A Satire on the Gentleman’s Game : Cricket
By Niyati Agrawal
“Cricket civilizes people and creates good gentlemen” – Robert Mugabe (ex-president of Zimbabwe)
So what exactly is a gentleman? It is somebody who is cultured, educated, courteous, holds a reputed position in society and plays cricket. He holds a cricket bat, dresses in all white, walks into a stadium, speaks fluent English and plays the most “polite” game. No profanities shouted and every defeat accepted gracefully while a win received elegantly.
If the words of the ex-president of Zimbabwe hold true, then every man in Mumbai is a gentleman. However the Mumbai gentleman is a tad bit different than the Victorian gentleman. So much so is the difference that the person who first called cricket a gentleman’s game would be turning in his grave.
Here a gentleman will still hold a cricket bat but will be dressed in what ages ago used to be white and now it’s covered with dirt, will walk proudly in a gully, speak mostly every language except English and plays the most localized version of what once used to be the game of the aristocrats. Every possible swear words used when a catch is dropped and danced like there is no tomorrow when a match is won.
Gully cricket is a very common form of the game found in Mumbai. It has no age boundary. It is very normal to find a 50 year old bowling to a 5 year old. The players will not essentially be wearing proper footwear or sunscreen lotion or even a helmet. Sometimes it is not even played with a proper cricket gear like ball, bat or stumps.
It is usually played with a tennis ball and if that is not available then even with paper balls. A bat may not be necessarily required. A stick or a book or anything can be used as long as it hits the ball. A stump is often replaced by a shoe or a wood board or a rock or a chair or bottles. Boundary will be the building walls or the cars parked along the road. The young cheerleaders are often replaced by the mothers or wives. A match here is never called off due to rain. In fact monsoons are a favorite time to play.
It will not necessarily even have the traditional eleven players per team. In fact there might not even be teams. There will be a batsman, a bowler and rest all fielding, irrespective of the fact whether there are fifteen players or five.
In recent years, gully cricket has been taken to another level. Tournaments and championships are organized specially for this form of cricket. A typical tournament will have a D.J, vada pav and Pepsi for refreshments, senior citizens of the locality play the role of an umpire. The competitiveness between the two teams is as good as that of India v/s Pakistan matches. The excitement, the thrill and the energy is the same as what one would get in Lords. The talent found is also close to that of the namesake gentleman.
Cricket has seen a lot of transformation from its origin in the 16th century to the present day. It has been breaking boundaries, rules and joining cultures. It has become the sport of the common man. It may have been the sport given to us by the English, a sport of the “Gentleman”, but we sure have changed it, twisted it and play it with our own rules. Mumbai ki har gully mein cricket khela jata hai, har gully ke baccho ko sachin ya brett lee kaha jata hai, har gully mein kaanch ke saath saath record tode jaate hai, har gully mein “Gentlemen” paaye jaate hai.