Thursday, August 13, 2009

Twoodies and One-tup catches

A lot has been written about local cricket in India, and especially Mumbai. Some good books include:
These books however tend to focus on the (loosely) organized cricket on the maidans, the storied cricketing grounds like Shivaji Park in Mumbai or the Maidan in Kolkata. There is another, somewhat different cricketing experience that many of us went through as kids -- gully cricket.

Maidan cricket is played in the traditional fashion -- 11-a-side, kids in whites (even if dirty), proper cricket equipment (even if dilapidated), an umpire or two (even if biased)... It's usually organized, with teams playing in some sort of league or tournament, representing clubs, schools or companies.

In contrast, gully cricket is much more ad hoc. The teams are formed by identifying two captains, who then take turns, picking from the available players until there aren't any left. Pity the poor sod who's the last to be picked! The rules are decided, or made up on the fly. Gully cricket has its own lingo as well -- probably varying from place to place. In Mumbai for example, we'd decide whether one-tup was out or not! What this means is that if a fielder takes a "catch" after the first bounce, the batsman would be out. This is often necessary while playing in limited spaces, or in gullies where regular catches are hard to come by! Sometimes we'd switch to "one-tup out" midway during the game, because it was getting dark and we wanted to get the game over with quickly!

The playing area is often wierdly-shaped -- kids will of course seize upon any available space to play! That also necessitates a creative definition of the boundaries. In our colony for example, our playing area had a very short boundary (literally, a boundary wall) on the off side, and a more acceptable boundary on the leg side. Reaching the off-side boundary therefore wasn't worth four runs, it was decided -- two was all you'd get. Hitting this boundary was termed as a twoodie, i.e. "2D", short for "two runs declared"! Depending on the distance, you could similarly have onedies and threedies! In the rare case where there was actually an umpire, he'd signal a twoodie just like a boundary, but with two fingers outstretched.

Another cricketing space in our colony was a small, concrete-paved square patch next to the local temple, with a small boundary wall all around it -- barely a foot high. We'd play underarm cricket (slow bowling only), one-tup out of course, with this strange rule designed to deter hard hitting -- a sixer that landed on the road around this square was perfectly legitimate (a sixdee?), but if it was hit too hard and went across the road into the adjacent garden, you were out! Certainly made for some wierd lobbed shots that needed accuracy. They had to be hit long enough to evade the fielders near the boundary wall, but not too hard lest they cross the narrow strip of road!

An outsider would come across more strange lingo... jaa, sirf played kar, for example. That's advice given to a young kid going out to bat in a tough situation -- go, just "played" it! No that's not just a grammatical mistake. I think it originated thus: in Test cricket, whenever a batsman played a good defensive stroke, the radio/TV commentators would say "That's well played, bat and pad close together, etc. etc.". I remember hearing that over and over again from Iftikhar Ahmed and Chishti Mujahid for example, the Pakistani TV commentators, during the 1978-79 series. Somehow, "well played" came to represent a defensive stroke, just keeping the ball out, and then got shortened to "played".

Then there was the "connection out" rule, for run outs. This came into being because you rarely have one full set of stumps in gully cricket, let alone two. So the non-striker's end doesn't have any stumps. They're substituted with either a brick or stones, or merely a pile of footwear! Now if there's a runout attempted at the non-striker's end, the "connection" rule says that you can collect the thrown ball and step on the brick/chappals, baseball style, to effect the dismissal. You've provided the "connection" between the ball and the stumps! Just as major-league baseball players (and their coaches) get into arguments with umpires about whether the connection was properly made, we'd have all sorts of arguments and the occasional fight too! Although of course, we knew nothing about baseball in those days...

I'm sure there were other such quirks that I'm now forgetting... I hope to be reminded of those when my kid grows up and starts playing some serious gully cricket! Till then...

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