Back in late 1991 and early 92, one of his favourite things to do was to wake up early in the morning and listen to radio commentary of test matches between Australia and India. This was during the Indian cricket team’s tour of Australia.
Our protagonist was enamored by Sachin Tendulkar, who still was still an eighteen-year-old and was carving a name for himself as a cricket god by scoring centuries in Sydney and Perth. But he still had a soft spot for the terrific carefree batting style of the West Indian cricketers.
Then the smattering of winter in Mumbai receded, spring came through in February. So did the World Cup of 1992 on television sets. The first World Cup played with a white ball and coloured clothing.
It was an exciting time for middle-class Indians. The satellite TV channels now offered upto 6 channels instead of the regular two from Doordarshan. The 1992 Word Cup was enormous in terms of being a visual treat. Stump mics, stump vision cameras, those beautiful colourful uniforms instead of whites and white balls and several games played under artificial lights. All this started to capture the imagination of children playing cricket.
Some of older teenaged boys decided they would replicate some of the day-night cricket magic in their building compounds. They managed to collect a couple of halogen lights and white coloured tennis balls that could be used to play at night.
This was all very exciting for our friend. Playing after the sun had set, after darkness set was a big novelty. India back then had never hosted a day-night game at any traditional cricket stadium. That era would start in 1996 during the Wills World Cup, still a good 4 years away!
So halogen lights were set up, white chalk was used to draw up the creases instead of a piece of red brick so they could be seen better and a game of cricket had gotten underway.
The game started late in the evening with the specially purchased white balls that were carefully preserved to make sure they were used only when it was dark, lest they are lost or discoloured even before the night cricket started.
Our protagonist had a reasonably good batting technique but had recently seen a few shots on television of the effective slog sweep.
Day one of the night cricket.
The stage was set, the lights were up and some rules were tweaked so no one had grand ideas of hitting the ball around carelessly into places where it would be lost. If the batter lost the ball, the batsman was declared out and had to go fetch the ball.
There were about 12 boys that first day and each side had 6 members. Each game was set out to be about 8 overs long – as no games could be longer than the usual 6 overs; as no one had to bother about the fading light.
Our friend’s team was batting second and that meant it would be pretty dark when he batted. He felt positively exhilarated by the idea.
There was a smattering of a crowd, mainly family members who were wondering what the children were up to with the lights. They looked out from their windows and balconies. Some parents on their way back home from offices stopped and watched for a couple of minutes. Most of them were amused.
The first innings swung around a bit towards both sides but it seemed to have ended on a competitive yet achievable total. The stage was set for a good chase under lights.
The chase during the first 3 overs cantered along well and then there was a mini-collapse in the batting order. Our friend who was probably the youngest amongst them at 12 years old was put in to bat next.
He batted well with a couple of flicks off his legs and seemed to be batting beyond his age. The adults who were spectating applauded one of his flicks shots and opponents along with his own teammates encouraged him with compliments.
The game was poised well; about 10 runs more in 10 balls. Not impossible at all but our friend knew he had to get a boundary from somewhere.
He decided now was the time to finish the game with a bit of flair. Oddly he chose the slog sweep shot to show some flair. The more stylish drives or flicks were not what Richie Richardson would do now, would he? So he decided on the slog sweep. If he connected well could get them a four.
The ball was bowled, it was slightly slower than he anticipated and his sweep shot ended up being mistimed. Our young friend was not yet tall or strong enough for a slog to come off and the bat turned in his grip. The ball connected onto the side edge of the bat and hit the parapet wall behind him, from where it ricochets off on into the air, gently smacking the side of the halogen bulb.
Everyone gasped, nothing had happened. The big light was still working.
Next ball up, the young boy had correctly guessed that he would not let the bat turn again and use a bit of the bottom hand to throw in some power. The bowler bowled a little wide. It connected really well. The ball flew off the middle of the bat and crashed into the big halogen light. Nothing seemed to happen but then it was obviously not fastened well enough and it crashed down on to the ground.
The game was abandoned because of bad light!
Post Mortem: The light fixture was not terribly damaged but the wiring had come off. It would be several years later; and only in open grounds, did our little hero have the courage to again go for the slog sweep.
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