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Does cricket make you happy? Want to try it?

by Gaurav Sethi

I had a dream, in it, Keith, Sajith and I were exercising on cross trainers. Soon, Keith stops exercising and sits on a plastic chair facing us.  The next morning, I mailed the two recollecting my dream. This set off a series of mails, Sajith was going to be in Delhi on the August 15th weekend, could Keith make it? Could we play some cricket? It’s a ritual of sorts, when a cricket friend hops over, we invariably knock around a little. Over the years, these cricket friends have grown in number, if we tried, we could even wangle an 11 a side match.

I started my prep for the 15th August Dry Day match by stocking up on beer, plastic glasses, another bat, four stumps, Cosco tennis balls for cricket, a WhatsApp group. As is with these groups, you add a few, someone adds a few more, and suddenly you end up with quite a few IPL teams, only who will turn up? Much against WhatsApp protocol, I asked the pretenders to leave. We still had at least 15-20 in the group. Was the Temple Park going to be big enough? After some reckies, it appeared, we’d have to make do with the blessed park.

It rained heavily till noon, broke for a bit, and then cut loose after lunch again. It was to be a 4 pm start. The WhatsApp group had died down, didn’t expect many if any to turn up. 3ish it started buzzing – but with pullouts. Then Aju John landed at my door step, dripping wet, fresh from a walk in the rain. Next Nikhil Kalaan, his brother in law, and his friend, Saagar. Freddie. Sajith. Covers were off, beers were open, we had a game.

By quarter past four, we were at the uninhabited ground. Within minutes though, the footballers had arrived, but we had already partaken of first come first serve – the square was ours, both sides runs was a reality.

In our colonial pecking order, Sajith (erstwhile SSC and Singapore teams) was high up. We started off in the same team, as did Keith. Keith and I opened the batting. A faulty run, his call, my freeze, skid slipped him, and did his hamstring in. Or if that didn’t, the next stop-start-skid-slip surely did. Keith retired hurt, but much as Dhoni keeps through injury, he volunteered his services for the greater good of the game.

Aju John skidded a few times, though in hindsight, it appears he just wanted to get dirty.
The rain had long slunk away, it was down to a drizzle; fielding at short cover, it felt more like puffs of air water floats that kept the sweat at bay. It was near perfect cricket weather, and then from the temple gates walked in A.T. – of CSK loyalties and someone I had added because of a cricket chat over a few beers. I had no memory whether he played but like hell he did. As he came in late, he batted for one team, and bowled for the other. The other lucked out, deep, deep yorkers and faaast too. From Temple Park cricket we were now in the Banaras Ghats League, bring in the artis, this was up a notch and some.

We played for over three hours, two innings a side limited overs (Tendulkar would be so happy); Sajith chipped in with Benaud banter and C’mon Gaurus! of old; it was like being transplanted into a happy space that straddled both the old and new – I kept thinking to myself, man, this game is already being played in sepia, isn’t it fucking amazing to be totally aware of what makes a great memory and seeing it being added to in real-time.

As is with most Punjabi Japanese households, I asked the players to leave their shoes and manners outside the door. We got stuck into some beer. A brand so old, Kalyani Black Label, a few hadn’t even heard of it. Salvaging it is also possibly the only good Dr Mallya’s UB has done in recent times.

Not totally unexpected, Rohit Sharma featured heavily in the post match banter.

Last week I ordered two Table Tennis bats online, this week, I started playing offline. Guess I always knew, playing and not just writing about sport is my thing. At times, it just takes a dream with three men on cross trainers to nudge you.

Our next cricket match is on 2nd October.  When is yours?

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