Romance of galli cricket
No sooner than the clock strikes the designated hour, kids, even adolescents, start trickling in and soon the paltry area between two buildings or the open parking lot lying in abeyance becomes the centre of commotion and clamour, much to the relief of kids who couldn’t afford an afternoon nap despite the repeated pleas of their mothers, lest they miss out on the action.
Dead branches and bricks serve as stumps, with a solitary piece of rock doing the needful at the bowler’s end. Lack of enough bats means sometimes the non-striker runs for his life, er wicket, empty handed, and the batsmen are again forced to meet midway through the pitch, if one can call that strip of dust and stones a pitch, where the bat is handed over.
The batsman at the non-striker’s end also has to dispense of his duties as a makeshift umpire, and is at the centre of scandalous accusations of corruption and partiality. Hell, even the players don’t add up.
Name calling takes up more time than the game itself in case of brick-stumps. Because the imagined height at which the ball floated over them is different for different players, leading to oblique references to the non-striker-cum-umpire’s lineage.
Balls are mostly tennis balls or rubber balls. Especially rubber balls. Reasons: many. They come cheap. But most importantly, they don’t hurt in the obvious absence of protection.
Boundaries are mostly imaginary, where the mental projections of the edge of a building or the wall of a compound double up as boundaries, leading to squabbling over the veracity of claims regarding 4s or 6s.
Obviously, the fielder is the only one who is actually aware of what really happened. Scenes from the Parliament are re-enacted on the parking lot in case of discrepancies in matters that directly affect people.
Despite such obvious shortcomings, the players involved seem oblivious, both to such foibles and to the rants of the lady whose glass panes were shattered a few days back.
Rules are ingenious, laid down in unwritten constitutions, and have been designed carefully to satisfy spatial and monetary constraints, depending upon the locality under purview. Too many ‘out-of-the-park’ shots in the past, that made the concerned fielder direct allusive remarks at the batsman’s mother and sisters, meant that the rules had to be tweaked, and shots that landed too far away were categorized as dismissals. So were the strokes that hit a particular wall above a specified height or a particular story that made the same cantankerous lady appear at the window.
Lost balls or smashed windows mean compensation, and the onus generally lies with the batsman responsible for the decimation, though some pro-democratic members advocate the pooling of resources to reduce the degree of rant that the batter might have to face at home.
Captains are ordained mostly at public demand, and teams are decided through coin-flipping.
Batting order defies logic, and is generally led by players who didn’t have a chance to bowl, or are not going to. That probably derives from the fact that generally, in proper cricket, bowlers can’t bat and hence make a belated appearance. But more than that, gully cricket is also about justice: it is a matter of providing everybody the chance to be a part of the action, much like caste based reservations. You didn’t bat? You’ll bowl first then.
The dusk for the players coincides with the advent of darkness, for tougher lectures lie in store for those who aren’t already faking mathematics at their tables by the time their mothers are done with the evening prayers.
Simply put, galli cricket is a crude, toned-down version of cricket. Nevertheless, galli is where the real India plays, most of which can’t afford training but is bursting at the seams with talent. It is where children take baby steps into the world of cricket. Even the Pathans and Dhonis of cricket evolved from such alleys and by-lanes, making such thin strips of land hallowed in the annals of cricket.