Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Gully Mohalla Cricket Clubs

The Gulli Mohalla Cricket Clubs

The Preface:

This is not a work of creativity. I am not saying that I have plagiarized this from some other author but what ever I have written in here is all the idiosyncrasies that I have observed and gone through myself on local level cricket grounds/ Road side, on the road cricket, the cricket in the balconies, drawing rooms, bedrooms, Corridors of Hostels as well as hospitals.

Cricket lovers in India like me just require a will to play and the old adage “where there is a will there is a way”, follows instantaneously and some time miraculously too. The players, the equipment, the rules all become flexible as per the mood of players (Some times it can be a single player as well.)

I have tried to bring forth the linkages of cricket with different Indian processes and rituals that makes cricket such an adorable game in India? What goes through the minds of the reincarnations of the Sachins, the Sehwags, and the Gangulys when they make their strides in to the grounds, the roads, the balconies and some times courts of other sports as well?  

This column is linkage to my memories of playing as well as watching the sport which like me most of the Indians adore as more of an insider than an outsider. 

Chapter -1
The formation of the Club/Teams/two individuals:

The proximity connect: More often then not it’s the Geographical connect between the members of the club. The usual same age group boys staying in same or near by housing society form the members of the club. The best part about this club is the synchronization that they exhibit in terms of start and stop of the play.

The play is on two times to even three times a day during the summer vacations but it is totally off during the examination time. The play during the normal time starts meticulously in the evening and finishes off as well with precision (Thanks to the tuition and coaching classes).

I still have distinct school time images of Me, Iyer, Chaubey, Baljeet, Vicky, Appu, Chini, playing in the grounds (I am just using ground as a word for my own convenience. To be very frank they were just about 2500 Sq. ft of open space with a lot of control required on batting so that the ball remains in play. )

Some times I remember that how the not so old Uncles while coming back from offices before having their cuppa Chai use to test the sharpness of their skills with bat and bowl (more often then not it used to be Bat). The first step to join the play use to be standing on their scooters for some time and exchanging some smiles with the cricketers. There use to be a bit of comments on the play before making it obvious that they want to join in. If their skills were still young (at least on that day) they automatically use to get their Chellas (fellow students), if the skills were a bit (or a lot) rusty they use to make themselves the gurus of cricket. The Channel of Gyan of cricket and memories of golden age of cricket (not the 1983 or carry packer age) but the college ages or school times when they mystically (as it use to appear to the young boys) used to be ultra talented.

What use to give these uncles more joy was the fact that the boys use to take it as a challenge to get them out (or at least beat him) and for that they use to deploy best of the bowlers for those 2 to 3 deliveries. Not to mention the wives of these uncles watching from Balconies for grabbing a chance to cheer their hero or to tease him once he comes back home depending on performance. This to my mind is the most perfect example of an “a win- win situation”.

I can still remember those chilly days of December first week during the Babri Masjid demolition, when cricket use to take away the tensions of Communal riots in Bhopal, There was curfew imposed in Bhopal and we use be at our colony’s common roof entire day to keep ourselves basking in the sun during the winters apart from guessing that the smoke emerging out belongs to which part of the Bhopal. We use to play cricket as well. Amongst all of us at the roof top a battery powered radio use to be there. That time Anil bhaiya, Deepak bhaiya, Anand, Annu, Me, Baba, Dhramadhikari Uncle all use to play cricket on the roof for most of the day. Amongst these roof-top cricketers Anil, Deepak, and Anand all had their own shops in the market place and it is still beyond my imagination and comprehension the kind of stress they must be going through during the curfew period. There were at least 3 -4 arsoning cases that use to get reported in our area every day. But it was the magic of cricket that uses to keep their minds off the tensions in the city.

The biggest problem that we use to face was the fact that whenever the ball use to go down the roof that was the end of it. To keep the play going either we were required to have a new ball in stock or stop the play till the break In Curfew.
Suddenly the plastic ball entered in to the list of essentials to be bought along with Wheat, Milk and Pulses during the curfew breaks.

In the nights of summers the Shopkeepers across the main road use to play Night cricket under the lights. Please do not think that these were flood lights. These use to be the Sodium vapour lamps of the Main road. The plastic ball use to be White in Colour. The most significant instrument they use to play with was the stumps (innovative stump). It uses to be the rectangle shaped standing sign board of the Sunraj Electricals. 

