I speak for all cricket fans when I say that cricket is a ‘Gentleman‘s Game’.
We all have, as cricket lovers, at some point dreamt of lifting the trophies by winning games for our favourite teams. Only a true cricket lover knows how it feels to even have dreams of such moments. So if you are encountered by a true cricket fan, you will get a smile that will say "been there, done that".
Harsha Bhogle , the famous Indian commentator, was once asked that even though Sachin is such a great player, why didn't he manage to get a name on Lord's honours board, indirectly telling Harsha Bhosale that Sachin never scored a hundred at Lord's. Harsha cheekily replied " So whose loss is it? Sachin's or Lord's?"
Sports is my passion and cricket, my first love. I am 77 years now and doctors advice people of my age to stay home as a precaution against COVID.
Watching sports on the television keeps me mentally occupied and happy. In these critical times, the greatest sports extravaganza on earth, the Olympics held in Tokyo, provided great entertainment. The Tokyo Olympics were special for India where it won its first gold medal in athletics. It deserves a special mention in this piece.
Neeraj Chopra in his first Olympics did the country proud by striking gold in the Javelin throw. Neeraj Chopra is a subedar in the Indian army. India also bagged two silver and four bronze medals. The games were also important for the revival of Indian hockey. Indian men’s team won bronze after a long gap and women’ hockey team finished fourth. In weightlifting, Dahiya and Mira Bai Chanu won silver.
Other bronze medal winners were Bajrang Punia and Lovlina Bogohain for boxing and PV Sandhu, badminton.
The Cricket season is also in full swing nowadays. India is currently playing four test series, three ODIs and five T-20s against England. Watching these matches recently, I went down the memory lane.
Cricket played a big role in my character formation. It taught me early in life to take victory and defeat in your stride and respect your opponent. Emphasis in the game is on fair play and mutual respect. Sportsmanship is knowing that it is a game, that we are as good as our opponents. Whether you win or loose, we should always give hundred percent to the game.
This was a time when I was just twelve. Lady Luck smiled on me and I got a chance to play in senior’ cricket team. It is one of the most enthralling memory of my life.
I was initiated in to the game at an early age. I started learning the craft when I was a child. I started playing with improvised bat and a tennis ball. My elder brother Sant bhai, a good cricket player, was my mentor and coach.
I get goosebumps when I recall this cricket match, where I earned reward money of one rupee in all.
I was hardly twelve at that time. My elder brother Sant bhai’s team, Hind Cricket Club was playing a cricket match against a rival team from neighboring colony in Central Park of Lodhi Colony New Delhi. Hind Cricket Club was a registered club and enjoyed a fairly decent reputation in the area. It comprised hand-picked players in the age group of 20 and above years.
It was a Sunday and I was in Central Park by 10 AM, the time for match to start as a young spectator.
It was usual for children and elders to assemble in park to watch matches. Match was about to start and only ten players of Hind Cricket Club had arrived on the ground. It is no secret that a cricket team has eleven players.
Captain was a worried man. My brother Sant bhai suggested to the captain to include me in the team. Why go in to match with ten players. Captain thought for a while and then reluctantly beckoned me to come in. I could not believe my luck. Playing in elders team along side my idol Sant bhai was unbelievable. It was moment of my life. Now or never, I told myself.
Match started and rival team chose to bat. They were going great guns and our captain was a worried man. They were 105 for two at that time. My brother went to captain and suggested that why not give a chance to my younger brother, Harish to bowl. He is left arm, leg break bowler. Again captain did not look convinced but agreed to try me for about two overs. I was highly excited and my heart was beating fast. Calm down, I told myself. This is chance of life time.
Sant bhai set up the field for me and I started bowling. The opposing team thought they had hit a jackpot looking at me. There I was, a twelve year old small frail child in chappals and heavy spectacles walking into the ground. They became over confident and decided to target me.
The batsman blocked the first three balls and went for a strong hit on the fourth. The ball curved, ballooned and went up in the air towards mid-wicket. Sant bhai had positioned himself there. It was a difficult catch but bhai latched on to it. My team shouted in happiness! Everyone clapped and hugged me. I continued to ball from one end and captured four wickets.
We could restrict the rival team to a reasonable score of 180 all out. Our team over-hauled this score for a loss of six wickets and won the match comfortably.
