Sunday, May 18, 2008


17th May, 2058

I switch on the wall telly as soon as the doctor leaves after routine check up. News channels focus on huge celebrations taking place in India in memory of completing 60 years of summer cricket. Playing cricket in the month of May was unthinkable in 20th century India till then BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya decided to utilise the 'free' time of Indian cricket in 1998 to promote some of the minnows and in the process rake in some extra money for the cricket board. He obtained a schedule from ICC that allowed India to play Kenya and Bangladesh in an ODI tri-series organised in May. It was best remembered for Sourav Ganguly needing mid-innings medical attention for dehydration in the final at his sweltering home ground, Eden Gardens. Strange that he was okay in the previous match at Gwalior where it was drier but the temperature was 10 degress higher. Clearly humidity was as much a killjoy for cricketers then as it is now.

It strikes me that the Indian Premier League are also completing 50 years in 2058. Summer cricket, not explored for a few years after that daring Dalmiya experiment in 1998, came back to stay ten years later in a shorter format. It is ironic that Twenty20 was then the shortest format in cricket. It is the longest one now, at least in the international game. One dayers are extinct. 2-innings cricket is too archaic a form to be pursued on a professional level these days. Nevertheless it is still retained by the respective boards as a test of stamina for bowlers and innings building ability for batsmen, because each team needs at least 3 batsmen and 2 bowlers who are good in 2-innings cricket in order to last these twenty overs with honour.

I casually go through some old blog posts on my Blogger diary 'Pavilion View' and check out my recorded thoughts through a half-century window. I come across an interesting bit of history in an IPL match from the 1st edition. Apparently it took place exactly 50 years back, on 17-May-2008. I feel the urge to have a chat on that bit with my new old friend in early 20th century. My ailing body tells me to refrain but cricket still blurs the logic at times.

I gte up and walk to my arm-band time traveller on the table. This time traveller is an advanced release and cost me a fortune. Not only does it take me across time but it also allows me to cover any distance. I use it to go back by a hundred and fifty exact years.

17th May, 1908

Presently I land up in front of an obese ageing man in England who will celebrate his 60th birthday on July 18. I meet him so often these days; yet it is difficult to place him as the bearded doctor everyone knows. He looks so different from his photographs.

He looks pleased to have me back.

"Was feeling bored - good time for you to come. Should you start bowling?"

"Hello WG. I want to share something with you."

"Don't worry about it. Just tell me what bothers you."

" I told you about this new form of the game called Twenty20."

"That 3 hour mimicry of cricket where players will get tons of money for doing next to nothing? Haven't we had ENOUGH of that? It irritates me no end."

"But perhaps I did not share that not only are the players playing it in coloured clothes but also using their surnames on jersey backs."

"You have already told me that 6 times, old man."

"And the game is most popular in India and thereabouts, rather than your England and Australia."

"That is again a repetition. Is this all you can put up today?" I am pissing the doctor more than a bowler turning his back on him and asking a loud question to the umpire about the doctor's leg. I carry on regardless.

"And that a hundred years to this day one 'born for T20' umpire from New Zealand, Billy Bowden, will utter 'khelo' instead of 'play' to start the proceedings of an IPL T20 match."

"THAT sounds a new one. By the way, did you not use that 'born for T20' term once before?"

"Yes. Who's being forgetful now? I used that for the revolutionary Sri Lankan opening batsman cum wicketkeeper Romesh Kaluwitharana who retired before T20 came about."

"Yeah, from what I learnt from you about Romesh it may be a lament comparable to the world never seeing the exciting Gilbert Jessop play limited overs cricket. That century of him against Australia in 1902 is difficult to put aside. Folks would have loved to have him down there in 21st century."

WG stands up and walks away pensively. "I still cannot believe that a Kiwi umpire will mouth Indian words in front of live audience while officiating." He turns to me, appreciation dripping from his countenance. "This, more than all you said on the Darell Hair affair the day before, tells me a lot more about India's influence over the game in 21st century! To think most of us here still dread visiting India..."

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