HAPPY BIRTHDAY (MAY 31ST) MEESAI & LAVA !!
(This is not an Original Archie comic gag……This is an “original” conceived and drawn by this writer)
Dedicated to my classmates, the twins Meesai (Ramkumar) and Lava (Shivakumar), whose hospitality at their Dwaraka Colony home ensured we played way more cricket than required……..even the evening before the 12th Board Exam ! and Venky (Venkatesh Gopal) whose tomfoolery made this piece possible.
After the match, the same evening, my father had a sitdown with me.
“Did you observe how the opposing captain kept switching the fielders when they missed fielding or catching the ball ?”
“You didnt do that……………………..”
(He let that sink in before going on)
“ You’ ve got to keep your team focused and on their toes.”
(Again he waited for me to digest this)
He wasnt finished.
“One more thing…If a fielder is playing the fool, whats the point in rushing upto him and berating him ? “
“ All you have to do is go upto the bowling crease and get the ball in your hand. “
“Then look around at the fielders …….just eyeball them……nothing else”
“ That way they will be forced to pay attention.”
“ Thats how you take charge”
End of lecture on how to succeed in life.
I wish I could have reported a successful aftermath to that performance review but no such luck.
“We teach Scientific Cricketsh (sic)”
The “leadership briefing” was after a match between The School, KFI ( my current school) and Bharath Higher Secondary school, which incidentally was the very first school that I attended ……………………….for all of six months before I shifted to The School, KFI at POE’ S Garden ( popularly known as “PO-YES” Garden, named after the roller coaster romantic American poet and mystery writer Edgar Allan Poe, who died tragically young)
The student strength at KFI being what it was i.e abysmally low (the student teacher ratio when I first joined was 1 : 3……. in favour of the TEACHERS ! ) we had to dig down to the 5th standard to put together a school team. Any guy who was a hulk with beefcake beyond his years, in whichever class, was drafted and then we prayed that the ball would somehow meet the bat and brute strength would do the rest.
Unlike the other older J.Krishnamurthi Foundation schools such as Rishi Valley or Rajghat, the Madras chapter had as yet never played an inter-school match.
We did quite well for ourselves, organizing the funds for a cricket kit with an oh so lovely Symonds willow, painted in seductive Crimean yellow and a delicious cherry red BDM cricket ball.
The cricket kit came in a big, tough, green bag.
We got a big kick trying out the gloves and the snow white pads and the star of the show, the abdomen guard (more on that later).
One of my classmates weighed in with an original Grey Nichols bat and we were in business.
In Rishi Valley School, where I studied earlier, I wasn’t in the class team and was relegated to carrying the drinks, what with the telugu dadas of the class ruling the roost.
I consoled myself by devouring the cricket sections of the Children s World, Sportsweek and Sportstar at the school Reading room and waxing eloquent to anyone who would listen about C.K.Nayudu, Mohammed Nissar (India’s fastest bowler till Javagal Srinath came along) and Neville Cardus.
Unfortunately I didn’t speak in ABAP (the national language of the erstwhile Madras Presidency minus Madras, of which Hyderabad is the capital) so no one listened to me.
Back home at The School, KFI, Madras, I became the barnyard bully.
Being bigger and uglier than most unlike in Rishi Valley where I was the 98 pound weakling profiled in the Archie comic ads (for the bullworker machine), I assigned pretty much most of the roles to myself – Opening batsman, opening bowler, Captain……. you name it.
My father used to attend the inter-class matches regularly and the practice sessions too, enthusiastically running and fetching the balls whenever it slipped past the wicket keeper.
The term “ Inter-class” is a misnomer. The school strength being what it was, the teams were a jumble drawn from all the classes.
Our first inter-school match was with Bharath Higher Secondary and it was held at the YMCA.
This was unofficially arranged by our PT master Mr.Sundarrajan.
After the match, one Mr.Sambandham (name changed) from the YMCA introduced himself (actually imposed himself was more like it) and lectured us on the benefits of attending a coaching camp and handed us a pamphlet giving details of the upcoming summer coaching camp at the YMCA.
“We teach how to play scientific cricketsh” he announced.
His tone when he said “scientific cricketsh” (whatever the hell it was) was similar to the manner in which one passes on the secret recipe of Coca Cola or the expected questions in the next ten IIT JEEs.
Three of us – my brother, myself and my classmate Venky – duly signed up for the summer coaching camp.
We opted for the morning session which started at 6:30 am and caught the early morning bus in our fresh whites, BDM bat and abdomen guard.
It was left to my bewildered (and beleaguered) mother to rustle up something for us to eat early in the morning and make sense of all the instructions given by the assorted procession of guests at our home regarding the sportsman’s diet.
One guest, a Rajput Customs officer advised “Rasam Gisam ellaam saapdaadhay paa…..Kaarthaala oru muttai RAWvaa adee…..”
My mother sensed this was too wide outside the offstump and racked her brains for ideas to implement this since I’d have barfed the dish recommended by our guest.
Finally to make the egg palatable, she emptied the contents of the shell into hot water but ensured it didn’t diffuse – so that it was suspended like some laboratory specimen in the water – and added a dash of salt to ensure it tasted okay and got me my protein ration at the same time.
Today that inspired piece of cuisine is called egg drop soup and commands a price of 200 bucks a bowl at the top line Chinese restaurants.
The other piece of advice was to run with spikes on beach sand.
Even to my ignorant mind that sounded crazy.
I learnt decades later that athletes never use spikes for training – only for races.
“Your Head is like a Camer-r-r-r-aaa !!”
Getting up early was a pain but after we reached the nets, something happened which gave us a big kick……….
