roots. This was perhaps the highlight of the tour for many as discovering roots tends to give one a sense of knowing which offers peace and comfort.

Day 8

Everyone headed back to the City for the remaining part of the tour. This involved taking in the sights and sounds of Mumbai- riding in rikshaws, bargaining with taxi drivers, shopping, eating out and New Year’s Eve celebrations. The boys immersed themselves in getting around the City and enjoying the food on offer and acquiring great bargaining skills. This allowed for many of the team to strengthen their sense of independence and at the same time instilled a greater sense of responsibility. It was also an opportunity to witness the lives of young people, some who are educated and go about their daily work, others who beg on the streets and live in poverty. A land of contradictions, colour, charm and constant hooting!

After two weeks, the team arrived in Cape Town to great chants and everyone knew that it was more than just a game of cricket!