Mattancherry Elevens

March 30, 2021 at 3:02 pm 6 comments


A ruthless commando operation is telecast live every other day and the weapon of combat here is the willow. Pre-emptive assault, counter attack, siege on the opponent and et al… the T-20 format of cricket has all the tactical ingredients of a realtime warfare enacted, not on the battleground, but at a floodlit stadium. And as millions across the globe are awed and mesmerised by the display of raw power and aggressive posturing, this once a gentleman’s game now evokes passions reserved only for the bouts at the rings. And if the revenue generated are any measure to go by, the popularity of this form of cricket is ever on the rise!

But the twenty over cricket match is nothing new though the coining of the acronym ’T-20’ could be termed novel. It always was the preferred game at my hometown Kochi where a full match could most likely be played only in that format, in the period intervening two spells of downpour.  And, as the game could be decisively wound up in three hours, it suited the boys too who sneak out of their homes between breakfast and lunch. As the boys in Kochi were too many, so too were the number of teams that sprung up and each were christened by the name of their locality. Mattancherry was the place I lived and ‘Mattancherry Elevens’ was the team I played for. 

‘Mattancherry Elevens’ comprised of twelve players and on most occasions than not, I was the twelfth one, kept in reserve. Since I could bat and ball with equal incompetence, I would easily replace either a batsman or a bowler whenever one of them failed to turn up. This made my presence almost inevitable, often priceless, for the team. ‘Mattancherry Elevens’ was known for its impressive batting lineup, with Ravi and Rasheed as the opening pair. When Ravi played with elegance à la Sunny Gavaskar, Rasheed, though left-handed, often resembled Zaheer Abbas, that stylish Pakistani player of yesteryears, both with his strokes as well as in looks. The pair often made impressive partnerships, and a twenty-five run on the board with no loss of wickets was the kind of launch pad our team was accustomed to on which Alex, Piyush and Sentil built formidable scores. By the time Sridhar got onto the middle at six down, the tally would have most likely surpassed sixty and being an allrounder, he would manage a couple of lofted shots over the fence before he threw away his wicket, as is his wont. As tail-enders, pace bowlers Hanif and Manoj and spinner Surendran made notable contributions with the bat as well whenever that rare opportunity arose. On the whole, ‘Mattancherry Elevens’ looked and often proved a winning combination of talent in all departments of the game that each time the team went out to play, it remained the favourites to win the match.

That formidable reputation was on the verge of being demolished when, in one crucial match, chasing a reasonable 78 runs put up by the opponent, “Veli Warriors”, the team was struggling at 69 for 8 at the end of the 19th over. Surendran, the spinner of the team, wasn’t well that day and me, also a spinner, was the obvious replacement. I bowled a couple of overs without any success in picking up wickets though I conceded only 18 runs, which was fairly economical by my very lavish standards. And as the last batsman up there, I was hoping that I be spared of the agony of having to face the last over and still expect to play the winning shots! But that was not to be. On the first ball of the twentieth over, Sridhar, who still was in the crease, pulled a short pitch delivery which, after the first bounce went over the deep square fence for a four. Enthralled by the previous success, Sridhar pre-decided to despatch the second ball too to the boundary. He danced down the pitch, swung his bat aiming at the mid-on region, missed the line of a full length delivery comprehensively and had his middle stump flung onto the air and then turn turtle. 

With nine wickets down, four balls to spare and six runs to score for a victory, the hope and thus the prestige of the entire team fell on my unwilling shoulders. I walked onto the middle, posing to be confident though deep inside I felt like a hapless sheep dragged onto the slaughter house. Scanning the field all around, I noticed critical gaps where the ball could be despatched to score easy runs as I took the guards on the popping crease and waited for the third ball to be delivered. The bowler started his run-up, gathered momentum and in full throttle let down a fury on to me. I could have either lofted the ball on the half-volley over the mid-off region or alternatively, pulled it over the fine leg area for an easy boundary. But I choose the third option and let the ball go to the wicketkeeper’s safe gloves! 

Someone from the spectators, as a mark of annoyance, hurdled a coconut husk that landed softly on to my left side and I wished that the bowler too showed the same benignity with the ball! I felt that the best way to escape the ignominy of being the cause of the imminent defeat is to somehow cross over to the non-striker end. With that sole objective, I glided the fourth ball, pitched outside the off-stump, towards the extra cover area, forceful enough to run for a single but short enough not to risk a second run. After playing the shot, I ran frantically on to the other end as if being chased by a Bengal tiger and heaved a sigh of relief to be at the non-striker end. But my happiness proved short-lived as the fielder who flunk the ball to the stumps missed it by a mile and an opportunity arose to run for an overthrow. And before I could realise, Latif has already reached my crease and I was left with no option but to run towards the sticker’s end! The score read 75 for nine with two balls to spare, four runs to a win and myself at the receiving end! 

With the remaining two balls, I fathomed that I could score those four runs in a variety of combinations but thought better to score a boundary of the very next delivery and finish off the game! To implement this pious intension, I offered a square-cut to the penultimate delivery, an in-swinger, but the ball missed the bat by a yard and the stumps, by a whisker! Now with only one more to go, all the fielders were pushed back to the boundary line and the only one close to me was the wicketkeeper. And behind him I noticed a ‘no man’s land’ and all I needed to win the match was to lob the ball over his head. And when the bowler hurdled the last one on to me, I turned 90° towards the right in an attempt to flick the ball over the keeper’s head. The ball instead popped off taking the top edge of the bat and despite his fullest jump to grab what would have been a spectacular catch,it landed on the ground three feet behind. Once there, the ball raced towards the boundary line without any human resistance and crossed the fence in great speed! 

With that the reputation of the ‘Mattancherry Elevens’ was saved for the day..and that of mine as a cricketer, enhanced!

Yours

Narayanan          

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , , .

Discipline and more A letter to my departed brother-in-law

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sheree  |  March 30, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    I love T20 format!

    Reply
    • 2. chapter18  |  March 30, 2021 at 4:35 pm

      Me too!

      Reply
    • 3. chapter18  |  March 30, 2021 at 4:38 pm

      And thanks for reading!

      Reply
      • 4. Sheree  |  March 30, 2021 at 5:50 pm

        Pleasure

  • 5. Krishna  |  March 31, 2021 at 11:25 am

    Nice Narayananji 😊

    Reply
    • 6. chapter18  |  March 31, 2021 at 11:34 am

      Thanks..You could consider sharing it

      Reply

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