Monday, July 30, 2007
Chennai 600 028. Part 1
This was my pin code for over a decade during my schooling days. And this is also a tribute to the street cricket (SC) that was wonderfully picturized in the movie by the same name.
My fond memories of SC are as follows:
The playing area: My earliest memories of SC in Chennai 28 were in front of my then residence No. 10, Malaiappan Street. Our playing area was the narrow street that would be around 30 feet approximately. As the street was narrow the game could be either playing along the length of the street or the breadth of the street depending on the number of players available. As the youngest of the street then I would eventually be the ball boy, so the following is my spectator view of the sport
The kit: The playing kit included two bats (whenever available) and a constant supply of rubber balls or if we had enough money tennis balls. As the street was of asphalt we had to avoid stumps so as to not hammer the stumps into the road and breaking them, however on those odd occasions when we managed to get our hands on a wooden block that had a provision to fit the stumps we had a proper stump. When we had no stumps we would scrawl three lines on the nearby wall, taking care not to deface any inhabited houses. When walls were in short supply due to irate house owners then we drew the stumps on the road, the height of the virtual stumps were approximated to the height of the hip pf the batsmen. As you can guess this approximation was wildly contested when we had players of various heights playing. The runner’s stump was invariably a large rock. You would seldom see whites on the street but a riot of colours and footwear varied from none to sneakers with a lot of slippers thrown in.
The teams: This solely depended on the number of players available. When there could be at least 5 a team (calculation arrived at 1 bowler per over, a keeper and three fielders to cover the four possible directions) then the designated captains come and by a slap of the others palm (like you make a promise) stake a claim to their player of choice. This normally calls for a lot of man management skills as both would like the best but you could take only one per slap. Wherever there may be lesser numbers then the players draw numbers for an individual batting opportunity where a good mix of individual and team skills are called to play. The method to draw numbers again varied from asking one of the players to bend over and while another held out the various batting positions in random order to be called by the player bent over. In these singles matches the highest scorer is the winner.
The umpire: No neutral umpires, considering the manpower crunch. The batting team normally sends the umpire usually one of the batsmen in waiting. And most decisions are invariably hotly contested.
The rules: The constant thing about SR was that rules could be constantly updated. A brief summary of the famous rules in vogue then:
· The number of overs per innings vary from 5 to 10 depending on the time at hand
· Depending on whether we played along the breadth or length of the road the playing area may be restricted to the off side only or down the ground considering the available free space.
· As lofted shots ensured several broken windows, a shot to the furtherest house yielded a four, however a shot over the house yielded a wicket to the opponents.
· When the manpower was scarce the famous one bounce catches become legit. So survival at the crease (affectionately called grease then) meant drives along the ground.
· Tree catches, wall catches, window catches in short any catch coming off from any other surface except the road was also legit
· As the runner stump was invariably a stone, the concept of conduction was used to effect dismissals. To those who are not in the know, the bowler or fielder would stand with a leg on the stone and if he catches the ball while on the stone and the batsmen is short of the crease by virtue of the “current”, it is a run out.
· The last man standing can bat. Meaning you need to get the last man out to bowl out a team.
· Depending on the space again underarm bowling is legit.
· You could retire hurt any number of times, (incidentally I had to literally see the newspaper to find out that “harttetail” meant “hurt, retired”)
· You could wander around with a simple “Waitees for my crease”, that took some time to figure out too as you never had any mention of it on TV or on the newspaper.
· You could play together but when you break a window the team forfeits the match and the window breaker has to bear the damages alone.
· 1 G and 2 G were commonplace, the G meant Granted where the umpire in his largesse would determine that a shot into the courtyard will mean 2 runs granted and a shot behind the stump will be 1 run granted because they cannot be fielded, and to avoid any unfair benefit to the batting team.
· Sometimes the batting team will provide the keeper too if the players are less.
· LBW or Leg Before Whatever served as the wicket rule did not exist because the wicket did not exist often, the batsmen had so many ways to get himself out that this contentious option was consigned to the TV.
· The loss of a ball either by confiscation of an irate house owner or a illegal hit out of the street also constituted as a wicket.
· In the absence of a hit wicket option sometimes the “stamp wicket” option came into play when the batsman walked on the stump inadvertly.
For more on street cricket read my next post.