By RK Nagar
Since we did not have any indoor sports facilities, the only option was to take part in the only outdoor sport-tennis ball cricket that we played first on the parking lot near the old office building and later shifted to where the present tennis court is. With this change of venue came the change of cricketing gear, stumps, gloves, pads, abdomen guard and the tennis ball got replaced by a regular red cricket ball.
A strip of land was cleaned and levelled to act as pitch. The credit for this transformation goes to SBSen Mazumdar. He enthused almost every bachelor to take part in the game that we played after office hours and on Sundays.
This happened sometime in late 1972 or early 73.
God alone knows what happened but on one Sunday, Mazumdar announced that on the coming Sunday , we will play a friendly cricket match with the Post Graduate XI of Khetiwadi. Everyone present on the ground that day enthusiastically agreed to play the match without realising that half of us couldn’t hold the bat properly and other half couldn’t keep the ball on the pitch while bowling. Our fielding skills-well less said the better.
Come next Sunday morning Mazumdar collected the ‘Team’ in front of the old hostel. Head count showed that we didn’t make the playing eleven, but Mazumdar declared, “we will play irrespective of the shortage of players” and we headed to the play ground in front of the PG hostel in Kheriwadi campus. This was the regular practice / playground of our opponents.
There was a running track around this ground so our ramshackle team decided to do some ‘practice’ before the start of the match. We created quite a scare in the opposite camp as we had in our team a young Englishman – David Brown who had arrived only a few months ago as a an advisor in systems applications in agriculture.
Since we were trying to get a feel of the pitch by practising on the smooth running track, they felt that we were a mighty experienced team.
God alone knows how Dr. Kurien came to know of this match and landed at the venue with Mrs Kurien. We, as a team knew our ‘strength’ and didn’t want Dr. and Mrs Kurien to witness the most humiliating defeat that the Khetiwadi PG team was certainly going to hand to us but, we had no choice. We welcomed them. When Dr Kurien looked at our numbers, he asked, “ how are you going to play, you don’t even have eleven players”? And then he declared, “Ok, I will be part of your team”. So now we were the full playing eleven.
PG team won the toss and elected to bat. From our side, our captain Mazumdar had to select 4 players who could at least ensure that the ball, after leaving the bowlers hand stayed on the pitch. We fielded with 10 players for obvious reason.
PG players made a brisk start. We were like the Indian team of sixties playing against mighty West Indies. We were truly pathetic but Mazumdar kept encouraging us. We tried hard and scalped a couple of wickets.
Then suddenly, Mazumdar pushed the ball in my hands, “Rashmi, you are going to ball this over”. I was horrified as I was one of those accomplished players who’s ball seldom kept a straight line. But he left me no choice.
At that moment, I suddenly recollected how the best bowler in my Agriculture college team back in Udaipur gripped the ball. I thought I will try that grip as that might help keep the ball in straight line.
And surprise of surprises, I got two wickets, both clean bowled in the very first over I bowled. I was stunned in total disbelief and when David Brown ran up to me and asked, “what grip are you using”? as though I knew what I was doing. It was a total fluke.
After this our better bowlers did the rest and the PG team was out in close to 70 or 75 runs. That was a formidable score for our team to cover. We didn’t mind losing, but hoped that the margin is narrow.
Anyway, when we started batting, inevitable happened. We lost three quick wickets and the score had not even reached 20. Then Mazumdar asked me to go in (I don’t know why he felt that I could bat, I had never scored a single run in my life before even in tennis ball cricket).
Well, captain’s orders, so I went in and scored 8 quick runs- thanks to two wild strokes that sent the ball across the boundary line. Then scored one more run, completely missed the next 3 balls and got out. For me it was a record of sorts-I had batted for one full over! And scored runs too!
We were still a good 40 runs away from levelling the score and the situation looked completely hopeless when Dr Kurien decided to go in. “My team is in trouble, so I must now go in and bat.” He declared and took me in as runner.
I didn’t have to do much of running. His masterly stroke play ensured that we reached very close to gaining a victory. He scored 26 or 28 runs and remained not out.
I don’t remember what was the final outcome. I guess we won by a wicket or so. I am not too sure.
But that day a secret was revealed. Dr. Kurien was a regular player in his Guindy Engineering college team and almost 30 years later, his batting skills carried the match in our favour. But that was also the only time we saw him hold a bat on the cricket ground.