This & That

Cricket in the monsoons

More than a century ago, cricket was largely played during the monsoons in line with the British calendar, until someone realized that this was stretching the colonial influence.

Then Indians swung to the other end of the spectrum, packing their kit bags by April and going into enforced hibernation until October.

And to complete the irony, when television channels began to beam India's Test, one-day and T20 matches live during the 'off months', a country of imitators gradually restarted playing cricket during the monsoons, making the sport a 12-months a year engagement.

Evidence? Just five minutes ago in July I was smsed a message demanding my presence at morning nets as preparation for a November tournament; three days a week I look out of my verandah to see more than 50 young adults turn out in white at 6am at the Ashok Malhotra Cricket Academy.

What happened to the conventional 'Cricket until April, football until October' application? Is something as innocuous as an itinerary transforming our lives? Is the sun less harsh? Are grounds better drained?

The answer probably lies in two areas - the proliferation of cricket coaching camps who need to keep their dukaan running through the year (or coaches would lose their income); the increased use of concrete all-weather wickets (which we never had access to when we were kids).

So now that cricket is being practiced alright during the monsoons, how do we extend this phenomenon to an active playing calendar? How do we bring cricket from ground fringes to the centre?

Consider the problems.

One, nobody believes that this is possible (a hurdle of the disempowered). Two, they feel this would be prohibitively expensive (another mistake). Three, they feel that they will never get the official permission (good excuse to not try). Four, they would rather be content with the status quo (which is why things don't improve).

But wait, there is some interesting counter-evidence at hand. For 40 years, Avenue Sammilani ran Bengal's largest (possibly) football academy largely for the underprivileged on its ground inside Rabindra Sarobar. Then last January, something happened: the club co-ordinated for the subsidised installation of floodlights so that football could be played at night; the ground was repaired professionally for the first time in decades. What was once a sub-standard patch is now the jewel of Rabindra Sarobar and I can't believe that the club would have had to spend more than Rs 150,000 for this dramatic transformation.

So what are my low-cost suggestions for extending the learnings from this experiment to cricket?

  • Improve the ground. Recruit the services of specialist Chhotu Rawat to correct the plumb line of most grounds (to facilitate a quick water run-off after rains) and to sand-blast most of the grounds (so that the grounds becomes softer, water is absorbed faster and you can begin playing within minutes of a downpour)

  • Grow grass. Here again, the Rawat touch should do the trick. He worked gratis at the Avenue Sammilani Ground inside Rabindra Sarobar, transforming what was an uneven area into a lush flat showpiece - all within a month.

  • Market the concept. All footballers love the slush; if they can protect the 'square', then this could be win-win for all sportsmen.

Which brings me to the one word that is usually the difference between doing and not doing something, between success and failure.


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