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Yesterday I came across the same little fellows playing cricket on the road again. Today, the venue had shifted a little but the road under construction was the same. I again had a little time at hand to observe them closely as my wife had gone into the cream and shampoo shop and I had to twiddle my thumbs waiting for her.

The “arena” today was much neater and cleaner than the last time but was dug about two feet deep and a layer of cement had been put to level out the road. The whole field was 20 meters in length and about 20 feet wide. On one side was a water pipe line which they had earmarked as the boundary for the match. The other side boundary was the edge of the road itself. The wickets were a high metal stool given by the chicken wala uncle on which a big burly cat of the Garfield kind generally sits. The long on/off boundary was the beauty parlour board which was exactly 20 meters from the wicket. Today they were 9 of them including a wicket keeper in that virtual cricket stadium. Vehicular traffic was totally cut off as a little ahead of the parlour board was a road roller standing, waiting for its turn to roll the road.

Well, it was interesting that today they were batting as per a sequence; except for one aberration things were much smoother since last Sunday. One fellow who picked up the bat out of turn was called a YEDA God knows what it means. My main focus was the rules they made as to how one could get out. You hit the ball, one bounce and someone caught it you were out. You hit the ball over the dug road on either side you were out. Any ball going ahead of the parlour board you were out. Any ball cut and went behind the wicket keepers legs you were out, besides, bowled, caught and leg before as normal ways of getting out.

My goodness, what pressure it must be putting the batsman! In the given circumstances one could barely survive a single over. As I observed turnover of the batsmen was quite fast. The beauty was that none of the bigger boys wanted to run and do fielding. So the youngest of them was made to field at long on so to say. The only favour he got was for fetching the ball from far was a baby over that is he bowled three balls for his over in which rest of the rules were the same.

The guys were so meticulous in counting the number of balls left in an over. I heard even the batsman counting the balls announcing it loud like, three to go, followed by two to go in English mind you. The icing on the cake used to be, in case there was a controversial shout for out.  This was referred to a lady running this auto spares shop on the opposite where I was standing. Every one used to make the sign of the replay towards her, as done by the umpires. Auntie’s decision used to be final. Everyone used to cry in unison “out hai” instead of How was that. By the way all sockets in auntie’s shops were plugged in with mobiles of these fellows. In between they used to run to take their calls. They took incoming calls at the peril of the shouts by rest of them not to leave the field. Punishment of attending a call used to be missing your turn to bowl an over.

Well in those twenty minutes they would have bowled 10 overs, about 4 people got out; there were about 10 controversies whether someone was out or not. There were similar amount of referrals for decisions to auntie. Two fist fights for dropping catches. One chap kept picking up pebbles and hitting the fielders who were not concentrating on their job. As the heat of the match picked up my wife had finished her shopping. I had some change in fact a ten rupee coin and called their batting captain of my last encounter that do you need a coin to toss, to which they said “chal foot yede”. What did that mean, I wonder!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis