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Mitchell Johnson, try smashing glasses in gully cricket

Mbangwa
A view of the dented commentary box screen after Mitchell Johnson’s wallop off Tinashe Panyangara Photo Courtesy: Mpumelelo Mbangwa’s Twitter account

While bashing the Zimbabwe non-attack, Mitchell Johnson hit a violent straight drive that smashed a glass panel of the commentary box, leaving spectators in awe and making resulting in social media going viral. Abhishek Mukherjee takes a trip down memory lane to the reactions similar actions evoked in his childhood.

Mitchell Johnson has a moustache (and now a beard to die for); he can bounce out any opposition and run through sides with ridiculous ease. With the bat he can give the ball a serious thwack, as he did today: Tinashe Panyangara bowled too full, and Johnson hit it straight over his head to create a dent in the glass panel of the commentary box. Had the glass been thinner, this paragraph would probably been written in a sombre tone.

The instance took me to my childhood days: when the parks were occupied, we played cricket in narrow gullies, pretending to be the next Dilip Vengsarkar or Mohammad Azharuddin (Sunil Gavaskar was a tad too old when we grew up); we had to play straight to get runs. This should have honed my straight drive, but did not.

Anyway, let us not digress: we usually played with the “cambis” ball (some say the word originates from “canvas”, while some others are of the opinion that one needs to look at “Cambridge” if he is serious about the etymology), which bounced quite a bit. Any stroke played to the square of the wicket (this also included thick edges) often ended up landing inside houses.

As a result we had to resort to one-drop-one-hand: the normal cricket dismissals were in place, but if the batsman played a shot, he would still be out if the fielder could catch on the bounce, provided he caught it with one hand. This brought down the frequency of hitting the ball inside houses significantly.

Unfortunately, there were a few heathens who could not keep their shots in control: they kept disappearing inside the houses. We even devised the rule of half-out to stop this, which, as I look back now, was a rather novel concept: if a batsman sends a ball to one of the “stricter” houses he would be ruled out immediately, while the “lenient” houses would result in a half-out (a batsman had to commit the crime twice to be ruled out).

This concept of half-out turned out to be quite successful. We also saved time, since the ball did not require to be fetched; fetching the ball was something nobody was really keen on, chiefly because our locality was frighteningly short on the count of attractive girls.

Then, one day, one of our batsmen (he will remain nameless) found a juicy over-pitched delivery and could not resist himself. He went for a lofted cover-drive which he timed quite well, and the ball flew at an alarming pace to smash one of the windows. Obviously he was ruled out (and the ball never retrieved), but that was hardly the last of our problems.

We were barred from playing in the gully. The “suspension” continued for a couple of weeks till we slowly came back into our groove and started knocking the ball around in an innocuous fashion. It took another fortnight to get back into complete action.

As you see, Mitchell Johnson, breaking glass with a full-blooded is not necessarily a glamorous act. It looked cool on the telly, but you were fortunate to have done it in an international match. Try doing that in Kolkata gully cricket, and you will have to wait for about a month for competitive cricket.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)

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