Sundays and Gully Cricket has been edited by Aashna Kanuga
Growing up in smaller towns has its own perks. Playing gully cricket any time, anywhere is not something that kids living in big cities could enjoy. As a child, I shifted homes frequently because of my father’s job. Most of them were small towns, and my education comprised mainly of Convent schools. So essentially I am, if not athletic myself, at least a sports lover.
The routine used to be simple. Monday to Saturday was for school. But when Sunday rolled around, I could live life King size! No matter how exhausted I had been during the week, I was on the ground every Sunday.
You ask your mother to wake you up at 7:00 A.M. By 8, you and your bat reach the ground. As is usual, your overly punctual friend has already set the stumps up. All your friends come in by 8:30 and that is when the action starts. The captains select their teams and the game begins. The age group is very diverse. From ten years to twenty, everyone is playing this game. The youngest one, of course, is the ball-boy.
A twelve over game usually gets over in under eight, because every player is Virender Sehwag—or Shahid Afridi if you are a Pakistani. These games continue until lunch time. The amount of energy the players have left decides when they break for lunch. The number of players gets reduced to half by the fourth match. But post lunch, no matter how bad the heat is, the games continue. At least, till the players can still see the ball. This is how I spent all my Sundays.
Gully cricket is a game that we could play anywhere. I have played cricket in courtyards, a gully, RCC society roads, the garden, a terrace, or even in the middle of the road. Each kid is a daredevil by default. While playing in the gully, if the local Tendulkar broke a window pane, everyone disappeared in a flash. Trust me when I say you have never felt true fear till you have knocked on the door of that house to ask for the ball back.
Most of us dreamt of being a cricketer one day. We watched Sehwag hit a boundary on the first ball and tried to do the same. We imitated—or at least tried to imitate—the bowling action of Brett Lee. A few years later, it was Malinga. We would stop on the corner of a street just to imitate Zaheer Khan’s bowling. Left handed batsmen would be called Ganguly or Lara. We would copy Sachin by adjusting the imaginary crotch guard we wore.
Do you know why the Indian cricket team does not have the greatest bowling lineup? It is because every kid in India always wants to bat. I have never met a single person in my entire childhood who deliberately chose to bowl.
None of us knew the technicalities of the game but still played it with full zest. Everyone said the straight drive was their favourite shot because no one knew the names of the others. Each street superstar scored runs only on the leg side. And of course, how can I forget about One Tip One Hand!
Gully cricket had a code of conduct of its own. Three LBWs or five misses meant you were out. The odd player would play for both teams, but not bowl. If the ball was too fast, it was a no-ball. And if you batted last, you would get to bowl the first over! The person who invented the concept of a Baby Over has my respect.
Cricket was a big part of my life. Most of the friends I made, were because of cricket. When you are new to the game or the ground, you never say hello. The standard practice was to go there, stand awkwardly, look at them playing. That is when one of them will call you and say: “Ramvu che tare dost?” (Do you want to play, friend?). I do not think anyone has ever refused.
It hits me with a wave of nostalgia when I think about the old me, making my own set of rules, bossing around (because the bat was mine) and bowling full tosses to get a catch. I really miss all of that. Our hectic routines have killed the cricket vibe. Most of us went from playing cricket, to watching it. It does not feel the same, does it? Is there a way to go back?
If you have any gully cricket anecdotes, share them with us! Remember what it was like. Revisit those memories.
To read more by the author of Sundays and Gully Cricket, click here