Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Game in progress :

We accompanied the Shindes on Saturday, 25th July, to Woodbridge, near Edison, where the NY-NJ League Cricket Finals (J & J, TCS and AIG, TCS) were taking place on a school playground. Other apparently choice locales had been rejected since they refused to allow any sort of activity on the grounds without having each and every player insured. No one was keen on taking such trouble, so the school, which did not create any such fuss, was accorded the due respect. We set out at about 11 am, armed with newspapers, sunscreen, granola bars, water, caps and hats and all the other paraphernalia necessary to sitting on a carpet of grass in summer for the sake of boosting the morale of the players (K's colleagues and our friends). We were specially prepared to cheer Madhav, whose wife was in India at that moment and who was also nursing an injured back, owing to a muscle he had pulled in an earlier match leading upto the finals and who wasn't therefore in a very happy frame of mind. We were also looking forward to watching Ankesh, who had done us all proud by notching up numerous runs to our credit in former matches and had thereby gained the reputation of a bankable player. Besides, there were Ajoy, Rensil, Tridib Da, Sumitro etc who we were all quite pally with and eager therefore to watch in action.

The gathering :

The game had already begun by the time we arrived. There was quite a gathering, mostly the family of the players and others like us, who evidently considered it their prime moral duty to utilise their Sat morning by cheering their own team and booing the other. The best example of this was one worthy spouse of a player in the other team who kept on crying out at suitably spaced intervals " We want wicket !", initially with considerable enthusiasm and later it seemed, out of sheer inertia of vociferation. Poor thing, she had evidently had no breakfast and was evidently keen on having some wickets instead.

Mid-day scene :

There were several chairs, mostly occupied by spouses of the other team members and we weren't sure whether we should be impudent enough to go grab the former. After considering the matter for several awkward moments, we opted out and settled down instead on a large mattress spread out for the occasion. Most of the boys prefered to remain standing (Abhishek and K obviously feeling that their providing company to their team would somehow compensate adequately for not playing in the actual match themselves).

The boys look on :

The HR proved themselves quite well equipped for the situation, handing out packets of Lays chips and bottles of water and soda at frequent intervals and even providing mini packages of Papa John's pizza for lunch (veg and non-veg ones stacked respectively in the dicky of a car and its front seat).

Alas. Our team, which was batting, outdid themselves. I think the fact that their last practice match had taken place the very day before this one must have messed up their muscles and morale. They looked quite tired and behaved quite spent. The extreme heat and scorching sun did nothing to make things better. Wickets fell, thick and fast. Despite some ear-splitting whistles from Abhishek and hoarse cheering from another team member I was unacquainted with (to the effect of pointing out that there were too many wides and no-balls and too much 'chucking'), things didn't go well. Sumitro later said that the pitch had seemed scarily long to him while Ankesh looked quite baffled, having been bowled out from behind (he was to remain mystified for the rest of the day). Madhav looked worse than before, having strained his already injured back muscle and not being able to make too many runs in such a sorry situation, although he did hit an overboundary and I clapped enthusiastically till my hands were sore. Ajoy, Rensil, Tridib Da were back by the time we were just warming up to watch them. In short, things were pretty grim by the end of the first session.

Post-lunch, our team seemed to be picking up. The fielding was consistent and the bowling edgy. But the other team proved too well-organised and strategically sound to outdo. It was evident that the game would soon be over and we soon diverted our energies to watching the children in their activities than the game itself.

Children play their own games :

It was. The prize distribution ceremony took place almost immediately. Mr Suri, president of TCS, North America, did the honours. No mean feat that, considering he had flown in from India that very morning and must have been quite exhausted after a 20 hours' journey. He also cheered up everyone by stressing that the game had been played in the right spirit and that was what mattered at the end of the day.

Mr Suri :

The trophy, close up :

The runners up were all given mini-trophies and their captain, the legendary BRM(owing to his talent for procrastination) Ravi Rout, regaled all present with a short speech in which he hinted at another form of spirit being anticipated later, win or no win. The winning team took centrestage after that, one team member mysteriously nicknamed 'Funny' (Phani ?!) being cheered so noisily that it almost verged on booing. So much for etiquette. Finally, there was a photo session, where everyone from the respective teams, players or no, posed to oblige us.

The score-board :

The runners-up, TCS_ J & J :

The winners, TCS_ AIG :

I was secretly glad that the awards ceremony didn't last too long, because I'd left my cap on the grass under the shade of the tree where we'd been sitting and felt like my scalp was on fire, the sun was so offensively hot at that point of time (about 2.30 pm). To top it all, Sumitro announced that we had proved quite inauspicious after all. Talk of ingratitude ! We left soon after, although our departure was somewhat unexpectedly delayed by the heating up of the leather seats in Abhishek Shinde's car, which meant we had to wait haplessly in the fierce sunshine with the car doors wide open, while the car AC cooled down the seats enough for us to rest our sensitive behinds on it !

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