Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Girl remembers playing cricket in a boys' team in college

Golden Heart Girl nostalgically recalls playing cricket

Like most of Indians, I grew up with gully cricket. Did not matter I was a female. Born in a family that uncannily is all about equal opportunities and having grown up in a locality that did not frown up little girls in frocks fielding plastic balls with boys in knickers, I had all the opportunities to participate in the game of life called cricket.

Graduating from playing with brother and his friends in local gully, I landed up in a college that was more uncannily into `equal opportunities'. Here at the Institute of Science, Nagpur, they had an interesting rule for the annual sports competition. Each of the team competing in any of the events had to have at least two female members!

Given the fact that we were only two females in a batch of 13 students reading Geology/Mathematics combination, me and my best friend Archana would be part of all the sports teams that our batch participated in. Did not matter that I was definitely plump and far from being an active sportswoman.

But I was (and am) definitely a very strong fan of cricket from the days I had to climb up a chair to listen on cricket commentary on radio that was kept on the highest rack in our home (to keep it away from us children, of course). I distinctly remember the debut match of Kapil Dev in Pakistan, though I certainly was a little kid then.

Anyway, the annual sports were a very interesting affair in our college and we would look forward more to them than the cultural events. The cricket matches were played at the huge ground adjoining the hostel of the college and even when our team was not playing, we would gather there to cheer. And we cheered in our unique style. My specialty was a typical flat ribbed whistle – bright green in colour – that had to be move between lips to bring out shrill yet rhythmic sound. It was held between fingers in a way that it remained invisible most of time.

I was also the innovator among the cheer team. I designed the bougainvillea creeper garlands (that grew on the boundaries of ground) for the players who were dud performers. Whenever a player of opposite team was hit for a four or six or got out while batting, we would rush out into field, holding the bougainvillea garlands.

Most often we were shooed away, as many of these players would be our seniors. Yet there was no dearth of enthusiasm. Even when in graduation first year, I become to be known as one of the most vocal and mischievous of the lot. Another way to irk the opponents was to rush out to seek autographs after a dud performance.

(The photo of the Institute of Science ground as seen by Google Earth)

Also I was good at creating parodies out of famous Hindi songs and applying them to situations. Also we would use famous advertisements of those times to tease the players. I remember we had a senior who was in M Sc Final (Physics) when we were in B Sc II. This was a handsome guy, but had a peculiar walking gait. So whenever he came out for batting, on the sidelines I would imitate his walking style, singing `Tata ka OK dhulai ka saabun' (there used to be nurse walking very stylishly in this famous advertisement on television).

I was hugely embarrassed about a decade later, when this senior turned out to be the cousin of one of my very good friend and recognized me as the `Tata ka Ok' girl despite me being clad in a saree for wedding of my friend.

Coming back to cricket - once I was put up for fielding at forward short leg position (dangerous position I know) against a very good team in a crucial match. Their star batsman was at his best, smashing our bowlers to every corner of field. We had used all tricks to get him out but in vain.

Suddenly, when he was at about 80-odd runs, he decided to smash a drive that lashed directly at me and I was hit hard on my thigh with the cork ball. Interestingly even as I clutched my leg and twitched in pain, I saw my teammate at the mid-on position go down on ground, the ball unbelievingly in his hands. Well, the ball had deflected from my thigh high enough for the catch. The star batsman was out! After that I came to be known as the `Great China Wall' (I had the girth to suit the title then) in college.

Even today, whenever I pass the Institute of Science Ground, which coincidently falls very close to our residence now, I remember those days vividly. Often I catch some amateur club members playing cricket there and I slow down a bit, reliving the days I used to be the `Great China Wall'.

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