A passion that WAS – Part 1 ;)

Arre Pavan, Yahaan pe jo koi bhi hai sab ko international cricket mein jaane ka 0.0001% toh chance hain, par tera toh bilkul bhi koi chance nahi yaar…

These were the exact words as I remember the Chimpanzee(aka Naveed ,Team Captain & Classmate) had said. He & people around were rolling on the floor with laughter. He said that neither because I was out clean bowled with each stump landing in three different directions nor because I was a big duck in the match. He said that after seeing me walk back after getting out. Flustered, insulted, angry, face as white as a ghost & now come to think of it probably a bit scared too :D. I just gave a wry smile back and crashed onto the ground. And see, his prediction was right. I didn’t make it to international cricket :P :P . That was my second official match for Section A Team. I was in 9th standard.

2 years ago

(Dad) “Why so serious, Son??? Lets put a smile on that face…” (All you Dark Knight fans relax, I am not The Joker! :P) Yippee! This has got to be one of the best days in my life until then! A no-strings-attached permission from Dad allowing me to play cricket every Saturday after school :P :D… that too despite vehement protests from Mom :D….Phenomenal! Well… I have to admit I don’t remember much of my cricket playing days before my 6th standard. But I sure made up for it during the later half of my school days. Now all you readers, sit back, and let nostalgia kick in as I recount My Experiments with Cricket ;)

Cricket on Saturday afternoons was awesome fun. As soon as the last bell rang on Saturday 1 pm, we would all meet up & everyone in the group would be intimated as to what time to be back to the ground (around 2 usually). I would take a drop on someone’s cycle and rush home, drop the bag, change, have lunch and rush back to the school ground. Our school ground had no name as such, but for us, it was the Mecca Of Cricket, bigger in stature than the Ovals ,The Eden Gardens etc etc . My homeground :)

Let me explain the format of our game first. We, as a group, were unanimously against full length games with 10-15 overs a side, full length pitches and full arm bowling right from the beginning. Wise men that we were, we knew that would waste a lot of time and we would be too tired too soon to enjoy the game. Thus the concept of “short boundary” came into being.

Rules & Regulations:

– Number of overs depending on the number of players (universal rule ;))
– A very short boundary (so that we don’t need to slog much running)
– A small pitch (around 10 yards I guess)
– Bowling is standing from the bowler’s crease and delivering the ball.
– A six would get the batsman out. (That’s why the name short boundary)

Now to the selection of the stumps. This is one area where every Indian gulli-cricket-player is at his imaginative & creative best. We promptly zeroed on the kho-kho pole! That should’ve been the smallest stumps ever used in terms of breadth. ;) Now the best part! Right from the time we started playing, we always used only cork balls to play and never ever turned back to tennis or rubber ball after thatJ . Playing with a cork ball is pretty exciting. Also as it gets older, the surface of the ball gets rough & patchy. So it becomes easy to grip & it generates much better spin than a tennis ball or a rubber ball. Now everyone in the team was a Shane Warne! :D Also surprisingly, I don’t remember anyone getting seriously injured during all the time we played :)

We had decided right from the beginning that we needed more practice on the offside for us to blossom into great players.:P The decision was taken with immediate effect . No runs on the onside! Modesty be damned, I was the most dependable player in the group. And I guess much to the amusement of others, I used to take the game way too seriously. Others were the kind who would not hesitate to forfeit the match after batting just because they don’t want to field. :D. And we got used to this kinda cricket so much that when we played matches against other team where runs could be scored all round the wicket, most of us had forgotten there is something called onside where we can hit and score runs too :D . Soon we were regularly playing on weekdays too after school hours. I sometimes used to reach home at 6:30 – 7 pm on weekdays after a 2 hour session of play. Life was good then, in fact, great. And the images just don’t disappear from the mind’s eye…. The memories don’t fade…. And one of those days when I returned home late, took off my shoes and was about to enter the house , I could see a silhouette framed against the open door. Dark & eerie. I strained my eyes to see what it was. And then a lightning struck far far away and threw light for a split-second on the figure at the door. I could feel a terrible lump go down my throat & land in my stomach .My legs would give away, not out of exhaustion & fatigue but out of dread. Mom! A very very pissed off Mom! Yeah, some memories just DON’T fade away… :D.

Then there were the Section A – Section B matches. I was from Section A. And we pretty much sucked in our cricket. Chimpu (our Section A captain :D) used to come and play short boundary cricket with us regularly. He discovered an unpolished diamond in me (:P) and one fine day he said, “Pavan, Tu team mein aaja…” Yay! I was in the team.( Yeah yeah, Section A team, not even class team, oh let’s not even talk about school team. It should be pretty much clear by now I ain’t hear to brag about my talent in the game :P) And overnight we became the undisputed champs!!! Just Kidding . We still got pwned in most of the matches and in the process some cash to the other team :D :P

You will see some improvements in standards once you start playing for the official team – you use a proper cricket ball (the red ball all with the leather & the seam over the cork core), there is a mat along the pitch so that an even bounce is generated and you get to wear gloves on your hands and pads on your legs! And that was my nemesis in my first official match. I couldn’t run to save my life wit the pads on!!! And then, as wretched as it seems, I had to call for a runner. One fine delivery, I hit for a single, my runner ran & I ran along with him & then there was chaos. I was run out after scoring one :P . My 2nd match, as already explained , was a superior debacle. But soon I found my confidence and started making useful contributions. Alas! All good things come to an end. The clock was ticking. Soon they said – “ You have had enough fun now .You need not come to school from tomorrow.” And they handed me a certificate. :( The end of an era ….

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