Something we’d NEVER experienced before in our makeshift practice venue back at our school.
When we ran in towards the wicket and released the ball, it turned NINTY DEGREES !!
But the initial euphoria of playing in a real cricket net and seeing the leather cherry swing began to wear off soon.
It was the damn Madras heat – within half an hour after the coaching session began, the heat became unbearable.
And after finishing our session, going back home at the time when the morning traffic was in full swing was a bigger ordeal.
Venky made some discreet enquiries and came up with the brilliant suggestion of switching to the Nets Evening Session instead of the Morning Session.
P.K.Dharmalingam was the coach and he was a real bird about two things –
Second…… ….wearing the Abdomen guard.
His refrain was “You can get into the nets without the bat but DON’T get in without the abdomen guard !”
‘Dharma’ (as he was referred to privately) was probably past fifty, his hair was gone on the top almost entirely but as far as fitness was concerned he was far, far ahead of his time.
His washboard waist could have given actress Raveena Tandon a run for her money.
His laser diction was L.K. Advani all the way.
He wasnt much concerned with batting but was very particular about fielding and avoiding no balls.
His first major instruction was “Your head is like a CAMER-R-R-R-AAAAA !!!” ………………………….
And the corollary to that :
“So at all times KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE BALL !!!”
The words seemed to echo for some time and he glared deliberately at us waiting for his words to sink in before the next salvo – “Cricket is always played SIDEWAYS unlike other games !!”
Again he looked around to see if that got into our thick skulls.
One day, he conducted a session of field and throw back to the keeper drills.
After demonstrating how the ball should be thrown a few times, he went silent.
You could hear him think.
He was racking his brains for ideas on how to motivate this bunch to take fielding more seriously instead of waiting with tongues hanging out for “GAAJEE” (chance to bat).
He then asked us to gather around in a close circle and went down on the ground in a pose which can only appropriately be described as “kundhikkinu” in Madras lingo and narrated an incident.
“There was a South African fielder named Collin BBBllllaaand who played for South Africa.”
“ In a test match versus England , Ken Barrington (the famed English batsman) played a shot which should have been a sure four through cover”
“But Colin Bllllaaandd intercepted the ball by swooping in from cover and ran out Barrington all in one action. That’s how important fielding is. ”
After narrating this super short story, he looked around at us for some time sternly.
If Dharma expected inspirational tears from us, he had another thing coming.
We still preferred our beloved “Gaajee” to fielding practice.
The coaching camp was a great forum to meet boys from different parts of Madras. There was one guy of medium height, almost short.
A bowler named Gordon Rosario. He looked just like Imran Khan but there was no pause to leap prior to the delivery stride.
He ran through the delivery stride at the same constant pace as his run up which was almost comical to watch.
Another guy, Riaz Ahmed, was our “dada”.
We really looked upto him. He was beautifully proportioned, had amiable grey eyes and a lazy feline manner.
He was the fastest of the whole bunch of lads.
He had this lovely zig zag nano second glide before delivering the ball which Dharma hated.
Actually that glide was quite beautiful to watch.
Dharma told him to cut out the zig zag glide since Riaz was losing pace but either it fell on deaf ears or he couldnt implement the suggestion.
Dharma watched him for some time and then decided enough pussy footing around.
When Riaz went back up to the start of his run up Dharma plonked himself a couple of feet astride the bowling stumps.
It was liking having 2 umpires standing side by side at the bowler s end !
Now if Riaz wanted to bowl, he had three choices. One, he would have to maneuver himself through the space available in a “Triplicane” back alley.
Two, he would have to bowl wiiiiiiide off the crease like Mudassar Nazar, the Pakistani all rounder
Three, he would have to continue the nano second glide and shove Dharma from the bowling crease.
What happened ultimately was that Riaz kept stopping halfway into his run up and lost his rhyrthm temporarily.
Exasperated Dharma moved onto the next group.
Another group nets. Another comedy.
The batsman kept stepping out to practically every ball.
After a few minutes, Dharma had suffered enough of this and whispered a few instructions to the bowler which the bowler pretended not to hear.
But the instructions were executed to the T by the bowler.
The bowling action was completed but the ball was not delivered.
Sure enough the batsman stepped out halfway down the pitch.
Immediately Dharma pounced on the batsman.
“What are you trying to do ? Hit the ball from the bowler’ s hand or gift an easy stumping to the opposition ??!!”
Did I mention he was a real bird about fielding well ?
At the very least he was intense and passionate about it.
Anyone goofing off during fielding practice would be at the receiving end of his verbal “chin music”.
When I attended the camp next summer also, after joining a new school, nothing had changed.
One of my new classmates came in for the treatment.
While in a jocular exchange with his fielding partner he muffed a sitter during relay catch practice.
Dharma went in for the kill.
” Ball-a paakkaama AVANAYAY yayndaa paaththundrukka ??!! “
Avan enna SRIDEVI yaa ??!!”
The victim wanted to sink through the floor.
Dharma also had an awesome memory.
One evening I landed up at the YMCA in my “civvies” i.e in colour clothes since it was an off day for the group I was in.
While lounging about near the pavilion I spotted Dharma and immediately went up to greet him.
“I’ve come to watch my brother play” I said.
“Oh ! Shridhuh (Sridhar) is playing in the match today uh ?”
I was astounded.
He must have seen a thousand lads pass through his nets and its not as if we were potential junior Tamil Nadu cricket material or even 5th Division.
Yet I couldnt for the life of me figure how he remembered my brother’s name.
Must have been the sincerity displayed by kid bro in fielding practice :-):-)
(To be concluded)
Next Part : Season II – The End Of Scientific Cricketsh and The White Elixir