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June , 2017
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Gully Cricket-1

Jeswin, fielding somewhere between Square Leg and Deep Square Leg was beginning to get bored… It was almost over 8 overs since the ball had been hit towards him… just when he was beginning to lose interest, a blurred image of a round object seemed to be gaining on him… he didn’t realize it for a while, but when he did, he got to his feet and lurched forward to get his hands under the ball at the right time and just as he did that, Rohit, who had hit the ball, cursed Jeswin for pulling off a blinder of a catch. Wonder which countries/ IPL franchise Jeswin and Rohit play for? Well, stop wondering for they don’t play for either. What they play is known as Street / Gully Cricket.

Gully/ Street Cricket, as the name goes, is the street form of the International sport, Cricket, which is pretty evidently worshiped in our very own nation. The extreme love for the sport gave way to the discovery of different forms of it, each of which is played in each and every street of India. “I can’t forget the first time I actually entered a park to play gully cricket for the first time. I came in holding my dad’s finger with one hand, and flaunted my plastic bat in the other. My dad tells me we played for hours together and I was pretty lousy at the game back then. Today, I play for my colony team in the same ground. My dad tells me he’s glad and takes credit for my game”, says Adam (Name changed) as he begins to refresh his most cherished memories.

If the main sport is beginning to explore new forms in the likes of Twenty-Twenty, the street form has 100s of kinds in its arsenal already. The adaptability of gully cricket can be termed as the most commendable. Neither is the venue same, nor are the rules. In fact, rules change from venue to venue. It is not just the venue and rules that change, even the type of the game changes.

(Gully) Cricketers in Action Credit: Inverted Frequency

(Gully) Cricketers in Action Credit: Inverted Frequency

Closest to the original form is the one that is played in huge grounds with pretty similar rules. Boundaries are drawn up at a distance and runs can be scored in all sides of the park. Even if there are stark variations in rules with a change in venue, there are a couple of rules that exist almost everywhere. “I’ve never really known a place, where wides and leg before wicket exist in the rules. Almost, unanimously, everyone playing in grounds choose to omit these rules. Obvious reasons could be the fact that these rules might end up being pretty controversial and will only end up in an uncalled for brawl”, says Rohit.

This form of the game has always been very exciting with its share of cliffhangers and nail-biting finishes. “Gully Cricket is the only form where you can manage to defend a score of 50 runs in 10 overs and manage to loose 6 wickets in one over. There is a lot of tension and pressure and the energy is always at its peak. A little bit of sledging here and there, nudges the temperatures to very interesting levels. The feeling while playing is nothing less than euphoric”, says an excited Jeswin.

Then there is short-pitch cricket, which is generally played in not very spacious places and does not involve the actual ‘bowling action’ and rules differ everywhere. “I’ve played a lot of short-pitch cricket. At one place, there would be rules according to which a catch taken even after the ball has bounced once on the ground after hitting the bat is legal and the batsman is out and at another place, there will be rules according to which if the ball crosses a particularly defined area on the full, then the batsman is adjudged dismissed. These are just 2 out of a gazillion rules and they make cricket real fun. I enjoy it”, says Jijo, who also says that a day doesn’t end without a game of cricket, in any form. Short-pitch cricket in itself is diversified and has different forms branching out from it.

There is under-arm cricket that is played in smaller areas like parking lots and terraces. “This is my favourite form of the game, as it has cool rules. We sometimes have a plastic chair or pillars as wickets. In a parking lot, if you hit a ball hard on any of the parked vehicle, then you are given out and in some places even penalized by canceling your batting for the next two games. You get suspended for hitting the ball too hard. When it comes to playing in the terrace, if you hit the ball out of bounds, you are not only adjudged out, but you also have to run down the stairs and get the ball. I find that very annoying sometimes”,  says Rahul. He also adds, “Its fun to play this form of the game, and from your game’s point of view, the more you play, the more technically strong you become because in your attempt to not hit the ball on to any vehicle or out of bounds, you master the art of defending the ball very skillfully. I was pathetic at the game when I began, but now I can proudly say I’ve improved a lot”.

