March 10, 2011

The forgotten handbook of school cricket games

From Ramsundar Govindarajan, India

From Ramsundar Govindarajan, India

Almost every person who’s played cricket in his childhood will recollect a host of cricket-inspired games played during school is likely to have saved him/her from the ennui of never-ending lectures, drills, assignments and exams. Before they are forgotten, I’d like to contribute my penny in documenting some of the best ones.

Book Cricket : This, probably, was the most popular game, the best possible escape from a moral-instruction class and the only alternative when bad weather made outdoor games impossible during a physical training (PT) lesson. A textbook had to be flipped open for every ball bowled and the last digit of the even number on the landing page was the score made (number ending on 0 meant out). An ‘8’ ending number could either mean no run or 8 runs according to the format of the game. Teams were made, tournaments were conducted, scorecards were painstakingly charted and World Cups were won and lost every week. Flipping and landing on the same number more than once meant the next 15 minutes were lost in a match-fixing controversy and almost every match ended in a counting debate. Every reaction of the game was emoted - be it a swashbuckling four from Azhar , the celebration of an in-swinging yorker from Akram or the intended slow flips when Tendulkar was in his jittery nineties. There was always drama, commentary and celebration.

Indoor cricket : This game was almost reserved for vacations. A green cloth (ground) was spread on the floor, which had markings for distance cleared versus runs awarded. Plastic fielders stood on V-shaped stands and were placed all over the ground. An inclined plane was supported on one end of the pitch from where a "ball bearing" was slid towards the stumps at the other end. A toothpick-sized bat was used to hit the ball. Runs were made according to the distance cleared and if the ball ran up the slide and hit the boundary, it was a six. If the ball landed in the V between fielders, the batsman was out. If the cloth shook and fielders fell, it meant a warning. Two warnings led to a dismissal. Every shot was possible –cover drives, square cuts and even make-believe pulls. Bowlers used the slide to bowl their cutters, and added backspin to turn the ball. That it took a long time to complete the match was more of a merit than a disadvantage.

There were a couple more games which I would love to go into more detail but for the space crunch. Big Fun (also a popular bubble gum in India at the time) was the single-biggest reason for oral cramps among us card-collecting youth. You were the most respected student of the school if you knew how to spell Vangipurappu Venkatasai Laxman or Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas. And if someone brought "flipper cards" revealing a textbook cover drive from Sunil Gavaskar, he was the school hero of the day. I only hope the lectures continue to be as boring as they were, for these little things augur well for the recreational interests of school-goers and the popularity of the game itself.