Boys, men and cricket

Boys, men and cricket

Vivian was aggressive for a fourteen year old. He ran like a beast, had spiky hair, a broad chest and to go with it all— a unibrow. He had a very long run-up. His menacing look scared you every time he approached the crease. He was a fast bowler and the sports teacher’s favourite. Our school cricket team regularly won tournaments. Needless to say, he was its captain.

My relationship with cricket was ‘troubled’, so to speak. For one, I had absolutely no talent for it. None whatsoever. And two, I was a sickly child that had survived three tummy operations, my parents were grateful that I was even around, forget being athletic in my boyhood.

My only sporty achievement ever was turning up in the top ten, at an intra-school cross-country running in grade 6. When I jogged past the finish line, my mother broke down, in full view of the teachers, students and parents. Having to witness that made me want to run those ten kms backwards. She was a teacher in the same school, you can imagine my embarrassment.

In a country where cricket is a national obsession; where all students imitated the star players’ batting/bowling in the morning assembly, especially after a big win, love for cricket was de facto. This worship for cricket and cricketers trickled down to where these stars were made— playgrounds, at school or otherwise.

Boys who played good cricket were stars. The boys who had little to no talent for the game—like myself—got bullied by those who had lots of it. The opposite team started celebrating as soon as I came to bat—“Yayy! we got a giraki (customer)”— and they would cheer me on to lose my wicket and I always did, quickly. I would be the last to get picked when teams were being made and I would wait around awkwardly. And the worst of all—“fuck! this guy in our team.. ugh man… we’re going to lose!” It wasn’t exactly music to my ears. But it made me want to belong and try hard to play well.

But I just couldn't.

Even grown men would partake in this rite of passage—bullying. An uncle who claimed to be a very good cricketer himself, and he probably was, insisted that I was not ‘manly enough’ because I didn’t have an interest in watching the game ‘even’ as much as my sister did. He also insisted that boys shouldn’t use the word ‘cute’. It was cute ideas like these that started putting me off the game that I loved to watch throughout my childhood.

When I grew up I saw peers froth at the lip, as they tried to show off statistics about players and games. Or get aggressively competitive with one another, rattling off information. It felt like they must have been terrible cricketers themselves and were still bitter about being bullied. These people were annoying to be around and they completely doused whatever little interest I had left in the game.

You could tell them apart from those who truly enjoyed the game, the ones who watched it rain or shine, alone or in a group and even when they had no one to discuss it with. They loved it from their heart and had nothing to prove to anyone. They were overall at peace with themselves and genuinely passionate. I think such passion is always contagious, in any realm.

All that said, who am I to judge how something is to be liked or not. People go about living their lives and they do whatever works for them. I can only try and analyse my own relationship with the game since childhood, which bring me back to Vivian.

One day, I got the opportunity to stay after school for practise with the team. It was my first time facing the leather ball. I was petrified. Vivian decided to bowl and threw some trial ones. I barely managed to make contact with the bat. As I padded up in the corner to get ready for the ‘real deal’, Vivian walked up to me and stopped me right before I put my abdomen guard on. He said that as the captain, he had to ensure that I put it on correctly.

Now, the abdomen guard protects the male genitalia. Vivian insisted that he wouldn’t look but would help me put it on. I didn’t exactly know how, but I reluctantly agreed. And as I stood there, he revealed the contents of my underwear and said “aicha… kiti chota aahe re tuzha!” (oh god… you’ve got such a tiny one!) Some boys heard it and laughed. I went red. I had fallen for his trick.

The next day, Vivian called out to his friends, one by one, in the morning assembly and said, “Danish, uska bohot chota hai” (Danish, he’s got a really tiny one). Danish mimed being shocked as he covered his mouth. I did my best to not care. But I had a doubt… that he was right.

I stressed over it for a few months and when I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I decided to ask someone who I thought might have an idea about my condition— Dad. One night before going to bed, I told dad that I had a problem and that I had “a very tiny one”. My dad was fully confused and said “You have a what?!”

“A very tiny one dad.”

My dad asked me perplexed, “Says who?!”

I said, “Vivian from 9th grade” and I narrated the whole incident to him.

Dad’s confusion turned to amusement and he laughed as he said, “Rubbish!” He went on to assure me that it wasn’t true. I didn’t believe him for a while, before I eventually did.

But dad had a good laugh.

Men take time to get over themselves and their body parts.

They either brag about it or blog about it.