Cricket has always been the favourite game of Indians. When I was in school, in Bombay, I remember how every other person would have a transistor stuck on one ear, listening keenly to the commentary. A sudden yelp of “Out!! Out!!”, or breaking into an impromptu dance, was considered perfectly normal behaviour when a person with a transistor on one ear did it.
Or there would be a crowd sitting huddled around a table with a transistor blaring cricket commentary.
Pocket transistors would invariably be on the wish list of many youngsters when an uncle or aunt was visiting from Singapore or Dubai. Young wannabe heroes of the neighbourhood flaunted their pocket transistors when there were girls around. Pocket transistors then had the status that an iPhone has now.
In class rooms, the usually noisy boy would appear to be intently concentrating on the teacher’s boring lectures with his head close to the desk. Even before the teacher could wonder if finally all her disciplining had worked, we would hear him scream out “Gavaskar century!!” He would slowly realise where he was, and not waiting for the teacher to throw him out of the class, would walk out voluntarily. With the transistor, of course. All his friends who were left behind in the classroom would look at their pal with envy.
Those were the pre-TV days. Then TV made its entry into the big cities, and things started to change. Everyone was thrilled at being able to finally see their favourite cricketers in action. We could enjoy each and every ball on all the 5 days glued to the TV.
But there were a couple of small issues here.
Issue 1: not all homes had TV sets. So we would all rush to a TV-owning neighbour’s home, provided they were gracious enough to allow a bunch of unruly kids to sit in for the whole day, shouting and screaming with every ball played. During lunch time enticing aromas would waft gently in from the kitchen. Before we could complete wondering about whether this aunty will be nice enough to offer us some food, we would all be promptly hauled out of the living room, and asked to return after having lunch at our respective homes.
People didn’t crowd around a transistor anymore, but crowded outside a TV appliance store where cricket was shown. The shopkeepers’ not-so-subtle way of enticing people to purchase a TV, probably.
Issue 2: we had school to attend. So the day after the final day of the test match - if it was an important match - teachers would see many leave-letters on their tables.
“As I was not feeling well…. could not come to class”
“As my grandmother was admitted to the hospital…”
“As my uncle got married…”
And the most popular of all excuses-
“As my grandmother died yesterday…”
Don’t know how many grandparents found their names in obituary columns during cricket matches.
That was the frenzy of cricket in India then.
Cricket still holds our countrymen and families together - not religion, not language, not politics.
If Dhoni has young aspiring cricket lovers as his fans on one side, he has an 80 year old person like my mother- a hard-core cricket lover - as his die-hard fan as well.
Be it a community get together, wedding or family meetup, cricket always adds the required bonhomie to the gathering.
And so it was with ‘T-5’, played on Republic Day this year, when the family got together to celebrate the silver jubilee wedding anniversary of my sister and brother-in-law.
It was a match of 5 overs.
There were 5 players in each team. Players’ ages ranged from 13 years to 53 years. And the fitness levels ranged equally erratically.
Knowledge of the game varied from ‘very good’ to ‘completely confused’. Playing experience? Less said the better.
This had all the ingredients that go into the making an interesting match.
Team selection, 2 umpires, fielders, runners for injured players… You may ask - all this in a team of 5?
I guess a little explanation is in order -
The two captains chose their teams with no particular calculation, haphazardly. The 92-year old senior-most member of the family was elected as the third umpire. A person from the batting side who did not have fielding or batting to perform automatically became the umpire on the pitch.
A few trees doubled up as non-complaining dormant fielders, and served as boundary markers as well.
Every run was decided not on its merit, but on the shouting and bullying capacity of the teams. Occasionally ‘run-outs’ happened, or a few extra runs were scored, thanks to people forgetting which team they were playing for.
At the end of all this pandemonium, a very exciting match was played, that had all the elements the best cricket matches have seen -
Runs, cheering, injuries, umpiring mistakes (and the heated arguments that go along with it), and a little match-fixing too.
Lessons learnt from this match:
You don’t need to have the strongest players in your team to win. You just need to know the weak points of key decision makers, and know how to use it.
In this match I knew that our senior respectable third umpire had a weakness for chocolates. All I had to do was bribe him with promises of Lindt chocolates, and promptly decision began to turn in our favour.
Needless to say, our team won. In Lagaan style!