Onol, the fat guy visited his distant relatives once during our summer holidays. His relatives stayed in a distant town which had to be reached by train, and then by bus. When he returned he was full of stories about his relatives and his cousins with whom he played many interesting games. One of them was cricket, which he promised to teach us. Till then, our gang was happy with our routine games which we played at the ruins of the old building and in the fields, but Onol’s such description of cricket and the fun he had had with his cousins, made the gang realise that we needed a change indeed.
Soon one day, the gang reached the village school field to play the new game that Onol promised to teach us. Onol said that if our boys learnt the game well, we could easily defeat other teams of the nearby villages and start winning prizes, like his cousin’s team in the town. The excitement of the game made the gang reach the ground much earlier than the time all had agreed to. It was a month of August, and the hot afternoon sun had made things pretty unpleasant.
The senior guys, Ravi and Shum came with a set of long sticks which they knew would be required from Onol’s description of the game. Onol had bought a ball at his cousin’s place and agreed to bring a bat too to complete the set. Onol was a good ‘kancha’ (crystal ball) player of our gang and the gang had full faith that his choice of game would interest the other members as well. We had been standing in the afternoon sun for quiet some time and the players were getting more anxious by the minute. We summoned two younger members to run and ask Onol to make haste to reach the field.
Onol appeared after a while with a bat resting on his left shoulder, while making small throws with the ball in his right hand. The young ones followed behind him. He walked with slow steps as if taking an evening stroll as he entered the field. Upon reaching, Onol spoke in a serious tone to everyone, “Cricket is played with the bat. You cannot ask someone to carry your bat while running on the pitch. If someone finds it heavy, then this game is not for him.” The younger guys received a scolding from the gang for making such a stupid proposal to Onol, the future captain of our team.
Soon we learnt the rules and the interesting terms of the game. The ‘white ball’, the ‘no ball’, ‘LPW’, ‘catch’, ‘batman’, ‘boler’, ‘wicked’, ‘wickedkeeper’, ‘fielder’ and how to make an ‘april’. The stumps which Ravi had brought were taller and we cut them to size. Onol would be opening the game while I would be bowling the first over. Shum decided to be the runner as he could run faster than anyone of us. The rest of the gang took positions of fielders and Rajan decided to be the keeper.
I took the rubber ball and reached the farthest point of the field for a runup. Onol had told me beforehand that in order to be a fast bowler you have to cover a long distance running before delivering the ball. I did as he said. I took a long run, stopped near the stumps and threw the ball towards Onol, which flew over his head.
Onol shook his head and declared it to be a ‘white ball’. Onol scored a run for it. I did many ‘white balls’ and ‘no balls’ during my first over and Onol made a score of eight runs without even hitting the ball once.
Shum saw that he could run faster than me and could be a better bowler than a runner. He also got bored quickly of holding the piece of broken stump without moving an inch from his place. He asked for the ball. Onol said that according to the rules of the game it was not possible for the runner to be a bowler but Shum was adamant. He refused to obey the rules and insisted on bowling and that bowling was his only call. After much debate everyone agreed that Shum should be allowed to ball. I was handed the broken wicket and joined Onol as the runner on the pitch.
Shum’s first ball was terrible, but landed on the pitch unlike my balls. Onol hit it towards the fielders. Onol and me took three runs and I reached the batting end. I took the bat and waited for Shum to deliver the ball. Shum took a long run and hurled the ball towards me. It dropped once at the centre of the pitch after which it lunged with double the speed and hit me on my back. I was fixed at the approaching ball and turned around when it came towards me.
There was a huge appeal at the ball, but Onol said that if the ball had touched my thighs or calves, it would have been close. Shum delivered a number of such balls thereafter which hit me on my back and chest. Onol gave me a piece of his mind at using my body as a shield & not using the bat to hit the ball.
Actually, I focused on the speeding ball and avoided getting hit on the face by turning around as a reflex. I had grossly neglected the use of the bat to play with the ball. After Onol’s scolding I made up my mind to hit the ball, as it approaches me next time. Shum hurled the ball, the last one of his over, at me. In my readiness, I whirled the bat before it even reached near me. The ball struck the inner side of the raised bat and flew straight into the wickets. I was out.
The sun had already gone down and it was getting dark. The boys decided to play the next day and urged Onol to reach the field on time. The boys went back to their homes discussing about the game and the ‘Aprils’ which were close.