Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Cricket? I don't think so!
I don't think cricket is the best of games to play. I am not talking from the perspective of the IPL players or the Indian team who get paid a gazillion rupees for each game, irrespective of whether they are in the playing eleven or not, or even if they are part of the eleven, whether they get to play or not. If someone gives me that much money, I'll keep my trap shut and not complain about the nature of the "game", and this post wouldn't exist.
I am talking from the perspective of the average kid, who haunts the city gullies and the suburban grounds, for whom cricket is a daily reality, and has to deal with the joys and pains of playing the game. That kid happens to be almost every kid in Indian cities and towns. That kid happens to be me.
I played cricket for a long long time. I remember first playing when I was 10 or so, when I went with a friend to a school cricket ground nearby. The elder kids were playing a match and I tried to appear as cool and as knowledgeable as possible (and from looking back would have appeared utterly silly and inconsequential to the 15 year olds playing that day). Starting that day, my playing days continued for a solid decade, before it trailed off.
I was an average batsman, and a below-average bowler. Though I could muster up some wicked half-spin on the ball (when bowling underarm or playing throw), I was never a great bowler. I was the kid who will get to bat somewhere in the nether lands of the batting order - when all the "top" batsmen (read utter cool kids) are out, and before the super-clumsy kids get to play. I was good sometimes. But average to above-average most of the times. I have had my moments of glory - like when in a colony match, I played for 4/5ths of the innings to get my team very close to victory, only to lose by 2 runs. Don't worry - I got my "man-of-the-match" award and my plastic tiffin-box with a cartoon sticker on it during the colony's annual day.
And, my memory of the game consists of mostly waiting around for an interminable amount of time, either fielding or watching the others in your team play (to the chants of "come-on da, good batting, good batting"), and then 5-10 minutes of pressure filled batting stints, and a couple of overs of bowling in an evening of play. Thinking back, or even then, one couldn't pick a more boring and non-participatory game to play.
Basically, playing cricket involves sitting and standing and mulling around for the majority of the game (unless you are the wicket keeper or the captain or the star batsman or bowler). What a bore (for others). On the other hand think of badminton or kabadi or some game like that. You play a game, and win or lose, it is your effort - and you are there and engaged and playing every single moment the game is underway. Of course, in such games, there is also waiting around till you get your turn - but when you get to play - you play for the duration of the game. You don't get out in the first over and wait around for a thousand years to get your chance again.
Of course, there are joys in playing cricket, but most of it is in the periphery. Like the camaraderie you enjoy in being part of a team. Like the joys of rising early morning to hit the cricket ground. And the joy of staying back somewhere close to your ground in the evening, after it is dark, and yapping away with your friends, and arriving late home for dinner. The joy of holding a cricket bat. Its feel. And practicing your batting stance and strokes by yourself, hitting the imaginary ball endlessly, and admiring the correctness of your strokes and follow-ons. The pleasure of holding a tennis ball or cricket ball in your hand. And, the pleasure of practicing your "Richard-Hadlee-level" bowling action when you are walking alone on a road, for the thousandth time. It does have its pleasure points. And it is pretty nice when you are in a rhythm and bat and everything works out.
But as a game, how interesting or engaging is it for the majority of its players - not much is my answer. Play cricket. But also, pick another game, where you could actually spend more than 6% of the time you spend on the ground/court actually playing, and not just sitting around and watching things unfold.