Someone stole Niall O’ Brien’s kit and that inspired me to recount this story
The match was, how do I put it… ah!, tantalisingly poised. It was a ‘bet’ match. We were playing for money. Not for a ball or bat. The money at stake was 110 INR. Each player contributed 10 bucks. 10 bucks was a lot of money then. I am talking 1986/87 here.
The Greamspet team, our team, was chasing and the Srinagar colony boys were all over us. Two wickets to go, ten overs remaining, and some 90 odd to get. Parthasarathy, my first friend, neighbour, and captain of the team was a worried man. I was curious.
‘Machan only ten bucks da, relax.’ I said.
‘Yeah but my dad had only 15 Rupees, for the entire month. And we have two weeks to go. And I stole ten.’ He said, throwing the abdomen guard (which we all shared as we couldn’t afford to buy one for each team member). It was April. Our holidays had just started. A breeze was picking up in the Arts college ‘B’ ground. B ground was for kids. The town team didn’t let us play in the main A ground. I could understand his plight. His father worked as a peon in the Taluk office and his salary hardly helped in making ends meet. Most of us from the Greamspet were in a similar situation. I took money from my dad to buy Bata shoes, but bought some cheap brand to save some money, so I could play in the bet match. Whereas, the Srinagar colony boys were rich. They drove to the ground in a car. We walked through the fields of Godugumur to reach the ground. They got an igloo box that iced their Rasana and water. We had to stand in a line near the tap, inside the college, to drink water. So losing to them within itself was very painful. To top that, we were losing our “hard-earned” money. One more wicket fell. Partha was furious. “Lanja kodukulu” he kept swearing. The last batsman walked in to take strike and Partha’s eyes lit up.
“What if we run away?” Partha said. I was not very comfortable with that idea. It was a lame idea. Plus, we had a team reputation to safe guard. The heat was unbearable.
“Forget it ra… all of them have fridges in their homes is it?” I asked.
“Who the fuck cares? You should drink from that pot, which my mom got from Cuddapah. Better than a fridge.” He said.
My eyes fell on Srinagar Colony’s kit. A Tusker bat lay against the wall. Spanking new and glowing in the afternoon sun.
“That’s an oil bat no? Tusker? How much is it ra Dabur?”
His eyes became glazed. He licked his lips and said in a gravely voice “yeah.” I didn’t quite understand for a moment and when I did, I said “No way Dabur, machan, I am telling you… what if they give a police complaint?”
“Did I say I am going to rape their sisters? I just want that Tusker bat, which is better looking than all of their sisters.” And thus, a plan was hatched.
Our last batsman took it upon himself to offer fierce resistance. He blocked everything, classic Dravidian defense and all. Partha wasn’t amused. “Thikka lanjoduku! What a time he picks to be a hero!” He briefed the rest of the team, in the meanwhile, on what the modus operandi was. My knees were shaking by the time he finished. The captain of Srinagar colony was a rowdy fellow. And, they had Hero Majestic mopeds and a car to chase us down.
The last batsman was playing his defensive game so well that, when he was on strike, the non-striker sat down, and chewed on grass. With 2 overs left in the game and plenty of runs left, the fielders also sat down. This prompted Partha to walk to the pitch and propose a ‘win-declare’ which meant we give up the match voluntarily. But the rowdy fellow also turned out to be a sadist fellow. He said, it seems, ‘No. I want to earn the money. I don’t want gifts.’ So Partha came back determined more than ever before to steal the Tusker bat.
‘Vaadi philosophy lo naa sulli! Dengaayra baat ni’ he said. It roughly meant ‘Insert your member into his philosophy. Steal that fucking bat.’
Finally, with three balls to go, our last batsman got out, ironically by way of ‘hit-wicket’. And the 12th man, who was guarding Srinagar colony’s kit, screamed and ran to join his mates in the victory celebrations. Partha pounced on that small window of opportunity. He picked up the bat, ran into the forest department nursery, which was right next to the B ground, and was back before one could say ‘sulli’.
They were still celebrating. It was a rare victory for them. Beating the Greamspet team was a stellar achievement in those days. Especially for Srinagar colony because this was their first ever victory since they had formed the team. I moved next to Partha who was relaxing, sitting under one of the many trees that encircled the ground.
“What are you going to do with the bat? Don’t tell you stole it to score a moral victory?” I asked him.
He laughed and said “Ngotha machan, I want money. You know Suresh from Darga chowk? He deals with used bats. I will get at least 250 Rupees.” That was a princely sum. “I’ll give you ten plus fifty, sixty Rupees, ok?” He offered.
“Yeah. Assuming we get out of here alive.” I said.
The Srinagar team crowded around the two captains. As was the tradition, both captains signed on the scorecards that each team maintained and shook hands. And Partha took out a bunch of soiled ten rupee notes and handed it over to the winning captain. They cheered and screamed, as our team watched. The last batsman whispered to me ‘that was the only way they could have gotten me out.’ I threatened him that I would crack open his skull if he uttered one more word.
The Srinagar team now raised stumps and bats as their captain walked away. He acknowledged their victory salute, and screamed, more to us than to them, ‘This is just the begining. Aaahhhhnnn!’
I chuckled and thought ‘Yes, we’ll have to loot your entire kit. This bat is just the start.’
Partha started to walk back to us. My heart started bouncing and banging against my chest. My mouth went dry as the Srinagar team took their kit bags, and loaded it in their car. One by one, the Hero Majestic mopeds trooped out. The captain drove the car. As he passed us he gave us the finger. Partha also gave two fingers.
We waited till the car and the mopeds turned on Vellore road, outside the college’s gate. And we broke into a cheer.
Partha ran into the nursery and came back with the Tusker.
“I told you ra, it will be easy.” He said.
“You never told anything like that!” I said. As I was dreaming about all the things I was going to do with the sixty rupees, I noticed Partha stop in his tracks. The car was coming back like a hurricane. He was driving right through the ground. Clouds of dust billowed up. Behind him were the Hero Majestic mopeds. Partha turned around and bolted in the opposite direction. [will conclude in the next episode]