Mates go in to bat for each other

Touring India … Brendan Cowell, Stephen Curry and Damon Gameau.
Touring India … Brendan Cowell, Stephen Curry and Damon Gameau.

Much of Save Your Legs!, Boyd Hicklin's cheerful love letter to really crap cricket, is based on a real tour his own park cricket team, the Abbotsford Anglers, made of India in 2001. A documentary he made afterwards, also called Save Your Legs!, shows that he and his mates really did play on wickets shared with goats, really did play a team of tram conductors serenaded on to the field by a brass band and really and truly got the runs. So it stands to reason that the fictional characters in Save Your Legs! are immediately recognisable.

There's 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 (Brendan Cowell), the colourful boaster who, as Hicklin puts it, ''talks a good game'' (Damon Gameau), and the bloke who looks too fat to make it from one end of the wicket to the other. Then there's Teddy (Stephen Curry), the club president, who wants everyone to take the game a bit more seriously.

Like many current Hollywood characters, these are man-boys torn between their all-male gangs and, for some, their new family responsibilities. Those left behind feel betrayed. When drunkard Rick says nervously that he is going to be a father, Teddy can't even muster a reply. All he wants, he says, is for everything to be like it was.

Hicklin says they invented Teddy's frailty 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. ''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.''

But he was able to return to India with writer Cowell and producer Nick Batzias - also a real-life Angler - to work on the script. Retracing the tour, Hicklin says, ''I was quite amazed at how we pulled it off. A lot of things happened by serendipity, which is what India does for you.''

Attacks of Delhi belly notwithstanding, the film is a tribute to a country Hicklin really loves. It is also a tribute to team spirit. ''Cricket isn't the focus any more,'' he says. ''But, as in the film, those relationships have evolved. There are some fantastic friendships that will last forever.''


GENRE Sunny sports-underdog comedy.

CRITICAL BUZZ As Australian as Vegemite; when it screened at London Film Festival, online critics fished around for other local comparisons, such as Kenny or The Dish, before generally giving it a pasting. Pommy whingers!

STARS Stephen Curry, Damon Gameau, Brendan Cowell.

DIRECTOR Boyd Hicklin.


RELEASE Now screening.

This story Mates go in to bat for each other first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.