Terrace Cricket. Credit: Inverted Frequency

Terrace Cricket. Credit: Inverted Frequency

One common feature of all these forms of the game was the ‘Joker’. A joker is generally the player who is not on either of the two teams that play a match. He/she gets to bat for both the teams and in most of the plays he/she is denied bowling. This question of having a joker arises when the total number of players is odd and cannot be divided into two teams. The nature of the criteria for picking a joker can be as serious and as ridiculous as possible. At some places, the person, who is believed to be the worst of the lot of the people playing becomes the joker while at some places its just because of the fact that he/she arrived late for play.

With the game flaunting a plethora of interesting features, there cannot be a shortage of unforgettable incidents, a few interesting and a few painful. From bruising knees to shattering window panes, they’ve all happened at some point of time or the other. “I had a strange habit of bruising my knees every Friday. I remember very well, around 5-6 years back, I used to hurt my knees almost every Friday and end up at the doctor’s and cry and bring the building down for taking an injection. I still play the game, but I miss having bruises all over my legs and hands. My mom doesn’t really like the fact that I miss it, but you know it was a part of my game”, says Prakash. “Even smallest of the things make me very happy. There is no better joy than ending up breaking windowpanes of angry and distressed neighbours and then running away. Not like we do it intentionally, but we don’t regret it. The windowpanes always shatter with awesome looking shots”, says Madhu.

Kids Playing On The Streets Credit: Inverted Frequency

Kids Playing On The Streets Credit: Inverted Frequency

Another very unique reason for street cricket to be as famous is the fact that it is not restricted to just the boys. Surprising a whole lot of people, girls end up enjoying this form of the game. “I remember playing it in my apartment with a lot of guys I knew. They used to struggle hard to teach me how to go about the game and eventually saw to it that I learnt at least how to hold a bat. I miss those days”, says Srinidhi. A lot of them ended up playing because of the fact that they had siblings and friends who could not get enough of the game and hence ended up getting sucked into the game. “I remember playing a lot with my group of friends. I also remember annoying them as I ended up doing exactly the opposite of what they ask me to… what they didn’t know was that I sometimes did it intentionally. Why should boys have all the fun?” chuckles Preeti.

The most essential feature of this game has been the fact that there literally has been no age bar. While kids begin to start playing at the age of 5, people even in their late 40s and early 50s are ready to take up the bat as a part of their fitness regime and some for the sake of fun. “A couple of years ago, we used to have a parents v/s kids cricket match a couple of days before new years’. I’ve seen my mom and dad come out and play and its nice to see them play. I love the way my dad bats”, says Abhishek. Mr. Ravi, an Oriental Bank Of Commerce employee says, “My 7 year old son plays with his friends every day and I play every second Sunday with my colleagues from work. It helps me keep fit and in touch with my most favourite sport ever”.

All those who’ve played have indeed loved this form of the game and have a desire to get back to playing it again, irrespective of being a girl or a guy. Talk to people and they’ll tell you about the funny little incidents, the nice victories, the disheartening defeats, the sportsmanship spirit, the team spirit et al. Like the original version of the game, the street form of it has won over the love of millions of Indians all over. “Every cricketer, big or small starts with gully cricket… sometimes even without even owning a bat,just a stick. So gully cricket should not be written off as something unimportant. Who knows it might be the next big thing.  So when u get to know about an International Gully Championships in a few years… don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!” says Ankur with a smile. So, the next time you see a toddler choose to pick up a bat, be really glad because he/she is starting to do something that he/she would love and remember for the rest of his/her life.

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2 Responses to “Yeh gully hai mere yaar!”

  1. Beyond Boundaries says:

    I remember having log books of how many centuries I scored and how many wickets I took. I miss coming home at 4:30, throwing the bag and running to the playground to play Cricket. We used to have a Gully Cricket Association (GCA :D )! Man! Those days were fun, I miss them :( !

  2. Morle'la Wheermy says:

    Awesome article:).. I remembered the days where I used to play gully/street cricket after school hours, near my home. We used to compete with the other street people. We even had bet matches with the other streets kids.. Were winners most of the time<):)…

    Miss them now..:(
    Cheers gully cricketers..!!!O:)

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