Playing Cricket In India

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Dale Fehringer

Copyright 2019 by Dale Fehringer

  

Photo of Dale playing cricket.

We had a day of rest about half way through our cycling tour of India, and we spent most of the day doing laundry, napping, attending a cooking class, and playing cricket.  It was the playing cricket part that produced my worst – and best – memory of that day.

I’ve never understood cricket.  I played baseball growing up, and I loved the sport.  I guess you could say I got pretty good at it, and I continued playing softball well into adulthood.  So I could hit and catch balls.  But cricket was a mystery to me.  It still is.

Our guides, bus driver, and some of the guys from the hotel organized a cricket match for us in the late afternoon.  It was a friendly game – the tourists against the locals – and no one kept score (as far as I knew).  Nearly everyone in our tour group was British, and they had grown up with cricket, so they understood the rules, even if they hadn’t played.  Most of them were up for a friendly match.

I initially opted out, but after a little friendly encouraging I agreed to play.  Our side (the tourists) started batting.  I sat on the grass at the end of the line, hoping to not be called on.  But our side did well enough (or the locals did poorly enough – I couldn’t tell which) that I got up to bat.

A cricket bat is a little like a baseball bat, in that it’s made of wood and has a handle.  But that’s where the similarity ends.  It’s much heavier than a bat (at least the one we were using was), and the business end is flat.  Both of those changes make it more difficult to hit the ball that is pitched to the batter.  But I hit it anyhow. 

 My hit flew to the end of the pitch and one of the guides caught it on a bounce. 

Run!” my teammates shouted, so I took off for the wicket. 

But I made two mistakes:  First, I dropped the bat.  That’s what you do in baseball, but not in cricket.  But that apparently wasn’t a big mistake.  My big mistake came when I reached the wicket, noticed the fielder hadn’t yet flung the ball back to the bowler, so I took off for the home wicket. 

The fielder retrieved the ball, relayed it to the bowler, who hit the wicket before I reached the other end of the pitch.  I had made an out for my team that could have been easily avoided.  My teammates expressed their dismay and I took a seat by myself on the grass.

When it came time for our team to take the field, my teammates tried to keep me from creating further embarrassment for myself (and for them).  They asked me to take a defensive position far away in the right field, where (hopefully) I would have nothing to do but swat flies.  I walked to my position of shame and stood there, hoping the game would soon be over.

As you might expect, the guides heaped a pile of runs on us, hitting the ball all over the field, out of the reach and between the legs of the tourists.  They were having a blast, high-fiving each other and heaping praise on their teammates.  It was a one-sided fun fest. 

And that’s when it happened.

Amidst my reverie in distant right field I saw one of the beefiest guides stride up to bat.  OMG, I thought to myself, he’s batting left-handed.  That means his natural tendency would be to hit the ball my way.  I woke up.

If you’ve not played cricket, it’s important at this point to know that fielders are not given leather gloves, like in baseball, so I was standing bare-handed in deep right field.

The beefy guide swung at the first pitch.  I could hear the crack of the bat clear out where I was standing – a solid, crushing sound.  I saw him look up to see where the ball was heading and I looked up, too.  It was high in the air, a faint black disc, heading my way.  My baseball instincts kicked in, and I retreated toward where it would land.  That’s really all I remember until the ball landed (painfully) in my bare hands. 

I don’t remember catching the ball, or the pain afterwards, but I hung on to it. I faintly remember cheers from my teammates, and from the people sitting on the grass.  I suppose I threw the ball back to the pitcher, but I don’t recall.  I do remember heading back to the grass and joining my teammates, who gave me high fives and slapped me on the back.  My wife gave me a hug and there was a twinkle in her eyes.  I had redeemed myself.

I look at cricket more kindly now.  It’s still a mystery to me, and I couldn’t keep score if I had to.  But now I smile when I see a game on TV or in a movie.  And if my wife is there, she will turn to me and ask if I remember playing cricket in India.

Of course I do.  


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