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banner Saturday, 24 February, 2001, 17:24 GMT
The sad facts of life

Australian batsman Justin Langer sends his latest postcard from the tour of India.

My heart bled for the street people when we arrived in Mumbai.

I couldn't believe human beings had to live in such terribly poor conditions when the opulence surrounding our every move is fit for kings.

To try to help some of these people I started taking the free fruit from my hotel room and handing it out like a breakfast hamper every morning.

For the last week I have befriended a family of four young street beggars who have started meeting the team daily at the cricket ground for their early morning treats.

Street children in Mumbai
Children follow the Australian team

For me it was a tiny gesture, but for them, it was like Santa Claus had arrived with a sack full of Christmas presents.

We all appreciate the joy of child's face when a brightly wrapped Christmas present is pushed in front of them on Xmas morning or on a birthday.

Magnify that joy tenfold when you imagine how the faces of these four kids have come to life every morning and afternoon when the Australian cricket team bus turns up outside the ground.

Because of the surplus of extra food leftover in the changing rooms at the end of a day's play, the ritual has extended to a tea-time treat as well.

Bags of biscuits, muffins and more fruit have found their way into the hands of the four cutest lookest looking kids you have ever seen.

While they quite obviously have nothing, the smiles on their faces are as beautiful and priceless as the smile on any child's face.

After today's play, I gave my new little friends an Australian cricket team sponsor's cap.

An Indian child wears an Australian cap
A small token

Maybe they will sell them to a cricket fanatic for their next meal or maybe they might keep wearing them as a reminder of the Aussie team's 'Santa Claus' who visited their street one week in February 2001.

Whatever way it has given us a little joy to help lessen the hardship of seeing babies begging every day to keep their stomachs full.

So sad, and while they probably know no different, it continues to break your heart.

On the cricket field and our day was one of mixed fortunes. In the morning our bowling and fielding was as good as it has been on this tour.

Warney was at his brilliant best taking seven wickets and turning the ball as if he is at his peak. This is a very, very good sign for the Test match starting in just three day's time.

When it came time for us to bat, we were again a little disappointing against the wily spin and aggressive medium pace bowling of the Mumbai team.

Shane Warne makes a diving stop in Mumbai
Things are looking up for Shane Warne

If nothing else, the most valuable lesson we must learn from our two practice matches is the need to be patient when batting here in India.

If we can follow our captain's example in this regard, we will fair much better when the Test matches begin.

On paper, the last three days don't appear to have been overly successful, but I am sure we are all learning valuable lessons leading up to the all important first Test.

With two days of preparation to go, I would hope we will be at our best come ball one of the first test on Tuesday.

From Mumbai, JL

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