Just when the Fab Four of Indian Cricket are getting ready to hang up their gloves, pads and abdominal guards to take up offers from various channels to provide high class analysis and commentary, I made a triumphant return to competitive cricket last weekend. Yeah, I played cricket at a ground near my home.
It had been years since I played a 'match' against a team.It bought back all the old memories of the days when I was a kid.In those days (feels like I am writing some ancient history), our one and only occupation during holidays was to spend the whole day in a ground playing 'bet' or 'friendly' matches with any team available. The salient features of those days can be summarised as below:
- First and foremost, get your friends to get up early in the morning and come to play and believe me with some of the 'Rip Van Winkles' we had, it was a hard task.
- Contribute to get a ball. Though the ball would cost 2 rupees, I had to beg our parents to get the 25 paise - my contribution to the ball.
- Reach the ground and look for a suitable stretch to make it your pitch. The accepted way was to pitch your stumps between two other pitches already occupied, with leaving enough space so that players from other pitches affect you as minimally as possible. If you did not find any space, then do what everyone does, intimidate a bunch of kids younger than you to give up the space they had already occupied. Or play a match against those kids to defeat them and occupy the space once they left. Though both of them were effective ideas, sometimes it used to backfire.
- The next step was to search for a team which is willing to play against you. You go all around the ground asking everyone if they are interested in a match. Sometimes we used to spend the whole day looking for a worthy opponent (By that I mean whom we could beat easily).
- Once you find a team, the next stage was negotiations. The amount of the bet (we have played bet matches from 50 paise-1 rupee to 200-300 bucks), total number of overs, total number of players in the team (again this too varied from 6 to 16 in each team), the boundaries (usually the third tree after the bush, or the second stone straight or the stumps of another bunch of kids playing at the far end used to become our boundaries), the rules (whether there is runs for an overthrow, wide, no ball. In later days, we also discussed whether chucking is allowed or not as many kids decided to adopt Shoaib Akthar as their idol). All these formed the subject of intense negotiations and in many a cases, the talks broke down in the middle as one of parties couldn't agree to the terms and conditions.
- After the talks, it was time for toss and the basic rule was bat if you win.
- Now comes the actual game.We used to have lotsa fun. Arguing at each ball bowled. Fighting with the umpire for each decision against us. Fist fights with opposite team, swearing to be mortal enemies hereafter. In short,it was wonderful.
- We learnt multitasking in these play grounds. A player fielding at 'Point' for one match would also be a 'Long on' for another match.
Over the years, this has not changed and even after a long time when I set foot in to the ground yesterday, I saw similar scenes all over. The only change is I couldn't see a single familiar face as most of my contemporaries are either involved in developing second or third chins or adding another tier to their midriff region. Many of them have ventured in to the land of matrimony, never to return.
I had a wonderful time playing even though the kids in the ground were calling me 'uncle'. They were giving me respect and wanted me to field in front rather than on the out field(well I take it as a gesture out of respect rather than the fact that I could not run and pick up the ball). All these reminded me of the truth that I no longer am the young turk that I was and the aches all over my body today re-emphasises that.....