The diary of a cricket fan

Growing up in the middle class Delhi of 80s and 90s, cricket was perhaps the only sport we played and we played it everywhere © Getty Images

 

As a part of my New Year resolutions, I decided I’ll start writing a diary about my favorite sport – cricket. You see, while growing up I was dubbed the ‘Rahul Dravid’ of my mohalla cricket team. Though my playing career didn’t go any further, I feel am as much a student of the game as the esteemed Mr. Dravid. And now that life has brought me into a position where my main job is daydreaming and writing advertisements that not many like to read, I can devote ample time to writing about my passion that cricket is.

 

Childhood memories

 

Growing up in the middle class Delhi of 80s and 90s, cricket was perhaps the only sport we played and we played it everywhere. Colony parks and school grounds were the first choice and when these were not available due to rains or curfews, we played on terraces, in back streets, verandahs, corridors, in fact anywhere we could get decent enough space to bowl ‘one-tip’ bowling. And when even this much space was a premium, we played ‘book cricket’ between school periods and on winter nights at home! Naturally all these different surfaces and conditions demanded a lot of innovations from us. Whatever the day, time or place, only one thing mattered, that we’d to play cricket. Chal, cricket khelte hain (come, let’s play cricket) was the biggest motivation that prompted even a book worm like me to leave his books behind.

 

It was really a time when playing was much more important than winning or losing. The pleasure we got from taking that bat in our hands and playing outside in the scorching May sun was really indefinable.

 

Though every rule could be tweaked, it was mandatory for the ball to be round! The sheer variety of balls we played with was mindboggling. Leather balls, expensive and hard hitting were reserved for inter-colony tournaments. Cosco brand tennis balls, inexpensive, soft and our favorites were meant for parks and school grounds. If these were unavailable, plastic balls known as anda (the egg!) – very noisy and kirmich (soft rubber) balls were used. Only sheer desperation drove us to the latter because they were meant for little kids only. If nothing else worked, or if we’d no liberty to go out and play, me and my brother would crumple up a few newspapers, squeeze them very tightly with the help of rubber bands and voila an indigenous work of art i.e. a makeshift ball became ready!

 

It used to come in shape after a few beatings. Point to be noted, it was meant only for verandah-play, but was the least expensive and noiseless option of all. Ideal for no-homework summer afternoons when Ma was taking a nap! What’s more, we used to make it water-proof by wrapping polythene carry bags over the squeezed newspapers. That increased the longevity from a few over matches to a complete in-house tournament.

 

As for the bat, I’ve played with the usual proper cricket bats, both inexpensive and very expensive willow bats. But the real trick was when it had rained outside or nobody was available to play with. Any heavy long-notebook (a register) or table tennis racquet or badminton racquet or a flat and wide enough stick or bare hands if nothing else was available donned up the hat to be the bat. The best one was the maid’s cloth-beating wooden thapi. It had the perfect shape, size and necessary solidity to make all of us realize the dreams of becoming another ‘Tendulkar‘.

 

There were perfectly logical rules too, like ‘one-tip’ out. This basically means if the fielder catches the ball after one bounce, the batsman will be deemed out. When you don’t have the space to bamboozle or bounce the batsmen, this was the most important rule ever devised! Just keep it straight, a little short-of-length, and you became the highest wicket taker ever in in-house cricket tourneys!

 

Apart from this, there were numerous rules and guidelines that took form as the situation demanded. For example, you couldn’t play on leg side or you couldn’t play on the off; you couldn’t play too straight or you couldn’t play behind the wicket; one neighbor’s house could be out-of-bounds for any kind of aerial shot (because he didn’t give the ball back!); and… *sigh* only the elder brother was supposed to go asking for the ball at that particular aunty’s place because the door will be opened by her beautiful daughter!

 

Those really were the days. Now that I’ve all grown-up and haven’t touched a cricket bat for ages, I can only miss the time when we could play forgetting everything that was happening in the world. Cricket is still a passion, every match is still followed intensively, but free time has become a rarity, and in this daily marathon between home and office, playing cricket is a wish, and a cherished memory from my cricketing childhood.

 

(Adee S is a blogger-poet, daydreamer and full-time cricket follower. He holds an honors degree in English Literature and creates advertisements for paying the bills. His interests are uniquely Indian and include, eating, arguing, adjusting and surviving traffic. You can check his regular blog at: http://delhidreams.blogspot.com/)