A highly educated and well read lady who will be 90 shortly and suffers, in varying degrees, from every possible ailment that a human body can take, my mother turned an avid cricket fan a couple of years back, well past her mid eighties. Her frail medical condition, accentuated by near complete hearing loss, has never dampened her zest, joi de vivre and spirit. She is ever willing to learn more and more…and with all the buzz around cricket, there was no way she was going to miss on this ‘bat and ball’ thing.
She lives with us. I am over 61 myself and have played a bit of cricket in my time. Never hit the big league.. but College, University level.. and represented loads of Services Cricket teams. So she sat me down one evening to know all about the Gentleman’s game… which, right at the outset, I clarified, it was anything but. I thus explained, as succinctly as I could to a person who could not possibly tell a golf club from a cricket bat, about the three formats of the game…Test Cricket, ODI and T-20. She proved a keen learner and started watching re-runs of old games… and of course would never miss a live game where lndia was playing. Given her religious and devout disposition, she would often smear the TV screen with tilak, vibhooti, chandan, etc, so that her many Gods would always be with her favourite King Kohli and his lads. It often resulted in poor viewing quality, but that was of little concern, you will learn, as this saga unfolds.
The next day she would ask me about the game. Very soon it dawned on me that except for a four, six and ‘out’, she did not grasp much else. She would ask me about power play, leg byes, third umpire and the rest. With all the patience that l could muster, l would try to explain these and other terms. Her failing auditory senses and a general disinclination for sport, however often precluded clear comprehension. Never, for example, could she fathom, why, when there were 11 players, only 10 wickets were required to fall for a team to be ‘all out’. Or why, if there was a ‘No ball’, there was no ‘Yes ball’, or if a ball could be wide, why there should not be one which is narrow…and so on.
As a professor of English in a prestigious university in her times, the terms, particularly the language (English) were more important to her than the rules of cricket. ‘Silly point’ riled her, because there was no ‘clever point’. ‘Fine leg’ got her goat, because she felt there should be a ‘rough leg’ too. ‘Slip’ to her was always a verb…so how could there be three ‘slips’….or is it, she asked, if three players slipped, or gave the batter a slip (she tried it as a noun too)! Other field positions such as third man, extra cover, square leg, long on, mid-wicket (this last, she always felt, not very wrongly either, should be in the middle of the pitch), etc kept her perpetually perplexed, as much for the odd names, as due to the fact that they changed every over. How could short mid-on become short mid-off when the over changed, while the spot (position), and often the player, was the same?
And then there was the ever bewildering quizzing about bowling. If a man bowled with his hands, how could it be ‘leg spin’? Or, were yorkers bowled by bowlers trained in Yorkshire or New York? Was a leg break meant to break the leg of the batsman? And pray, what was an off break? Was it bowled by a player joining after a long break-off? Well I was clearly bowled. She indeed gave a new twist to the term “howzzat?”.
With such endless queries, not to mention questions about maidens and actresses who married cricketers, I told her to just enjoy the big hits, the catches, clean bowleds etc. They were easy enough to relish, without getting into the intricacies of field positions, terminology and what not. Also, I said enjoy the feats of the men in Blue and root for them. “But where are they?”, she hollered from her room one morning, as the match came to life on her TV set. As I rushed in, I realised she was watching a test match, with all, save the umpires, in white. So I got down as patiently as I could, to explain the intricacies of this oldest and most classic form of the game. By then it was the match lunch time (11:30am…we had just finished breakfast), and the score read 42 for 2 in two hours of play and about 25 overs. Too many maidens, I said, to forestall further questions. Her ensuing remark kind of stumped me. “Oh, so the maidens seem more fond of the gentlemen in white, than all those players in silly, coloured costumes”. I had to raise my finger and declare that one ‘out’!
She continues, in the late evening of her life, to watch cricket and introduce her friends and relatives, all in her own age bracket, to the game. It is most instructive, not to say amusing, to hear these wonderful old ladies do their pre and post game analysis. And no prizes for guessing who takes the lead in ‘explaining’ the nuances of the game to the ever growing circle of this new breed of cricket loving octogenarians and nonagenarians.
I dread the day when she asks me about Mr Duckworth and Lewis, whose formulae and calculations for rain interrupted games, have never been comprehended by the most astute cricket analysts and cricketers.
Up until that point, dear Momma, may you continue to bat on the front foot till the last ball is bowled! (I would add: ‘carry your bat’, but who is going to explain that to her?!). So my wife, children and I just wish her a long innings in front of the idiot box…even as we wish that ‘her’ team, blessed as they are with all her sacred smearings on the television screen, always comes out on top.
© Sharabh Pachory, 2022. All rights reserved.
This is a fictionalized work; however events & incidents related are partly true.
Cartoons and pictures from sources as indicated against each.