It is far more than a game, this cricket – Neville Cardus

Sometimes I take my morning walk in the veterinary college campus and there is a ground where a game of cricket or football can be played.

However I see the following

  • More than four teams playing cricket in different directions interspersing their field with each other
  • One team playing football
  • People like me walking and attempting to run
  • Sports person doing all kinds of vigorous exercises
  • Dogs, some barking and some sleeping

In what looks like absolute chaos , there is absolute harmony.  Each individual is absolutely focused on their field of play.

My Nostalgia Quotient  went high and I thought about the days I used to play cricket.

Cricket consumed me and many others of my generation.

As I reflect and my friend says the only thing I seem to be doing is reflect, I think being maniacal about playing cricket taught me few things and I share them in no particular order.


  • Showing up is important
  • Element of Fun
  • Sense of Humour
  • Team comes first
  • Resource constraints
  • Understand hierarchy
  • Admiring opponents
  • Levelling the playing field

Showing up is important

We played our first match in a inter district school tournament and were thrashed to defeat. All of us were generally dejected at our spineless display. Our Physical Training teacher comes , looks at us and tells us. Folks, “You gave a tough fight. Let us go and have some good lunch”. At that time I thought he was joking. We were absolutely no match for them and lost miserably, but he knew that we were no match for the opposite team and that the very fact we showed up  was good enough for him to make the comment that lifted our spirits momentarily. He will face the wrath of others in the school did not bother him much. He possibly knew that ‘Showing up’ is more important and imbibed that into us that day. You just could become “David”‘s one day against the Goliaths. That is a word we all remember even today. “Tough Fight” and the context in which it was uttered.

Element of Fun

In the same match, our wicket keeper got injured in the nose, in the first few minutes only. One of the fielders threw a ball to him and instead of him showing his keeping gloves to the ball, showed his nose and the nose got punctured by the cricket ball and there was lot of blood flowing. Instead of minding the blood, everyone was teasing him and repeating the sequence of how he came running to the ball showing his face instead of gloves and he instead of being bothered about the blood, was defending himself on how the Sun rays were blinding him and how it happened so fast. He was retired hurt, but came back to bat with the injured nose. We still tease him and he still blames it on the SUN !!. It is not that we were totally devoid of compassion, but it gave us a perspective on how to deal with physical pain. I have seen fractures, crazy injuries, and many other things, but all the folks who got these injuries are back to the field after their visit to doctor, in the capacity of player, cheerleader or spectator. You could take them out of cricket, but you cannot take cricket out of them.

Sense of Humour

In the same match, where we were trashed out badly, one fellow came out with a very interesting observation. He said “Folks – We lost because we hit a six and they did not”. His theory was the opposition did not hit sixes, we hit a six, because of which the ball got lost and the replacement ball which was taken did us in. What a convoluted theory to save our faces in the assembly next day. No one bought that theory, but you could not fail to appreciate the sense of humour in that observation. You always had someone who helped us to laugh at our own selves in any situation and that one quality is a life saver for me. Sometimes it is untimely and sometimes it hurts, but the sense of humour that gets cultivated over a period of time with the like minded folks is a life saver.

Team comes first

In any form of cricket that I have played, between streets, between towns, between schools, it is always a tough choice for the captain to choose the playing eleven.  He knows he has to accommodate everyone in some form or the other. But however, before the captain can make a decision, you will find someone in the team volunteering to stay out assessing the strength of the opposition. While in most places, you will find people arguing on why they should be in the playing eleven , here this individual will argue on why he should not be playing and when this context is set in motion, everyone in the team takes their time off to ensure everyone gets a chance in at least one match or the other.  In one way or the other, the captain’s life was always made easier. There was an innate understanding of what was important at that moment. It was always the Team.

Resource Constraints

The actual cricket ball in which matches were played was the costliest. We used to play bet matches where if we lost, we had to part with a Cricket Ball. It was called ‘Ball Match’ and were pretty important to us. Before we go that kind of match, we used to play in any available space. We have broken window glasses, sent balls into deep wells and keep losing them in many bushes. I have played in all this kind of cricket balls and most times

  • Paper Ball wrapped with Cycle Tubes
  • Table Tennis ball
  • Plastic Ball
  • Rubber Ball
  • Sponge Ball
  • Tennis Ball
  • Rubber Cork
  • Cork Ball
  • Cricket Ball

and any piece of wood , metal could be a bat. But the most useful bat was generally formed from fallen down branches of coconut trees. When summer comes or festive season approaches we need to plan for the Ball matches. Raising money from external sources and boot strapping were known to us at that point in time.

Bootstrapping amounted to each individual bringing scrap items (Old News paper, bulb, iron, metal, cycle carrier dismantled from Dad’s cycles) sneakily from their homes and giving it to a designated seller in the team. The seller in the team is responsible for getting the needed amount from the scrap items.

Raising money from external sources meant printing donation books and knocking every door in our streets, neighbouring streets and anyone who passes through the streets under the pretext of ‘Cricket Tournament’. A person who gave ten rupees was considered as a significant contributor.

With that collected money we used to go to the city to buy cricket kits, set of cricket balls for all planned matches , to and fro to the city from our suburban places which included a sumptuous lunch.

Any constraint that we came up with was always approached with a sense of ‘Possibility Thinking’. We did not run to our parents nor anyone. Even if we ran to our parents , they would have said , “Buddy – Deal with it”.

If we had a problem, we needed to figure out a way to get out of it and we always figured out a way.

Understanding Hierarchy

We used to come from our schools , drop our bags and assemble to play cricket with light, without light . All we wanted was to just keep playing. However you could find out the pecking order in each household. For me, first my grandmother will come and I will not even pay heed to her. She will go . Then my mother will come and howl. I will keep on saying few minutes and she will go. Finally my Dad will come. I  will know that I have to go now. The same used to be the case with every one, except that the pecking order will be different. This gives you an idea of how the hierarchy is established at each household and evolve a strategy to get each one out of the house to play. This strategy is important when we needed to assemble for cricket matches. There used to be matrix for which house , who should go and call at what time, depending on the pecking order of the house.

Admiring Opponents

You would have experienced or witnessed this. An opponent will hit a splendid shot and you will be lost in admiring the shot. When any one asks you what you were doing instead of attempting to stop the ball, you would meekly give in by saying “That was a fantastic shot”. They might grumble, but agree on your view. It is a great sign of appreciating merit , irrespective of the place you see it.

Leveling the playing field

When it comes to the playing ground, you are just one another player. It does not matter who you are or what is your social status. You will have to earn your place by demonstrating your skills and not by virtue of anything else. Only one thing mattered. Are you a team player ? No one could influence you to choose whom you play with and that is true in a game of cricket today. Just go to any ground, street, park or anywhere else, ask them to include you in their game and you will be openly received. No one ever will ask you for your credentials nor even your name. Next day , if you happen to go , you will get a smile and a poser , “Do you like to join”?.  I do not see any other game where you will be accommodated with such warmth!

This was a lengthy ramble, but it begs me a bigger question.

Are my kids enjoying their childhood as I did or is their sense of enjoyment different ?

More about it, some time later.

As you travel in a bus or train you would see countless cricket matches being played in all possible ways.

Are you the creature who will wriggle your head out and see what happened to the ball that was bowled when the bus or train was passing by ?

I am one of those creatures.

I do hope you agree with Sir Neville Cardus quote!

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)