I was hero of the match. My elders lifted me on their shoulders and shouted hip hip hurray. The captain took out a twenty five paisa coin called chavanni those days from his packet and gave me as reward. Three other players also came forward to give me a reward of chavanni each.
What a moral booster it was. I had never seen four 25 paisa coins together. There were tears in my eyes. The audience clapped and youngsters of my age started a chant, champion ,champion, champion. It was a small colony. Word spread around like wildfire that a child played in elders team and captured four wickets.
After this match, children of my age always referred to me as champion.
I was attracted towards cricket from my early days. When I was in class fourth, my sports teacher noticed me playing cricket and took me to the headmaster. He looked at me and said how would you like if we make a school cricket team. I would love it sir, was my reply. Within a week, the cricket team was announced. I was made captain with sports teacher appointed as coach of the team. I was highly excited.
Even touching a brand new cricket bat and ball was an experience for me. Even at the age of 77, I can still feel the smell of cricket willow from which a cricket bat is made. We used to practice regularly and also played cricket matches with local teams of kids our age or little older to us.
In class five, I was admitted to Lodhi Colony high school. One day the peon came to my class and asked for me by name. Head master sahib ne Bulaya hai. I was scared. I had not done any thing wrong. Why me? I thought. As I entered room of our head master, Shiv Dayal, looked at me and asked, you play cricket. ji sir, was my reply. Follow me, he said and walked out of the room.
The players of school Cricket Eleven team were practicing in the net. He asked the captain to pad up and go to the nets. He threw the ball at me and said, bowl to him. I gave my best that day and the captain looked uncomfortable facing my bowling. The headmaster, an ardent Cricket fan, asked him to take me in the team as a reserve player and groom me for the future.
The captain pleaded that Harish is too small and might get injured. Let him come to class eight at least. Back in the room of headmaster, I suggested to him that there should be a cricket team of each class. He liked my idea and asked the sports teacher to make cricket team of each class and let their be inter-class competitions. Within ten days, the teams were announced and I was appointed captain of class five team.
I reached class eighth and was inducted as member of school cricket eleven team. I was the only student from class eighth to make it to school eleven. Another proud moment in my life indeed.
Our cricket team went in to rigorous practice sessions as inter-school tournament dates drew near. I was improving every day. I was a left hand leg break bowler and left handed batsman. I took three to four wickets almost in every match and scored handy 30 to 50 runs. My bowling had improved a lot as I had learnt a few new tricks from Sant bhai. My leg breaks were more vicious, I had learnt to bowl straighter bowls with my leg break action.
I could also bowl bit of off-break with the same action. I was often told that bowling off-break with leg break action was not an easy task and a formidable combination.
Our school was relatively unknown in the world of Delhi school cricket. We performed pretty well and reached the quarter final stage. There we were pitted against a stronger team, the Butler school. We put up a tough fight but lost. I scored 45 runs and took three wickets.
I would have loved to play for school team for two more years but destiny had other plans. My father could not survive a massive heart attack. I could not bear the shock and went into deep depression. This was the end of my cricketing career in school.
When I was ten, I observed that long distance, things look hazy. I told my Mati. She took me to Shroff eye hospital, considered the best in Delhi. It had a charitable wing where I was examined. The doctors were of the opinion that I only needed spectacles for a clearer vision. Mati wanted a second opinion. This time, we went to Adarsh eye hospital, where the doctors endorsed the opinion of Dr Shroff.
I have been wearing spectacles since I was ten. Mostly spectacles give inferiority complex to a child. People look at you with sympathy. On the contrary spectacles boosted my confidence. My eye sight with spectacles had become six by six.
Suddenly the world around me became crystal clear and brighter. I couId spot long distance things with ease and comfort. Spectacles even improved the quality of my cricket, particularly my fielding, an important aspect of my cricket. Earlier I could not spot bowl from boundary line of cricket field. Now I could do that with clarity.
My frequent headache bouts were gone. I was a happier child. The only little niggle was children teasing me as chashmuddin. I gave them a smile and moved on. Most of them stopped teasing me. After all I was their local cricket hero. My advice to parents, please do not ignore if a child comes to you with a health problem. Consequences could be life long.
I played Cricket till college and after that as well, when I was in army. I also played for Information and Broadcasting Ministry Cricket team for almost ten years.
So that is the story of my love for cricket.