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10Ten – Nineteen Eighty Nine

by RajaB

Summer holidays came once a year, how disappointing (they still do I am told). The disappointment can’t be described in words, I always wanted a minimum of 2-3 summers an year. And obviously the summer holidays too. In fact those were days when I was upset with Jesus Christ, for he came back to life on a Sunday every year, on Easter. I wanted to ask him why he wouldn’t select a working day for that, for it would become a holiday for me.

And those were also the days when I used to think about cricket all the time, including my sleep. The days when “The Hindu” was read from the third back page on, when I played book cricket all the time when it wasn’t a break, played French cricket using a paper ball and the physics record notebook during those times the bell rang before 4.30p, then came the time I played cricket in my gully and then after the sun had set I talked about anything that is cricket. It could be international, Ranji, district level, schools, street level.

Those were the days when I insisted that my father bought me an SS Ton, a bat I had seen many international players carry (Symonds and Duncan Fearnley were the others seen frequently) to play the cork ball and rubber ball cricket versions. But whatever the versions, summer and 10Ten always have a special place in my heart.

That was when my younger cousin Deepak from Madras used to vacation with us. While as any other cricket crazy Madurai street my street was as mad about cricket, there still was a window when nobody played cricket in the whole town. At noon when the sun used to shine or rather blast out with vengeance, all the boys would disappear for their lunch at 12.30p before regrouping by 3p for the next game. These three and a half hours was when this spectacle called 10Ten used to happen.

Deepak used to stay at his maternal grandfather’s house which was opposite to my house. Outside the house was a narrow concrete ally which was approximately 5 feet in width and about 40 feet in length where there was a concrete fencing separating two houses. This became our cricket stadia during those three and a half hours.

We had a stone next to the gate of the house that would turn our stumps, and roughly 8-10 feet from it was a line on the floor which became the 2 line. For, any ball that crosses this line accounted for two runs. A further 4-5 feet away was another stone which marked the bowing crease, any ball that crossed it entitled three runs to the batting team and then came the fence that demarcated the boundary of the house. This became our boundary, the final frontier of the stadia. Any ball that went aerial route to hit the concrete wall was a six and one that rolls in a four and if it flew out (be it any direction outside the fence demarcating the alley) you are gone.

Now that we know some rules and the topography, let us see what a game of 10Ten actually is.

It is a one player versus another variation of cricket. As the name suggests one person bowls 10 overs to the other. Each chooses his favorite team and gets 10 wickets to bat. So the innings ended once those 10 wickets were out or if the 10 overs had been bowled. The other beauty of this form of cricket was that two teams played and not two people (as it would be), it could be international or local, one person would represent a team. Deepak invariably chose the Indians of 80s. So for him every time, Srikanth and Gavaskar opened his innings and Maninder Singh was his last man. Another amazing thing was that the batsmen used to change ends as it happens in cricket normally. For example if the ball crossed the 3 line the person batting had to spell out who would bat next. There used to be a fight most of the time Deepak crossed this line. For, most of the time Deepak tried to cheat me by getting a Lalchand Rajput out instead of a Kapil Dev, when Lalchand had just scored a three in the previous ball and it was Kapil who should have faced.

And this is an underarm variant of cricket.

Underarm was a misnomer those days (80s) in most parts of cricket playing India. For many, any ball that was thrown (overarm) was underarm. That was wrong, the pedigreed me reasoned with two clinching advantages to prove that the average cricket player of those days wrong. The first that I was an English professor’s son (so I exactly knew what underarm meant) and I also came from a Tambram family (to who statistics, cricket, Hindu paper, coffee and a centum in every mathematics test were mandatory to prove their parentage). So I (rather we, me and Deepak knew what underarm was, and then we also had Tevor and Greg Chappell to thank for letting the world see what underarm actually meant) knew very well that a ball is underarm only as long as the bowling hand doesn’t get up above the bowlers hip. And this form of bowling formed the base for the 10Ten games.

Those days I used to always think out of the box, for those were the days when I didn’t know there existed a box. I always preferred Andhra Pradesh as my team. The reality was that they were one of the weakest Ranji trophy teams those days, who always used to fight with Goa tooth and nail to determine who the worst team was in the south zone. But what caught my fancy was their captains name, it was V Chamundeshwaranath. I don’t know why, he used to be my favorite Indian cricketer and Andhra used to my favorite team and therefore they played against Deepak’s mighty Indians in every single 10Ten match we played.

2 out of 5 times Andhra won against the mighty Indians of Deepak. Of the other three, one match definitely ended when Deepak took the ball away and walked out of the match because I had got either his Azharuddin or a Vengsarkar out and he wouldn't accept that.

My Andhra line-up used to be something like this…

Vinod Kumar and Prasanna used to open, Rehman followed them. Then you had Kamaraju who preceded Chamundeshwaranath the captain. Then came Murthy and Ravi Kumar and Krishna Mohan, who used to be their wicket keeper in the previous season. This season, if I am not wrong (now!!) Prasanna was their wicket keeper. Their last man was Chakradar Rao who if my memory hasn’t failed me was a left handed spinner who was to be told before every time he ventured out to bat, how to hold a bat. I prided the moment when Chakradar scored some useful runs and won matches for me against the mighty Indians of Deepak. I would never forget a particular over which an over when a confident Deepak made Gavaskar bowl to Chakradar and Chakra like a true man responded with a four, a three and two in four balls to win the match for Andhra Pradesh.

Memories that would be for life time, those days. I wish I and Deepak could travel back in time or at least we travel back to Madurai, to that same place and had a rematch. With our kids and folks in full audience.

As Brian Adams used to sing when I was 17*, “Those were the best days of my life”.

* I have graduated henceforth to other (good) music


Gaurav Sethi said...

Absolutely delightful Raja!

Gng by the length of this piece, who would have thought it was T10 u was writing abt?

More like test cricket with the rest day thrown in!

Viswanathan said...


I used play the same game with my cousin, but stuck to international teams.

When we batted we used to hold the bat (Left/Right) as the original used to do and we played in their style.

When it came to bowling we used to spin or bowl pace using only the right hand.

To paraphrase - those were the days.:)

straight point said...

10 on 10ten!!

i wish i too had a sharp memory like yours...

sraghuna said...

A very evocative piece ... 'longgg' but loaded with nostalgia ... T10, french cricket, exodus by rail of kith & kin to the family homestead in the 'mulluk',clamouring cousins from all over the globe, cork balls etc ... in my case it was more like in the summer of 79 ... but what's a decade here or there when you're in 'Heaven'!

RajaB said...

SP... Thanks a million. But I am not sure if my memory is as sharp to elicit such praise... Let me thank Ottayan before I tell why.

There was one vital bit I had forgotten about, that is... If you bowl a Maninder Singh, then you need to bowl left handed and if a Clive Lloyd batted you need to bat left handed... Thanks Ottayan for reminding me some rules from "those days"...

Prabhu.S said...


Nice one. thanks.

enjoyed reading it.

those days we had lot of open space, time after school and lot of boys to play with every evening.

today, there seems to be none of it..

even at the age of 5, children seem to be playing serious cricket in the academies!!!

Book cricket too i think is history. havent heard/seen any one play in the last decade

meherbaba was one of my favourite AP players....(it was pre goa entry into ranji)

my memory of AP was them being bowled out for 29 in Ranji Trophy by TN...