A repeat for the cricket season
The cricket season was in full swing. The schools were closed for summer vacation. I saw daily about a dozen young boys in the age group ranging from nine to eighteen playing cricket in the vacant ground opposite to my house. The sun may be scorching at 40 degrees Celsius but the boys were there undaunted by 11am, some with oversized county caps and some bare headed. Only some boys had shoes while the rest played with chappals, Hawaii or otherwise. There were three stumps on one side and a bamboo stick doing the duty of a stump at the bowler’s end. They played with used tennis ball as they had no money to buy a regular cricket ball. There were two pads with one of them smaller than the other. The batsmen chose one each according to their heights. A torn hand glove was used by boys who were timid in heart. None of these deficiencies dampened their soaring spirits or muted their loud appeals.
They adopted a shortened version of IPL T20 by dividing the number into three teams and played 6 overs each. They christened themselves with equally high sounding names though they lacked the colourful uniforms or the smiling faces of celebrities. Luckily they had a common set of cheer leaders for all teams drawn from urchins of less than 7 years with or without shirts aping the lusty movements of the regular cheer leaders we saw in TV. There was the unfortunate incident of one mother pulling away her 5 year old girl from the cheer leaders’ team for what she considered an obscene movement of the child’s posterior.
As I watched daily from the balcony of my house, I saw one fat boy sitting alone under the tree besides an improvised score board without playing on any single day. I called him and asked him his name and why he was not joining others in the fun. Amidst sobbing he told that he is Sunil Kumar a Gujarati boy and that the boys were not taking him for the game though he was pleading with them daily. It seemed they were telling the poor boy that he was the owner of all the three teams like Sharukh Khan or Preity Zinta and should therefore remain at the pavilion. I felt it was unfair to exclude a colony boy on silly grounds of possibly being a Gujarati and called three captains who were playing.
.I asked them “Why are you excluding him? If there are thirteen players, let one sit out by turn.”
The boys said in chorus that he was the owner. I got annoyed and shouted “What rubbish are you saying? What owner? Take him for the game or I will not allow you boys to play here/”
The boys pleaded “Uncle, the bat, ball, stumps, pads and gloves belonged to him. That is why he is the owner.”
I said “Are you not ashamed? The boy is giving you all the equipments for you to play with .Without them you cannot play at all. Don’t you have a sense of gratitude?”
The boys again said in one voice “Uncle, he is not giving them free. He collects a rent of Rs.10 each day.”
When I looked at the boy, he put his head down in shame. I made the compromise that he will collect Rs5 henceforth for wear and tear and that he should be included in the team. That left everyone happy including the chubby Gujarati boy. I remembered Vijay Mallya’s words that IPL had a corporate side too. The Gujarati boy true to his nature remembered it in the local T6 tournament.