The short form of cricket being the flavour of the season,I am posting an old story on this theme written almost a decade back for readers who had not followed my blog then
The cricket season is in full swing with annual T20 tournament being played across the country drawing everyone to the grounds or the TVs whichever was convenient. The schools were closed for summer vacation. I see daily from the porch of my apartment about a dozen young boys in the age group ranging from nine to fifteen playing cricket in the large vacant space of my housing complex. The sun may be scorching at 40 degrees Celsius but the boys are at the ground by 11am undeterred by the sweltering heat. A few wore over sized county caps while most were bare headed. Only some boys had shoes while the rest played with or without chappals, mostly Hawaii. They played with three stumps of irregular heights on one side and a bamboo stick doing the duty of a stump at the bowler’s end. They used old tennis balls as they had no money to buy a regular cricket ball. There were two pairs of pads with one pair being smaller than the other. The wicket keeper had to be content with torn and frayed gloves. For the timid among the boys, an old hand glove was available but rarely used. None of these deficiencies dampened their soaring spirits or muted their loud appeals during the game.
They adopted a shortened version of T20 format by dividing the number of available boys 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 to own and patronize the teams. Luckily they had common cheer leaders for all the teams from urchins of less than 7 years with or without shirts aping the lusty movements of the regular cheer leaders we see on the 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 was watching daily from the porch of my apartment, I saw one fat and short boy sitting alone under a tree beside an improvised score board. I have never seen the boy 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 replied, “I am Sumitkumar. I keep asking my friends to include me in any of the teams but they refuse asking me to look after the scoreboard. They keep telling me that I am an owner like Sharukh Khan or Preity Zinta and should stay in the pavilion with dignity as they do.
“This is grossly unfair. Each one of you can take care of the score board by turn. What is this nonsense of you being an owner? Call the boys right now. I will have this matter sorted out,” I said angrily.
“Uncle, it could be because I am a Gujarati boy and my Tamil is not that good,” he added to buttress his case.
I felt it was unfair to exclude a colony boy on silly grounds and called three older boys from among those who were playing.
“Why are you excluding Sumitkumar? I learn he is benched daily. Is it because he is from another part of the country? If there are thirteen players, let one sit out by turn to look after the score board. If you people behave like this, I would see that the ground is not used for playing cricket,” I said in feigned anger
The boys said in chorus, “No Uncle, though a Gujarati he can speak Tamil as fluently as any of us and can even swear in filthy manner. We have not excluded him for his being Gujarati but because he is the owner of all the teams. Owners do not play.”
I got annoyed and shouted “What rubbish are you saying? What owner? Include him in the game or I will not allow you people to play here anymore.”
The boys pleaded “Uncle, kindly listen to us. The bat, stumps, pads and gloves belong to him. That is why he is the owner.”
I shouted “Are you not ashamed? The boy is giving you all the equipment for you to play with. Without them you cannot play at all. Yet you do not have any sense of gratitude?”
The boys again said in one voice “Uncle, he is not giving them free. He collects a rent of Rs.10 per day. It is actually high for us but he would not reduce the amount.”
When I looked at Sumit, he hung his head down as if to confirm what was said. “I have considered your points. Henceforth Sumit would collect Rs5 per day and he should be included in one of the teams. Score board would be taken care of one of you by turn. Sumit will arrange to get a good fourth stump instead of a bamboo stick. Since you are playing with tennis ball, there is no need for batting pads or gloves for batsmen.” I concluded
That compromise left everyone happy including Sumit who remembered that T6 tournament too had a commercial angle.