March 10, 2011

The forgotten handbook of school cricket games

Cricinfo

From Ramsundar Govindarajan, India

Sachin Tendulkar upper-cuts the ball over slips, South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 1st day, December 26, 2010
All possible, even on a piece of cloth  © AFP
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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.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by shamsul haq on (March 12, 2011, 7:44 GMT)

simply loved book cricket....... played it round the clock at school or home.......got into trouble with parents and teachers.....amazing days....

Posted by Imran Nazir on (March 12, 2011, 4:30 GMT)

Great read. I think those were definitely the best days of cricket.

Posted by faiz on (March 11, 2011, 17:50 GMT)

I played all the 3 formats mentioned, and book cricket was such a rage during worlcups nd other imp tournaments that we made separate notebooks for dis.. !!!

Posted by Guru on (March 11, 2011, 6:18 GMT)

Excellent post - reminds me of my school days. Abhishek is correct, 8 was for 1 run (that quick single).

Redau, the dice cricket sounds exciting, I should try that some day :)

Posted by Anand on (March 11, 2011, 5:48 GMT)

Nostalgia !! Dice, books, flip books, name it - we who grew up in the early 1980's had it all ....

Posted by Anonymous on (March 11, 2011, 4:44 GMT)

Good job Ramdu. Machi what do you think about moonuranus? He should have till date thought India vs Sri lanka (400-400) the best match played ever.

Posted by James Ozermann on (March 11, 2011, 3:18 GMT)

I remember quite a few years ago my father telling me how he and his classmates had their own version of book cricket. How they would do it, was they would designate each letter of the alphabet either a shot and runs (eg drive two runs) or a wicket. The person "batting" would call out a random page number, line, and choose a random number of letters across on that specific line (eg page 30, line 6, fourth letter) which would give them either the runs scored or wicket taken.

I tried it and it was okay, but I was more into my other cricket games - the old test match board game and the test match game with the little felt field, the howzat dice game and my favourite the Richard Hadlee Limited Overs Cricket. I spent hours playing "test series" and "ODI's" as a kid. I once managed to play a whole world cup with seven teams and recorded meticulously every single game of that series!

Posted by iGalus on (March 10, 2011, 21:27 GMT)

I recall the old days of playing the cloth based indoor cricket as well as the book cricket and boy, I agree with the writer on similar moment on enjoying the childhood cricket rip-offs.

Posted by Giri on (March 10, 2011, 20:22 GMT)

Great article, younger brother :). Dont forget the numerous fights we had playing indoor cricket with paper mushed like a ball and made tight using rubber band and exam pads as bat and trying to smash every furniture in the house :)

Posted by Redau on (March 10, 2011, 19:04 GMT)

Hi This is great. My favourite childhood cricket game was what I called dice- cricket. Essentially you need a dice and a score card. You could either play alone or with friends. It involved selecting your teams and then creating a match. The dice would serve as the runs as well as who took wickets. Eg. if you threw the dice and it would land on three this would mean three runs for the batsman. If the dice lands on five this would mean out. You then also throw the dice to determine who the bowler was who took the wicket. This game provided me with endless fun.

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