The other day, I was pretty jobless. As ever, I made my way down to the local cricket ground and sat on the parapet wall, watching the game. This kid got out. Now he was grumpy. Naturally. He wanted to fling his bat but since there was only one bat, he had no option but to hand it over to the kid who went in next. That, however, did not stop him from shoving it onto the other kid’s hand with an utter look of disdain and disgust on his face. The kid came up and sat next to me. He was still fretting.
‘The bloody umpire is blind! How was that an LBW?!’ he fumed. Now I was perplexed. I have played my fair share of backyard cricket but never have we had LBWs. ‘Wait. You guys have LBWs?’, I asked.
‘Of course’, he said in a matter of fact way and looked at me as if I had landed from the planet Zork and asked him if this was the planet Earth. ‘The problem is that these stupid kids can’t umpire. They don’t know what a proper LBW is. I wish I could umpire but I need to bat as well. I hate this! I was due for a century today’, he continued. ‘All because of this BCCI! I wish we had UDRS here. Clean not out!’
‘Clean not out!’ brought back memories. Now, this kid was all of 12 but was talking about the politics of cricket. When I was 12, the only politics I knew of was that there were these guys dressed in weird looking clothes that ran the country.’ I was intrigued.
‘The BCCI? Why? You want the UDRS implemented?’ I asked innocently, leading him on. ‘Of course! Don’t you know that hawk-eye uses the same technology that is used in missile guidance? If it’s good enough for the army, it should be good enough for the BCCI!’ I was blown away. No pun intended.
‘You know, sometimes I wish we were in Pakistan’, he said. I knew I would be sorry but I went ahead and asked anyway, ‘Why?’ ‘Well, see that kid who went out to bat? He’s the captain. He saw that the bowling was weak and he could improve his average. So he went out to bat! If this was Pakistan, I would’ve just banned the captain. But since this is India, he thinks he is Dhoni and promotes himself up the order any time he wants!’ What depth!
‘No wait. You guys maintain averages?’ ‘Of course! And strike rates, too. How else can we find who the man of the series is? In fact, I have the highest average among all the openers this series.’ If the content was stirring, the manner in which he said it was even more so. ‘Of course!’ it seems!
He suddenly found his train of thought again. ‘Or England. You know they have 3 captains for the 3 formats of the game. I bet if this were England, I would be one of the captains’, he said and lifted the non-existent collar of his round-neck tee-shirt. And before I could say anything else, he went on, ‘or the West Indies! I would ban him from even discussing with the board! Ha ha!’ An evil laugh to top it off. Brilliant!
I was beside myself with amazement when I realized that this pint sized man sitting next to me and slyly mocking world cricket was actually a smug 12 year old kid. I had to show my supremacy of course. It was a matter of pride. So I asked him in this condescending tone, ‘So… who is your favourite cricketer?’ In truth, I sort of knew the answer already. Sachin Tendulkar. It had to be.
‘Manoj Prabhakar’, came the reply. Now I could no longer keep my jaw from falling down. ‘Manoj Prabhakar? Why? I mean, if you’d said Sachin or Saurav or Dhoni or even Sreesanth, I’d not have been surprised. But Manoj Prabhakar? Seriously? I mean, have you even seen him play? He was way ahead of your time. Manoj Prabhakar? Seriously? Really? Really?’ I was hysterical and I knew it. I calmed down.
The innings was over and it was time for the kid to go field. He looked at me as if I were a deranged lunatic who had just gone off his rocker and jumped off the wall to go back to the field. I called out before he could go. I was still shivering.
‘Why?’ I asked, in the calmest tone I could muster.
‘Because he got opening batting and opening bowling’, said the kid and ran off. Kids will be kids.
He grabbed the ball from the umpire and went to mark his run up. ‘Right arm fast medium’, he said.