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September 14, 2012

Spirit of the game

Candid camera: losing my head

Samir Chopra

In the last year (ie, the 12th grade) of my high school years, a good friend of mine decided to put together a photographic record of our class' escapades. For several weeks he brought a camera to school and put together a rather amazing portfolio of candid shots taken at various times during the school day. There were photographs of schoolboys working on math problems on blackboards, ogling girls as they walked by, lounging about at lunch break, engaged in passionate discussions about a book they might have read, and so on. A few weeks later, a mini-photo exhibition was staged in our school, and most agreed my friend had done a wonderful job of composing a candid document of 12th-graders engaged in the little moments that make up a school day, many of which add up to make a school year.

But because (most of) these photographs were not staged, they retained the capacity to embarrass as well. Which brings me to the subject of this post.

One of the photographs my friend took showed a bunch of schoolboys standing around on a cricket pitch, much as spectators cluster around the scene of a car crash. In the foreground of the photo, a young man is being led away by another boy, who has his arms around him, as if to restrain and repress. It seems a fight has broken out and one of the participants is being dragged away against his will, in an effort to induce peace into hostilities. That young man was me.

While I have, at times, engaged in some verbal jousting on a cricket ground, this occasion remains the only one in which I spectacularly lost the plot and descended into fisticuffs on the pitch. All I can say by way of exculpation was that I was young, hot-headed, and, I did it because I was reacting to the perceived selfishness of a team-mate.

Earlier that day, my classmates and I had set up a limited-overs game during our so-called 'Games' period. Time was limited, so we settled on a 10-overs per side game. We quickly appointed captains, tossed, and the action commenced. I was captain of one of the teams. We batted first, hoping to set a challenging target for our opponents. I do not remember whether I had gone in, batted and been dismissed, but be that as it may, as the ninth over approached its end, we lost another wicket, and our side sent out our next batsman. Perhaps because the previous batsmen had crossed over, he found himself standing at the non-striker's end for the last delivery of the ninth over. The batsman facing hit the ball down towards the boundary, and the pair were off, running between the wickets. There was an easy three there for the taking.

This calculation, however, had not reckoned on the greed of new batsman for a share of the strike. If three runs were scored off the last ball, he would find himself at the non-striker's end again for the last over, and possibly denied a delivery or two of the strike. So, in front of an incredulous group of fielders (and his team-mates) he decided to call a halt after two.

Standing on the sidelines, I saw red. Not only had we lost out on a run, but the established batsman had been denied the strike; the new batsman was not a particularly distinguished bat, so there was a chance we would not score too many runs in the last over. This traitor was happy to sacrifice his team's score at the altar of his desire to bat.

What happened next was a bit of a blur. Screaming obscenities (in true North Indian fashion, incest was in the air), I sprinted out to the pitch, collared him, and a scuffle began.

Shortly thereafter, we were pulled apart, and I was led off the pitch, still protesting and still affirming my desire to use my team-mate as a stump for the second innings. (My photographer friend, who had shown up to record us engaged in the pleasures of cricket, was busy capturing this conflagration on his camera.)

Needless to say, nothing like that ever happened again in my short cricket playing career.

Some 28 years later, I remain convinced that my team-mate was a selfish jerk. We all wanted to bat, but I wanted to win even more. Still, I also remain profoundly embarrassed at the memory of that spectacular losing of the plot, captured forever on that black and white photograph (I have no idea where it is now), showing an intemperate cricketer who clearly had not internalised the appropriate decorum for a cricket ground.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Keywords: Backyard / street cricket, Spirit of cricket

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Posted by criclogic on (October 11, 2012, 9:27 GMT)

Expect better stuff from you, Samir. Dont wanna be rude but this is an almost pointless article.

@abhijit, you are probably 15 year old. At least mentally to make such a remark. And you can't even begin to understand what a Gavaskar or a Tendulkar meant to the Indians when during those times.

Posted by IG on (September 19, 2012, 19:45 GMT)

Samir, that bloke you let expletives fly off on reminds me of a current Indian cricketer who played out a maiden over against Bangladesh a few months ago during a batting power play just to ensure he scores an 'international' hundred. Maybe he should have been given the same treatment.

Posted by Jaideep on (September 18, 2012, 12:28 GMT)

I am of the same age as Samir Chopra. He is absolutely right in his observations. In my experience, I have had the non-striker say to me 'Last ball mein ek run liya to dekh lena'. And I though I was a decent bat !!

Posted by salman on (September 18, 2012, 11:52 GMT)

Still trying to make some sense out it. What is it? "Goodbye Mr Chips"????

Posted by Kunal Talgeri on (September 18, 2012, 9:05 GMT)

Guys, this is Samir's blog. He has the licence to draw from his accounts, considering he is an active player.

Posted by not so good on (September 16, 2012, 11:55 GMT)

Well atleast you have enough gullibility to declare someone jerk on the basis of one event more than decade ago, when he, you... all were young. Does not it tells something about you? Claps....

Posted by Gautam on (September 15, 2012, 14:21 GMT)

Samir,

Generally I like your posts but this is a self praising post written in the guise of a old memory revisited post. When I read the line where you said it was you, I scrolled down all the way to check if you had the pic but was most disappointed not to see it.

Got to call a violation on you for this one!

Posted by Kunal Talgeri on (September 15, 2012, 5:55 GMT)

I'd love to see the photograph, Samir! I remember feeling the same frustration during the 'slog' overs of an under-13 match. Felt my runner should have sacrificed his wicket when we were stuck in the middle of the pitch, trying an extra run that wasn't there. I'd hit two boundaries in the previous over, but I had to walk back. What I remember thinking about that episode over the years and your blog post is that players (from the formative stages) are incentivised by parents, coaches, etc. to think for themselves, especially in a large country like India. Our psyche is to see too many people, and too few spotlights. (You could argue I was being selfish, expecting the other batter to sacrifice his wicket.) Team comes last in every walk of life in India. We worship individuals, and too many individuals crave for immortality. A couple of days ago, Martin Crowe touched on this subjective theme in a brilliant Cricinfo column. But he was speaking of New Zealand, a relatively small nation.

Posted by Abhijit on (September 15, 2012, 5:09 GMT)

How I wish Sachin Tendulkar had a captain like you between the ages of 16-20! He would have played for the country then - not for himself.

Sadly, he came under the influence of Mr. Sunil "36 not-out" Gavaskar. The rest is history.

Posted by Pranesh on (September 15, 2012, 4:35 GMT)

Ha ha... Nice article bringing back the memories...

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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