The IPL season is around the corner and the Indian players can look forward to obscene some of money on offer when they go under a hammer, in an auction. The cricketing event reminds us of our own association with the game that we played so very passionately while we were in Sainik School, Bijapur. We may not have been paid for our toil but our passion was no less. The dress, the logo and the other accessories did not matter to us; our focus was pure cricket that involved a duel between a bat and a ball. We made balls out of used and torn socks that turned out to be a lot harder and more roundish compared to the Kookaburra balls. The balls turned viciously and bounced vigorously at the most unexpected times. That was a commendable improvisation cum innovation!! And, for the batsmen, to face such torpedoes from the other end demanded not only uncommon eyesight but also a fairly good foresight. To top it all, short mosquito net rods substituted for professional bats and the sheer pleasure of hitting a four with an iron rod, whose diameter did not measure more than half an inch, was to be experienced to be believed. We had a fellow bowler who turned that ball almost square to the wicket!! He had mastered that art of vicious spin, on a tiled pitch, to perfection and had he continued to hone his craft, then, I am sure, he would have given Muthaiah Muralidharan a run for his money. Oh! What a pitch!! All of a mere nine feet in width and thirty-nine feet in length, infinitely bounded by cots in the barrack, on all sides! Such a packed venue had witnessed a number of fiercely contested inter-house cricket matches. Doesn’t it look so very unreal and incredible to visualize that a bowler had to maintain a tight line from one end of the popping crease to the other? And, the job of the batsmen, to negotiate all the cots and to hit a boundary at the other end of the barrack was even more challenging. There was this another talented Tendulkar in our batch who was not only known for his straight drive four but also for his lofted sixes that traversed the distance almost parallel to the roof! We used to call it a skimming six! And, all of that with what–a mere half an inch wide iron rod!! Unbelievable stuff that was!! Runs poured in plenty, even when the fielders were smartly tucked between the cots for a possible catch or a feasible run out!! A four or a magnificent six had to be executed not only in sheer silence but also after taking due care of the windowpanes and hanging lights!! Since space was a constraint, the scorer had to be seated out side the barrack to monitor the goings on and since he could not witness every happening, ball by ball, one of the fielders was assigned the task of relaying the messages to the scorer. Where then was an umpire?? No place for him there, we ruled ourselves out whenever we felt we were out! And, more importantly, this entire competitive cricket had to go on without any hullabaloo and brouhaha so as to ensure that the housemaster did not descend all of a sudden, uninvited!! The housemasters and the house superintendents had their residences right behind our dormitories. To stop such inauspicious intrusions and to forewarn of any lurking danger, the batting side had to deploy two lookout men at pre-selected vantage points to keep a watch over ever-obstructive house superintendents. It was very funny but was also very scary. We were the proud students of a 300-Acre campus but the ecstasy of playing in ‘fearful’ conditions is what gave us that extra excitement. There was a dignity of danger attached to our game; it was an affair of honor. For us, it was both an adventurous and also a recreational sport. While the housemasters kept a strict vigil over us, we too exercised a stricter vigil over the housemasters!! It was a battle of wits between the housemaster and us; each one was trying to outsmart the other. On few occasions, if the opposing side didn’t get you, the House Master certainly did!! And, the shattered window panes, mutilated switches, drooping fans, hanging light shades, tumbled mosquito net rods and everything else in that barrack stood as silent complainants to an otherwise hard fought and intensely absorbing game of cricket. Come rain or thunder, our game went on without a murmur and we had to play the full match for we didn’t have the luxury of Duckworth and Lewis method then! The House Master, with his unannounced arrival on the scene could end the match sine die, and in such situations, the leading team, at that juncture, was declared a winner, an impartial system, indeed. He was a sort of a third umpire for us and could change the complexion of the game any time during the match. Some you lost and some you won!!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the IPL cricketing mega event those days –or else- we would certainly have made an entry as a team of “Silent Smashers”!!