Backyard cricket

Watching Yuvraj hit six sixers was fascinating. Even though it was a so-so TUV online view, it exhilarated me, got the blood coursing through the old and brittle tubes, through those walls scaled with I am sure, plaques from all the cholesterol deposits…

I learnt the first cricket lessons from my dad in Koduvayur – Palakkad. Dad used to play for Madras Presidency College in his heydays and he taught us batting & bowling in the longish front yard that served as our makeshift cricket pitch. The first cricket bat was fashioned out of a reaper – plank from some packing material by our ‘karyasthan’ Eecharan who had come from Pallavur for some work. Thus we crafted our front foot drives up the slope in front of the house. One had to be careful bowling out there, behind the batsman was the front portico of the house and a number of windows that just cried out to be broken. From the beginning we were warned that should a window get broken, we would get grounded…Actually I can’t remember breaking any windows of that house. It was funny – a few hundred yards away was the border wall separating the Koduvayur market and behind the walls was where the butchers killed & skinned the sheep. On this side of the wall were the two brothers swatting a tennis ball with dad.

At Pallavur, it was much better; there was plenty of space and on vacations, plenty of players. First we had a round of seven stones, a game where seven flat stones are piled up and you knocked them down with a tennis ball. (How the game is played is well explained here and I am sure most of you know anyway. But did you know that it is also popular in Africa and the Middle East? Take a look at what this Jordanian blogger says. It is called 7sang in Iran and sab3 hjaar in Arabic). After everybody got bored with that and had snacks and tea, we started the serious cricket game which usually ended in much arguments, especially with the umpire on LBW decisions. Some days when the umpire was a very young kid, we did away with the LBW rule as we learned that a glowering batman ensured that he was never given out. The boy/girl simply got too scared to make the objective decision.

Then came the teenage periods and college days when it was real cricket with the regular kit and well, that was another zone altogether.

But after my children started growing up, we took up home cricket again, mainly while on vacations at Pallavur and Calicut. This normally included me, my two sons and anybody else who was around. Thus cricket remained in our lifeline. All of us eagerly followed the travails of the Indian cricket team, from sorrow to shame to the odd yipeed victory. From Chandra, Bedi and Gavaskar to today’s Sreesanth & Yuvraj Singh..

It really went up a notch while at the UK. We had a backyard where we had a decent lawn, a small fish pond and a garden. But we soon figured out that it was a wonderful cricket pitch, what with the granite stone pathway serving as our own Lord’s pitch. The fence corner served as the wicket and for months we sounded the boards with gay abandon. First it was with tennis balls, but we found that the balls bounced off the pitch when you pitched short or when snicked and landed in the backyard of the houses bordering us. If there were people around, they tossed the ball back to us, if not we had to stealthily lift he boards, sneak in and get them from those backyards (I am sure some CCTV footage – i.e. if somebody had monitoring- would have caught us doing that). Some houses were out of bounds, especially the one behind us, the woman there who was more a walking chimney (you see - most English smoke outside the house these days – so they are always wandering about in the yard) and not very easy to deal with. She got irritated with the ball landing in her yard and shocking her out of her smoke filled reveries.

The tennis ball soon changed to cricket balls and we became expert at bowling fast, full and furious. The rule was not to allow the ball to hit the boards or it made a huge racket like an exploding cracker. The other rule was to hit the ball along the ground. Oh! England is really the home to Cricket, we could even buy swinging balls with two dissimilar surfaces so you can perfect your out & in swing. We were cover driving and on driving with gusto, and perfecting the art of the dead block. Spin bowling – both off and leg were very effective so long as you did not bounce the ball too much and well, the game went on till about 8 PM on summer days, the only days when it was dry & warm outside. We played through early winter even, especially when the bigger boy was home for holidays. Fully covered with jackets and thick trousers, we continued enthusiastically with our form of cricket.

This went on, until one day when I got a little irritated (like road rage, it was ball rage maybe) for some reason and smacked the ball with gusto, right into the next yard. The ball landed on the glass roof of our neighbor’s newly built conservatory (the glass structure with white borders). Mercifully nothing broke, my son ran away and I was left to answer and apologize to the irritated man. He politely came by and stated grimly that the ‘missus’ was not too happy about the prospects of a cricket ball landing on their newly built ₤8,000 conservatory. We got the point fast and switched back to tennis balls and sneaking into others yards for the edged ball.

With that we stopped backyard cricket with the cricket ball – soon we moved to the USA and that was it. Cricket now remains on the video screens and in our minds. To this day I am sure that our UK neighbors would have heaved a sigh of relief when a 40 foot container of stuff and the curry making, noisy family of cricket players moved far away, across the Atlantic.


Pradeep said…
I vividly remember your father listening to cricket commentary on the transistor radio, sometimes when even standing outside the house. And we used to discuss cricket with him.

this bit of news
that Australia is planning to experiment with day-night cricket...
narendra shenoy said…
I also remember being seriiously well informed back then. Knew everyone's batting and bowling averages, highest scores, best wicket taking, highest score at Kotla ground by a team batting second where thirty seven point nought five percent of the players are brown and so on.

Also loved the cricket commentary which was extremely word filled. They had to keep yakketing all the time, and would inadvertently liven up things by saying that Binny's balls are swinging a lot, causing the batsmen some trouble.
I remember as a kid, playing cricket in Bombay, getting our tennis balls confiscated when it went into the bare ground floor balcony of the nag-aunty's house. And man, here you are hitting a cricket ball into the roof of a ₤8,000 conservatory. Takes guts :D
Happy Kitten said…
Maddy.. how about Missus. is she a crkt fan too? It normally works that way since the men are eternally switched to the crkt channel, the ladies are forced to watch and get addicted too....
Maddy said…
Thanks Praedeep- He had one of those panasonic transistor radios with the leather cover..SW reception was the problem sometimes!!

Narendra - that must have been suresh saraiyah at work, not the morose anand setalwad!!

BPSK - Bombay had competitive street cricket, i remember my uncles place in ghatkopar!!

HK- yes, the missus is a cricket fan but only the faster varieties of 20-20 and one days,not tests!!!
Sunita said…
I'm sure your neighbours must've wished their forefathers had not introduced the sport to the colonies. Do you think it is the combination of cricket and curry that makes it such a hot favourite among us Indians? Maybe the curry is a catalyst.