By now Ganesh had got acquainted with several people in the village. The regular meeting place of the youth, especially the advanced ones, was the village tailor’s shop. Maruti Tailor’s shop. Young men gathered here and discussed various happenings in the village. Even if one spent an hour in the evening here, he would get the entire information of all village happenings of the day. At the shop, enthusiastic village youth had formed a cricket team. Every evening from five to six or seven they played cricket in the mango grove. And after finishing the game again gathered in front of the shop and had a session of chitchatting.
The entire material required for the game was kept in the tailor’s shop. That is why before playing cricket and also thereafter the youth again met there. Gaensh had tried to find out how the young men from this backward village had got interested in the game of cricket. He found that they got interested in the game after listening to the radio-commentary. Names such as Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and Amarnath easily came into their talks. Then the carpenter’s son took the responsibility of preparing a bat and stumps. Shoe-repairer’s son took the round wooden ball made by the carpenter and covered it with leather Thus the cricket ball was ready. Similarly the other material for cricket was also ready.
Ganesh began to enjoy playing cricket in the evenings with those youngsters. At times Ganesh was truly amazed seeing the skill of those village youth. A boy named Mahadya bowled in such fashion that even experienced batsmen wavered to receive balls from him. Seeing his fast ball coming towards them several players would just leave the stumps aside and move away. Because of him many were injured,
Then, the tailor took the responsibility of making pads and stuffing cotton inside a piece of cloth he stitched comfortable pads. But another young man Lokhandya, did wicket keeping without wearing gloves however fast the bowling be. Amazed Ganesh once took a look at his palms. Lokhandya was working as a labourer breaking stones, lifting heavy baskets and digging wells. Doing such work had made his palms rough. A thick layer of skin had formed on them. In other words natural gloves were fitted on to his palms. And the boy whom the whole village called ‘madcap’ was an all rounder. If he was asked to bowl he would concentrate only on the ball in his hand and the three stumps. Similarly, if he were asked to bat, his entire contact remained with the bat in his hand. He was good in fielding, too.
Motor mechanic and electrician Baban was an intelligent cricketer. No one could equal him in discovering new shots and throwing new kind of balls. If Pandu from his office was allowed to do just one over of batting, in return, he would bring the cricket material from tailor’s shop to the ground. But when the time arrived to take the material was back he was never to be found. Maruti tailor also joined them occasionally and played a couple of balls because he had no leisure from his tailoring work. When he stood for batting, he had to pay more attention to his dhoti than to the bat and the ball.
For ‘Wide Ball’ the boys said ‘Wayit ball’ meaning bad ball, and the appeal for ‘out’ was made by loudly shouting ‘Give out’. There were several such amusing aspects that made Ganesh smile. Once a match was being played between two teams, each made of six players. Six in a team was far less a number so the fielding was done together by the two teams. From among them one was made the Umpire. The bowler bowled the ball and it stuck batman’s pad. It was the turn of the team that was bowling to raise an appeal. But who should be the first one to raise the appeal? It was the Umpire himself. He had forgotten for a while that he was the Umpire. Everyone, including Ganesh, burst out laughing.
People who stepped out of their houses carrying mugs of water also began to like this free entertainment of the game of cricket. They stood in the shade of the mango grove, holding empty mugs in one hand, enjoying the game. Since Ganesh had begun to come Madhurani also started to stand under the mango trees and encouraged him for a while. At times, respectable people like Patil, Sarpanch, also came there and without fail halted for a while. Patil used to arrive and straight away enter the play ground.
“Hey Ganapya…get me the bat here”
Ganapya used to move away from the stumps and hand the bat to Patil.
“Does someone here do good bowling,” Patil used to ask folding his sleeves up.
“Patil… Mahadya’s balling is good.”
“No, not like that.. who’s balling is good for hitting..”
Then Babanya took the ball and bowled as slowly as possible. On this slow bowling Patil hit one ball after another. After playing five-six balls Patil used to throw the bat aside and say, “Phooh.. children..isn’t our gilli-dandu better than this”
The youngsters would give out loud laughs.
“Todays’ generation itself is weak… in our times, the whole day, under the scorching sun we used to pay Gillidandu, Kabaddi, Dhappakutti… and in the night we played hide and seek…” so saying he used to roll down his sleeves and walk away.
The youngsters went back to their game.
(To be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote