Gully Cricket #0.1: An evening with Grandpa

As the evening sets in a 7 year old boy is walking home with his grandfather. They are returning from the local market complex, loaded with bags filled with an assortment of product and produce. The little boy is so focused on his ice-cream that he steps into a puddle splashing water everywhere including upon himself.

Grandpa: Dipu take care where you are walking, we don’t want to you to be all dirty when we arrive home. I am not going to protect you from your mom.

Dipu: I’m sorry grandpa. When will we be at home? Teen Titans will be starting soon on TV.

As they are walking back, they pass by a sports field filled with boys playing Cricket. Dipu watches the boys play and is curious this new game he is seeing for the first time.

Dipu: Grandpa what is that?

Grandpa: What is what Dipu?

Dipu: That game they are playing. (He asks while pointing towards the boys on the field)

Grandpa: Ah that, my boy, is the great game of Cricket.

Dipu: What is Cricket grandpa?

Grandpa: Hmm …. How do I start? Ok, let’s start from the beginning. Cricket is a game that was brought to India by the British colonist around1900’s. There have been many changes in the game but the basic rules have stayed the same. It has gradually become the most popular game in India.

Dipu: How do I play Cricket? Can I play with my friends? (The mention of a new game excites Dipu)

Grandpa: Sure you can play it. Cricket is bat-and-ball game played between two teams each with 11 players.

Dipu: Why so many players grandpa? Can’t I play with less number of players?

Grandpa: The 11 player rule is only for the official matches. You can play with any number of players you want. But what you definitely need to play cricket is a flat hard surface which is called the ‘pitch’. The length of the pitch is marked by two sets of sticks (3 in each) called ‘wickets’ or ‘stumps’ (yes, from tree stumps!). The game is played with a circular object called a ‘ball’ and flat piece of wood called a ‘bat’. Out of the two teams the one that handles the ball is called the ‘bowling’ team and one who holds the bat is called the ‘batting’ team.

Dipu: This is so complicated grandpa, what does it mean — batting or bowling, and why are some boys running which the others are standing still?

Grandpa: Don’t worry Dipu you will get this in time, but since you asked will try to explain a bit more for now. See the guy throwing the ball from one set of wickets towards the other. He is called the ‘bowler’ and he is trying to throw down the wickets on the other end.

Dipu: But won’t it be easier to throw down the wickets from closer distance? Why does he have to throw from the other end?

Grandpa: That Dipu is one of the rules of the game. If he doesn’t throw the ball from the other side wickets then it is called a ‘no-ball’ and he has to throw the ball again.

Dipu: I understand a bit now, but I have another question. Why is that boy swinging the flat piece of wood? Is he trying to hit the ball thrown by the bowler?

Grandpa: As always you have plenty of questions and you are absolutely correct. The piece of wood is called a ‘bat’ and the person holding it called the ‘batsman’. The batsman tries to stop the ball bowled by the bowler from hitting the wickets. Additionally he tries to hit the ball out of the ground, which the opponent bowling team players try to stop. Apart from the bowler the other team players have the responsibilities of stopping the ball from escaping out of the field boundaries and they are called ‘fielders’. If the batsman hits the ball out of the field boundary along the ground then the batting team gets 4 points or ‘runs’ and if the ball goes over the boundary then he gets 6 runs. If the ball stays within the boundary the batsman has to run across to the other side of the pitch to complete 1 run. Also you see the batsman playing in pairs such that as one guy is the batsman facing the bowler from the batting end, the other guy stands on the bowling end and is called the ‘runner’. As the batsman runs to the other side to score a run the runner crosses over to the batting end and faces the bowler next.

Dipu: So what happens if the bowler successfully throws down the wickets on the other end?

Grandpa: Then the batsman stops playing, and he gets ‘out’. Then he is replaced by another player from his team and the game continues until a fixed number of balls are bowled or all the players on the batting team get out. There are also other ways to get a batsman out. If a batsman tries to hit the ball out of the boundaries and instead a fielder grabs the ball before it hits the ground, called getting a ‘catch’, within the field boundaries they are also out. Also when the fielders are able to throw down the wickets on either end before the batsman or runner are caught still running then too they are declared ‘run-out’.

Dipu: So what happens if the batsman just stands in front of the stumps and blocks the wickets? There is no way then he can be out right?

Grandpa: Very clever Dipu. But you have to understand that simply blocking without scoring will also lead to a loss as in cricket the team that scores more runs wins. Once the batting team plays all the balls (the number may be fixed earlier), or the whole team gets out, they switch roles with the bowling team. And in the end the team which has scored more runs is declared the winner. Additionally a batsman can be declared out if he tries stop the ball from hitting the wickets with your body.

Dipu: I would like to play this game with my friends sometimes, you will also play with us grandpa. But now I am getting late for my cartoon on TV. Let’s hurry back home.

Grandpa: It has been a long time since I played cricket, so even if I cannot play I will help you and your friends play cricket. For now I will take the responsibility to take you home so you don’t miss your all-important cartoon.

And both of them continue walking down the darkening alleys as one by one the street lights come alight. Little did Dipu know that this game he just learned about would one day become the fulcrum of his life.