December 3, 2009

Beach cricket

Beach bummed

Jamie Alter
An Indian boy plays cricket using broken branches for stumps at Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai, July 4, 2005
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If you're a gung-ho beach cricketer in Chennai, stumps have been drawn on at your local sandy Lord's. The local authorities - incidentally, one of the many notable sites the Marina Beach sits adjacent to is the Inspector General of Police headquarters - have put a ban on friendly beach cricket games on the massive strip of sand.

That move has not gone down well at all, so much so that enraged citizens blocked traffic for a short while and staged a dharna, or nonviolent protest, outside the historic Vivekananda House. That resulted in the police having to draft in troops to quell the 2,000-strong crowd of primarily local residents.

According to lawmakers the decision has been taken as part of a move to make Chennai more attractive to tourists. Reactions have ranged from the disappointed - "No intelligent administration would have imposed a ban,” one local newspaper columnist said - to the nostalgic - "We have been playing here for so long and it is a part of our everyday life,” said 53-year-old DJ Ramani, a cricket enthusiast - to the frustrated - "Is it not a thousand times better than, say, eve-teasing or pick-pocketing?" a parent told a television station.

The beach on which the likes of former Indian captains Kris Srikanth and S Venkataraghavan once plied their trade in tennis-ball tournaments has for the moment been shut off as a playing arena. As anyone who has played beach cricket will attest to, the lines drawn in the sand are all too easily obliterated. This time, however, the authorities may just have had the final word.

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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