Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Memories from School Cricket

While I was a "cricket-stalker" from an early age, I wasn't much of a player -- of the organized game, at least! Gully cricket, rubber-ball cricket, all that was fine. But I never even appeared for trials for the school cricket team, something I regret to this day.

A classmate of mine however didn't just appear for the trials, he played at various levels of Mumbai cricket -- eventually making it to the Mumbai Ranji probables, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of... well, I'll let him do the talking. What follows is Mayur Ankolekar's account of school cricket in the mid-80s -- specifically, the rivalry between the perennial champs Shardashram, and our school IES (a.k.a. King George, in Dadar, Mumbai. This thread was kicked off by another classmate's discovery of an old school magazine in which I found a photo of our cricket captain, Sangram Sawant, who went on to play Ranji cricket for multiple teams.

Over to Mayur, then:

Here’s a narrative arc of some memories of school cricket. Sangram features like a phoenix in the 1983-84 season, a year where we beat Shardashram in the Giles shield.

This was my second year at school cricket; boys would get selected in class VIII, end up playing for 3 years, some would desiccate sooner, others continued into college, and an odd one persisted longer.

In my first year of school cricket i.e. 1982-83 we lost whenever we played Shardashram. In one such Giles shield match, we were chasing 300 runs. I recall how our stellar openers, unbeaten with 120 odd run partnership, made tepid comments when I went out serving drinks. We never thought we could beat the big boys, and unsurprisingly we never did!

A year later 1983-84:

We were now to play Shardashram at Shivaji Park in Giles shield quarter finals. We spent the first day bowling tight and fielding well – 180 runs for 3 wickets or so. As we ended the day, the venue was called off, which I suspect was to accommodate the congregation for Dr Ambedkar’s birthday. The sequel was to resume a week later, directly into the second day, at a different venue in Azad Maidan.

I had to sit the Bombay Talent Search Science exam the same day. I argued the conundrum – one or the other, exam or match, class or field, paper or pitch, or maybe both! I settled for the last option: I told our coach that I would write the exam and come. He agreed graciously. The exam was scheduled a 9 am or so at Ruparel College, and the match started at 10 am. Forty five minutes into the exam time, I was restless, doodling and daydreaming. I slinked out of the exam hall, received disparaging looks from many who considered me part of their scholarly zone of academia. Oh, what a waste of National Talent Search!

Flannels and shoes were mounted in the college rest room and I dashed to the Churchgate ground using the reliable local train. Shardashram had lost 7 or 8 wickets by the time I occupied the field, and in another half an hour were all out for 250 or so. Our coach said we need three 50 run partnerships. Most of us were novices, except Sangram. He had to play throughout. And there was no precedent to dwell our confidence on. We won the match, sliver margin of 1 wicket! The victory was a landmark in its offering us a leap of faith, not merely statistics. We lifted our century-maker captain – the personage of the immense achievement. Our bodies, hands and souls were upraised in imagery. That victory fed the best part of my body and elevated the sweetest part of my soul.

Another year later 1984-85:

This time we were again to play Shardashram in quarter finals. And this was my final year in school. Weighty and panoptic confidence was our forte in addition to skill-sets. We had at least four players who were in the Bombay junior team. We batted first and scored over 300. We went on to win the match comfortably. That match is etched in my memory: a young, skinny, fair boy was playing for Shardashram. He batted number 6 and lasted all of ten minutes. He is called Sachin Tendulkar.

Our school produced many first class cricketers later: Vinit Indulkar, Bhavin Thakkar – both played for Bombay, and now Dhaval Kulkarni, who has earned the India cap.


Thanks Mayur!