This was supposed to be one of the thousand post-world cup blog posts but then by the time I realized the din has subsided and decided to write, the cauldron was already empty. Everything that needs to be said has already been said by people far more knowledgeable and in much more articulate write-ups. And everything that need not be said has also been done. What’s left? Maybe some good old cricket nostalgia from Bombay.
We had our own World Cup. I am quite obviously exaggerating, but we had a one day tournament(not an ODI tournament, the whole tournament itself lasts only a day!), with all the officers quarters(apartments) of my dad’s bank in Bombay participating in what could be called T10 matches. The defending champions usually get a bye and go straight into the semi-finals. The others played their draws and we had about eight teams – Sydney, Uttara, Decor, Karthik, Apna Ghar, Manish Nagar, Mulund and Ghatkopar!
Uttara was the team I belonged to and we had our nets at the Shastri Nagar corner park. At times when I did not make it to the playing eleven(which was most times!) the only joy was from keeping the cricket bats in my house. Nets were at sharp 7 AM and we would be at the building lobby at 6.45. It wasn’t always the traditional nets but more like playing 4-5 overs matches among the seven or eight of us who turn up. The premier bowlers for the team were M and V. The practice always started with them taking their run ups and me struggling to read their yorkers. P used to get a look-in with his spin and more often than not was successful in getting ahead of me in the selection. There was a funny incident with me throwing the ball, hitting P’s face and S uncle admonishing me for almost injuring his Ravichander Ashwin level of mythical figure that was P. I won’t forget the unbridled chutzpah with which P walked away from me that morning. S uncle was our captain.
S “uncle”! You did not think this was a kids/youngsters event, did you? This was basically for the potbellied uncles and middle aged officers of the bank. Though I just referred to it as our very own World Cup, it had rules more on the IPL mold. Each team was allowed only four kids/youngsters/sons of officers. The rest were all supposed to be officers. In other words, bank employees. So you can imagine the selection woes, yes? Yes. A set of undoubtedly unfit men with paunches resembling the laughing Buddhas in their mantelpieces mull over the selection of four out of seven or eight 14-24 year olds. Sounds familiar? Well of course. M and V select themselves for their all round capabilities. C gets in with his sheer pace and R plays if he is not busy with exams. P and I took care of the 12th man duties for the most part unless someone was injured.
It won’t be a stretch to call the Bhavans College ground our home. Maybe not just for our team but for all the five or six teams around the Lokhandwala area. It turns into a lazy Sunday getaway for the families and since it’s relatively more accessible, we get a bigger attendance. There was one other ground in Juhu, somewhere behind the ISKCON-Chandan cinemas area, and one more in Mulund. The Mulund team were like the 1996 Sri Lankan team. Frankly, I did not even know that the bank had an officers quarters in that part of Bombay. We all thought they were the minnows we never had and the next minute, they had won the tournament. They had a father son duo that pretty much played like how Jayasuriya and Aravinda De Silva did for their 1996 team. Total jolt. Inspired by Mulund, another supposedly-nonexistent-until-then team of Goregaon came into the picture. Goregaon were still the trademark minnows. They hardly could find eleven players and most of the kids in their building were eight year olds[sic]. So they turned to subterfuge. Imagine if Kevin O’Brien was actually some rugby player from England? They located this burly young man from their neighborhood and got him into the team as the pinch hitter, their only saving grace. He was brought into the team under the pretext of being Mr. Kale’s eldest son. Of course, Mr. Kale had only a tiny son and a daughter. The mystifying aspect of a lesser known Goregaon quarters only contributed too well to this deceit. The only problem was making sure Mr. Kale nods with reassurance if someone had to stop him and remark,” Abeyaar Kale, tere bete ne toh Wagmare ke over mein kya shandaar chakka maara“, and our Kale had a heart big enough to do that.
The event had its own mythical figures and ego clashes. The Dadar branch chief manager’s son was supposedly the emerging Shoaib Akhtar of Andheri. Well, at least the West. He was rattling stumps at every park and he was not yet our friend. Then there was the ego clash with Sydney. You don’t lose to Sydney. Sydney was the quarters exclusively for chief managers, executives and everyone else above that scale with their sons and daughters married off and living elsewhere. That means they are all people in their late 40s or early 50s. You don’t like to lose, with a relatively younger team, to a team full of senior citizens. But that fateful day did come. It even turned out to be the finals. You wouldn’t hear the end of it even five editions later.
Much like the 1996 semi-finals against Sri Lanka. Mostly like the finals of 2003 against Australia. On that day, the younger brigade of Team Uttara flocked at my place. V left after the first innings. C left after Sachin got out. I resigned to study for my board exams at around the halfway mark of the Indian innings. On the night of April 2nd 2011, in a moment of laboriously searched for silence, I am sure their hearts harked back to that day even if just for a second. Even if today they exist only on my Facebook friends list and not on the floor above.