There is a small playground in front of my parent’s house. I used to play cricket on this ground in my childhood. Now playground has become even more smaller compared to what it was in my boyhood. People from neighboring towns and villages have settled pretty fast during the last decade in this developing city. This has led to scarcity of playgrounds in the colonies which were built-in the earliest phases when this city was merely a small town. Lack of planned settlement of residents in such colonies left very little space for playgrounds, parks, temples and such.
When I first started playing cricket in my childhood I was about 7 years old. I used to throw the ball without using what is called proper action. My playmates used to tease me by calling me tukka–the word for chucker in our local dialect. Their persiflage pinched me hard and pierced into my sensitive skin. I decided to develop a thorough bowling action. I worked hard on it. I not only learned a good bowling action but also started practicing fast bowling rigorously in scorching noons after my schools–religiously, as if it was a penance for some noble Dharma. I became the fastest bowler in my vicinity in a very short time–though my bowling sucked because it had a poor line and length. During matches my entire effort was to scare my rival batsmen with my torrential bowls. My bowling overs used to have anywhere between 8 to 15 bowls each–because, they used to have white(wide) bowls, no-balls and short-balls abundantly. Yes wide-balls were white-balls because nobody had any idea what ‘wide’ was! I did succeed a good deal in annoying my fellow playmates with my huge overs if not with my torrential pace.
Now as I walk on roof in evening I often witness kids playing cricket on the ground which has shrunk as it has aged. Their enthusiasm doesn’t dwindle owing to narrowness of the ground or because they have to frequently ask neighbors to return their balls which land in their houses as they hit home runs (runs which land in homes nearby!). I watch them play and wonder on something very curious. Why each one of these bowlers is a chucker? What has happened to an entire generation of bowlers? It’s not just one team–I’ve seen many teams play over there and dozens of bowlers have bowled on these pitches–but none of them try the full arm swing bowling action–why?
All of them throw the balls to stumps when they ball. Throwing as if you’re throwing a ball to try a run-out while batsmen are running on the pitch. Why throwing has become a norm? I understand that focus has shifted from tests and one day internationals to short forms called 20-20 Cricket. I have not watched many 20-20 international matches but whatever I have seen is enough to suggest that chucking is still illegal.
Why then all the kids in the yard in our neighborhood indulge in chucking? It makes me curious–I asked one of the lads but he was also clueless. I told him about our generation of young mohalla cricketers who derided chucking and it used to cause raised eyebrows all around. Many clashes and altercations used to follow even a single instance of chucking by any bowler. Why is it then that nobody gives a shit about chucking anymore in our locality, I asked. He said that everyone wants to be a batsman. Is it so? Is it really so? I don’t know.
Bowling has always been considered akin to slavery though little better than fielding in mohalla cricket. Batsman was always the king. Bowler was happy because he was also in touch somehow. Fielders get bored to the core–sometimes they sleep on the ground–that’s why they rarely take a catch when it eventually comes their way– it’s hard to wake-up so quickly hence they drop it! But the bowler is happy that he’s at least getting some attention–he’s in the game. Though he knows that batsman is the king–bowler is a slave–fielder is also a slave–a bigger slave in mohalla cricket. Most powerful person is the captain and he usually gets to play highest number of balls every time. He bowls too but dislikes it–mostly he is an opening batsman and pretty happy about it.
Now bowling has reached its all time low I feel. Nobody wants to learn a proper bowling action it seems. Mohalla cricketers of my generation were trying many bowling actions and used to show them off all day long. I also learnt a number of them copying fastest bowlers in international cricket after watching them on TV and I also copied a few spinners but these young lads–their lassitude is overwhelmingly saddening. They can’t develop even a single proper bowling action!