The coach and the guide: Epitomizes energy conservation principles.
The Old Foxes:

Most of the clubs more often then not has an elderly member (usually in his high 30’s). They are the living legends of the sport. There dedication and passion for the sport is unquestionable and unparallel.

Every day waking up in morning at 6 o’clock and being at ground at 6:30 AM sharp. No matter how late and for what reason they have slept so late. Playing one match at the ground from 6:30 to 8:30, and then rushing back to home to get ready for the office becomes a part of routine.

These are the old foxes of the game and are keen students of the game as well. Nothing hides their eyes. A first look at them when they are not in action will give a feeling they are the luggage in the team. But the looks could be deceptive. Once in action they prove out to be biggest assets of the team. 

They epitomize the laws of energy conservation. Only that amount of energy is released which is necessary. The super computers works out efficiently which part of ground will allow an easy double.

The usual position for these old foxes is behind the wickets. They always have advice, tip or instructions ready to be served at any moment of the game. Some of the tips are like “ tez phenk”, “one bounce throw”, which end to throw, “Back up kar”, “Off ki line par phenko”, “khinch ke khila”, “Pair nikal ke khel”, “Start le”, etc. Meaning of some of the tips like “Khinch ke khila” and “Chad ke Khel” still eludes me. 

These old foxes have only interest in playing the game. Not in winning it. Some times even the umpire decision gets over ruled because these old war horses are considered to be more reliable sources of decision making.

One of the key contributions these people bring with them is discipline. There is no usage of Abusive language (Gali Galonch), no consumption of tobacco products (Gutka and cigarettes) on the field.

The Rule making process: 

The rule making process is a complex one to explain but not at all complex to follow. I am not sure that with my limited writing abilities I will be able to explain the same. The rule making process broadly depends on 5 major factors, The Number of players, Ground size, Playing material, the proximity factor and the amount of energy the players want to spend.

Actually the number of players and ground size are the two functions that play crucial factor in rule making.  Ten odd players are fit for a ground to play on; they are also fit to play on a 1500 odd square feet roof as well. Only difference that differentiates the two plays is the common fielding.   

The overlapping of standard rules to the Gali Mohalla cricket rules keeps on increasing with the standard cricket as the ground size and the number of players keep on increasing. The rule making process takes a new innovative and creative turn when the game is played on roofs, corridors, roads, gullies and other such places.
Caught “One tip one hand” happens to be the most prevalent and almost a taken for granted rule at such venues. This rule specifically helps while playing on roof top and other congested venues as the batsmen use to take less liberty while shot making. Talking about roof top cricket one rule was unquestionable that was if ball goes out of the roof the batsmen is out and the batsmen has to go downstairs to fetch the ball. With such rules in force the cricket suddenly takes a drastic turn and becomes a Bowlers game.

I still have vivid memories of cricket that we use to play on MIG flats roof. Sachin Bramhe, Amit Kurchania, Nanu and his brother, Lokesh and Sannu all of us use to play. A light weight Plastic ball, a standard light weight bat made out of Spruce wood, and Chappal marked virtual stumps use to be the part of accessories used. One of the most ambiguous rule uses to be that a batsmen cannot be given out on a “fast delivery”. Judgment of this fast delivery has got nothing to do with objectivity. Decisions usually use to go in favour of that team which has got a better arguer. The straight walls around 7 feet wide on both sides of the bowler use to be the hitting area for 2 runs, the deep walls on long on and long off use to be the boundary walls. Running was not at all allowed as it uses to make tremors at the homes down below.

There were certain houses where if the ball was gone that use to be the end of it. Suddenly the ball’s ownership use to get transferred to those house owners. Not to mention the penalty to the batsman who has made the shot use to be out and this use to be beyond discussion and arguments.

Playing on roads used to be more fun then playing on roofs. Me, Ramu anna, Pappu, Abhay Gwaliorkar, Amit Deshmukh (Tukdi), Manish Malhotra (Mannu or Monto) we all use to play on the road in front of Tukdi’s government quarter in South TT Nagar. That use to be fun. We had two amazing close range fielders who use to guard the positions of forward short leg and Silly point. And they were so sharp at there fielding that they never use to miss a single catch. Actually these two were the trenches on the two sides of the road and any stroke that uses to make the ball reach direct to those trenches that was the curtains for the batsman. The matches used to be very intense, and the series was known as the “Pepsi cup”. The winning team used to get treated by Pepsi.

