Delhi belly, balls and bros

Brendan Cowell, who plays Rick, Stephen Curry as Teddy and Mahindar Baba as Holy Man in <i>Save Your Legs!</i>
Brendan Cowell, who plays Rick, Stephen Curry as Teddy and Mahindar Baba as Holy Man in Save Your Legs!

THE crunch point in Save Your Legs!, Boyd Hicklin's cheerful love letter to really crap cricket, came for us at the moment when Teddy (Stephen Curry) emerged ashen-faced from the toilet on an Indian train and gazed at his team-mates. ''I vomited on my own poo!'' he says, both disgusted and full of wonder. At this moment, my companion in the cinema - a 15-year-old work experience student - actually shrieked. Hicklin, hearing this, looks suitably gratified. ''Everyone understands poo,'' he says. ''Well, Americans might not like a poo joke but Americans aren't going to understand much about this film. Not with cricket and poo.''

Save Your Legs! centres on a Melbourne park cricket team called the Abbotsford Anglers which, in a seemingly unlikely set-up, is chosen by an Indian sponsor to do an amateurs' tour of India. Except that it is not so unlikely, given that Hicklin's own team - the real Abbotsford Anglers - did spend a month playing games around India in 2001. He made a documentary about that tour, also called Save Your Legs!, which shows how much of the new film is grounded in his real adventure. They really did play on wickets shared with goats; they really did play a team of tram conductors played on to the field by a brass band. They were also, by Indian standards, genuinely terrible.

It is also true that the fictional Abbotsford Anglers, dags and eccentrics to a man, have their real-life counterparts back at the clubhouse. You probably know versions of them yourself, even if you don't play cricket: the anal-retentive who monitors the score statistics; the party animal who's up on the bar playing air guitar after a couple of post-game beers; the colourful boaster who, as Hicklin puts it, ''talks a good game''; the bloke who looks too fat to make it from one end of the wicket to the other.

And Curry's Teddy, the club president, who wants everyone to take the game a bit more seriously. Is that Hicklin, by any chance? He grins. ''I hadn't thought he was until about three-quarters of the way through the editing process. But I think there is a bit of the dreamer about Teddy that I latch on to. I'd like to think I could have played for Australia at something. I think I could! So maybe making this film is a way of doing that - standing in front of a crowd with something you've made.''

The Save Your Legs! Saturday cricketers couldn't be anything but Australian; at the same time, this is a bromance not a million miles from the Hangover films. Like many current Hollywood characters, these are man-boys who, as they leave their 30s, are only starting to drift from the gang towards lives involving partners, children and trips to Ikea. Those left behind feel betrayed. ''Some blokes lose perspective,'' Colin, the team statistician, observes. ''They let ladies and life get in the way of cricket.'' So it proves. When pisspot Rick says nervously that he is going to be a father, Teddy can't even muster a reply. All he wants, he says later in a moment of bleak reflection, is for everything to be like it was.

Teddy's frailty, Hicklin says, had no basis in truth; they invented it to give the story an emotional arc. ''We didn't have that in real life. We were too busy being a bunch of guys having a really good time in an amazing place.'' It is true, however, that he barely plays himself any more. ''Literally as I started making the documentary and was pouring my time into that, I started having kids and buying houses and having jobs. Now I'm literally playing one match a year, because standing around in whites all day every weekend doesn't go down too well with the family.'' As for travelling around India again, that's ''an impossible dream''.

Except that isn't entirely true, given that he has been back to India about eight times since the original tour. The documentary needed pick-up shots; he then toured with it to Indian film festivals. Then, when he decided to make a comedy, he went back with his producer (Nick Batzias, a fellow Angler and model for mouthy Stavros in the film) and his writer Brendan Cowell (who also plays the expectant Rick). The three of them retraced the original tour. ''I was quite amazed at how we pulled it off, at how lucky we had been to stumble into situations,'' Hicklin says. ''You'd meet some people and the next thing we knew we were playing cricket; a lot of things happened by serendipity as opposed to immaculate planning, which is what India does for you.''

Attacks of Delhi belly notwithstanding, the film is a tribute to a country Hicklin loves. It is also a tribute to the team. It was crucial to Hicklin that his old muckers should like the way they saw themselves onscreen because, despite the gloomy life sentence of Saturday shopping foretold in the film, they are all still mates. ''Cricket isn't the focus any more,'' he says. ''The team continues and grows without us and we plug ourselves in when it works. But, as in the film, those relationships have evolved. There are some fantastic friendships that will last forever.''

Save Your Legs! opens in cinemas on Thursday.

This story Delhi belly, balls and bros first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.