the-south-asian Life & Times                       April-June 2011




 Editor's Note


 Cover Story

 Team India Readies
 for World Cup 2011

 India's Foursome

 Golden Age of Polo
 in India


 Rare & Royal Classics


 Dalip Singh Majithia
 - the First Landing
 in Nepal

 The First Aerial Shots
 of Mt. Everest

 Trivandrum's New


Travel Destination

 Jim's Jungle Retreat


 The Kalasha

 Lakshan Bibi


 Tiger-Sightings in

 Corbett Wildlife
 by Majid Hussain


 Somdev Devvarman

 By O P Dutta









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Cricket Fever

By O.P. Dutta

Yes sir, cricket is in the air. If you ask me, it has been in the air since long – like a cloud of virus. And when this virus infects an impressionable mind, it gets into the blood stream and there it resides. An addiction it is – this cricket.

I remember the day I was driving my wife (rather bride, because I got married to her only five days earlier) to Ganga Vihar at Marine Drive. Suddenly we came across a match being played on the Gymkhana ground. The bowler hurled a bouncer, the batsman hooked it fiercely, and the fielder threw himself at the ball and hurled it back into the gloves of the wicket keeper. I stopped the car, got down and asked my wife to go ahead to Ganga Vihar "I will join you in a few minutes."

The few minutes turned into a couple of hours as I watched cricket. Eventually, when I reached Ganga Vihar, my wife refused to talk to me. She just couldn’t understand the fascination that I had for the game. "What is so great about wood hitting a leather ball that you neglected the love of your life for hours?" I could have explained it only if I too had understood the fascination for this ball game.

The origin of the game can be traced to croquet – a game played by the royalty along with the ladies at court on the lawn of the royal palaces in England. It was played with mallets and a wooden ball. From royal lawn to the village green the game came to be known as ‘cricket.’

It was played in a competitive mode between two teams of eleven players a side. But at any given time all the twenty two competitors were not seen on the field. You could see only eleven of the fielding side along with two of the batting side – and of course two umpires. The umpire is a demi god. His index finger raised to the sky meant the end of the batsman. This decision could not be questioned. The old saying in English "The umpire’s word is law" is enough testimony to the ultimate authority of the umpire.

The village green brought to fore, people like Dr. W. G. Grace, with his flowing beard. Extremely popular with the crowd, Dr hated to be given out. The story goes thus. W. G. Grace walked into a thunderous applause, took his stance to face the first ball- he was wrapped in pads, and up went the finger of the umpire. The crowd was stunned into silence. Dr. walked up to the umpire and told him "the people around have come to see me bat and not to look at your dreaded finger."

Jokes apart cricket was a gentleman’s game. Even the great Oxford dictionary included the word cricket meaning ‘fair play.’ The elite, mostly Lords, did not want to entertain professional players. But with the passage of time the players asserted themselves, the line of demarcation vanished, and cricket became a common man’s game.

Adventurous by nature and imperialistic by design, the British created colonies in far flung lands, spread over three continents That is why it was said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire." Wherever the English went, they took their cricket along with them as part of their culture. The game was adopted by the locals with an equal passion.

The common man in India quite liked the game but found the kit rather expensive. So the Maharajas of different Indian states extended a helping hand and patronized the game and the players. Rulers of Patiala, Jammu & Kashmir, Gwalior, Baroda and Indore were great patrons of cricket. The game did proper and professionalism came to the fore.

But the game was turned into almost a science – what with the helmets, guards, the coaches, the experts, critics & commentators. The statistics and historians made a buck on the side. There were others who treated it as a business and a very, very lucrative business at that.

In all this mayhem, ‘cricket’ got lost somewhere. I look around and call out to it "I miss you my love where are you?"

An enthusiastic young bowler who had heard of flight of the ball, hurled it up in the sky. The ball did come down and landed on the pitch; the batsman swung the bat and missed. The ball stuck him on the pad. "Howzat!" the bowler appealed till it hurt his larynx. The umpire shook his head in the negative, the bowler went up to him and asked "Do you mean to say the ball would not have hit the stumps if his leg wasn’t there?" The umpire smiled and said "He is not out because with your speed the ball would not have reached the stumps."



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