Bunking the classes at school and playing cricket was almost a routine then an exception. A folding steel chair use to act as stumps. Scoring was possible in all forms Boundaries and running. We all use to buy formal school shoes open air foot path markets which used to cost around Rs 90/- a pair. Even if the shoe bites the dust the pinch never uses to get to the wallets.

The euphemistic names of the comrades:

As the games rules changes so does the names of the team members. Mostly this naming process depends on the on field etiquettes and mannerisms exhibited by these players.
Names like “Jad boot” (Heavy footed), “Shaktiman” (The power man), “Gada- dhari Bheem”(Legendary Bhima carrying a mallet ), “Dimboo”, “Bhata phek” (One whose bowling action is like a stone thrower), kadhi (euphemism for Marathi Commarades), Sindhi, Half Cut, Nagraj, Goga, Doga etc to name a few.
It’s too obvious that players would be named in the names of popular players as well. But it’s not only on real life players but nomenclature also follows the reel life names. Bhuvan, Kachra and Goli are a few names from the blockbuster         “Lagaan” which are freely used while playing.

The sporting equipments:

The art of making standard cricketing equipments is indeed a subtle art, but finding a suitable substitute to the standard sporting equipment is as subtle as it gets. From marking three lines on a wall from a piece of brick or coal representing never falling stumps, to using a tyre (as large as a bicycle tyre to as small as a scooter tyre). From bats to stumps and even the balls all can be made from the surrounding materials. As I said in the preface that it just requires a will to play and the way follows instantaneously as well as miraculously.

The Stumps are equipment which has most number of substitutes. Most close relative is a set of three sticks taken from near bushes and making them fit in to grooves of two bricks. The most problematic part with this kind of stump is the moody nature in terms of standing capabilities of these stumps. Some times they are as easy to erect that it seems like a child’s play, but on its day it can defy all the principles of civil engineering and will not stand up at any cost.
The second most common substitute for the stumps is the three small pebbles. I call these as the “virtual stumps”. They are the guiding stars of the stump line but the only problem is that the height of these stumps tends to go to infinity. And also to prove that the batsman is out or not out requires lot of debate and imagination (in case of getting an out decision this imagination only click to the bowling team). The same visual which is crystal clear to the bowling team seems to evade the batting team’s eyes as if nothing has happened. But these stumps are very helpful as they are readily available across all the geographies and also the installation is the simplest.

Another set of stumps made of stones is more tangible in terms of contact area with the ball. These stumps are made by placing one over other square, rectangle and other near quadrilateral shaped rocks. Every team has a subject matter expert in arranging these rocks to form a sustainable stump. The problem with these stumps is the dependence on subject matter expert and the erection time after every collapse.

The most widely used set of stumps on the street cricket is a chair (a folding iron chair or a PVC chair). The PVC chair forms a three dimensional stump as even if the ball hits the width part of the chair the batsman is declared out.

The substitute for a bat is available in almost all the homes in India. The name is “Mogri”, a bat shaped wooden equipment used for washing clothes. Even the rectangle wood pieces from the cartons are used as bats. Bats are also made up of packaging spruce wood. In tennis ball cricket these bats do pack a punch.
The balls are some times made of compressed pieces of poly bags tied with a rubber band or a string and it is ready to be used. During my MBA days we even use to play with a table tennis ball in our hall during night. One thing to mention that in throw and under arm bowling the kind of spin talent Guli cricket has got can easily make Shane Warne, Murali, and Saqulain run for there money. Raghu who is a very close friend of mine use to twist his wrists in so many ways and yet miraculously could throw a ball which does not even spins an inch and comes as straight as a dart.  
The discussions at the end of the match:

The discussions at the end of the match and in between and during the match vary from cricket to beauty analysis of girls to movie reviews to home works and studies as well.

One thing that caught my attention is the fact that the cricket jargon gets changed as per playing community.  In Kolhapur all of us who play are Bankers and some one getting out on a duck is called as a “cheque bounce”, and when the first delivery of the over gets beaten for a boundary the bowler is instructed to check “infant delinquency”.

I still could remember the lanky figure of Pappu bhai, the local cable operator of Income Tax colony. He used to open the batting for his team. There was only one shot in his stroke making dictionary, the long heave over Long on.  More often then not the connection use to fail and he use to come back saying “Bat pe sahi se nahi aayi”.
The post match analysis tends to be a bit longer during the Sundays. Sometimes even movie reviews, political analytics, Girls next doors anything use to occupy the discussion table (discussion ground).

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