Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My first love - Cricket (Part 1)

Two months into my training period with MindTree, I finally got details of the cricket team's captain and my first mail to him marked my first steps into what would be a fascinating journey for me over the next five years.

Very new to the corporate world and brain filled with fear as much as my dreams, innocently and tentatively I sent a mail, "Sir, please let me know if I can join the MindTree cricket team". The then captain Nagaraj Inamati had replied "Rajesh, Good to hear you are interested in cricket. Are you a bowler or a batsman? Have you played for your school team, college team, under - 16, club or divisional teams?” I could see my dreams disintegrating in my computer monitor. I had not represented a team in any of these categories.

It wasn't until 2nd year of my college when I started playing with cricket (leather) ball. Just because every class in our college had to have a cricket team, we too formed one. The biggest challenge for us then was to catch, for that matter to even stop a cricket ball on the playing field. (We realized why our 90's Indian cricket team preferred to run behind the balls rather than stopping it). Our bowlers were those who can produce 6 legal deliveries in less than 9 attempts, which translates to, anyone who can bowl the ball inside the mat consistently. It is a mystery, yet all Indians are batsmen by birth. Our top order batsmen are the dare devils who are not afraid of fast bowling; lower middle order batsmen are those who can slog and tail-enders are those who go into the field like stuffed dolls. The team is active for two to three weeks in a semester.

My real experience as a cricketer was with my "Colony Team" in Coimbatore right after I completed college. Youngsters from Maharani Avenue (name of the colony) falling in the age bracket of 21 - 30 comprised the team. Our family moved into Coimbatore when I was in my eighth grade and I played my first tennis ball match when I was in my ninth grade. Until then I was used to playing gully cricket with my brother and other younger kids, bossing around. So, when the captain refused to give me bowling, I spoiled sport and walked off the field with the ball (which was unfortunately mine). My subsequent endeavors weren’t any better; I never got to bowl or bat and I can’t blame my captain for that. All my team mates were physically dominating me at that age. I had no chance of getting to bat with a large queue always waiting. I was better off bowling, which way I could be amongst action. By the end of college though, things were different. I had outgrown most of my team mates and my increased height meant my bowling was more effective and increased muscles meant more pace. For the first time I was a regular in the team 11. The team had moved from tennis ball to cricket ball, color dress to cricket whites. Every weekend we would play against some local teams and our cricket kept improving, until I moved to Bangalore to join MindTree.

With no confidence of making into the MindTree cricket team, I replied to Nagaraj that I have not played for any of the teams he had noted and that I am predominantly a fast bowler (to my then standards). Nagaraj sent me a reply that the team would be practicing every weekend and I can join them and If I can prove my worth I would be given a chance. Later that week we were immersed in our training and Vimal Kanth was lecturing on “SQL programming”. To add salt to injury he also conducted an assessment. At the end of the assessment he called me for a word outside. Numerous thoughts were running in my mind, “did he spot me sleeping during the lecture? Is he going to punish me for helping my neighbor during assessment?” Vimal casually said “Gokul, we have our cricket practice tomorrow at 6 ‘O clock. We will be leaving from office 10 minutes prior to that”. There were multiple emotions, relieved that it was nothing about the lecture, happy to join the cricket team and nervous to prove my potential.

I was at the office by 5.30 in the morning, staring at the deserted roads, lone dogs barking in the chilly Bangalore winter. First signs of life appeared well beyond 6.15 when a man in mid twenties arrived in a bike wearing whites. I was relieved that I was not forgotten after all. He introduced himself as Nagaraj and sized me up to see if I could pass for a cricketer. We took the kits and headed to the grounds were Monish was waiting. The ground was water logged from overnight rains but the nets and run-ups were protected. Slowly rest of the team arrived and after a round of warm-up exercises and fielding drills I was up against Vimal with new balls in my hand. Adrenaline was rushing into my body to an extent which I had only previously experienced before 100 metre sprint. I ran in, released the ball and watched Vimal lazily leaning into the drive while the ball crashed into his off stumps. Nothing great with the delivery but Vimal had not woken from his sleep yet. How does it matter, people took notice and I was pleased. Sometime during the practice, I overheard people talking “I think we got our opening bowler”. Pumped up I was bowling my heart out throughout the entire practice session watching some of the best drives and cuts from the batsmen.

Two weeks later, I was playing my first corporate tournament. MindTree vs. Caritor; the stage was set for a 25 over encounter. For the first time I was playing in a lush green outfield. MindTree decided to bat in a sunny afternoon. After a top order collapse, Nagaraj powered the score to a decent 130 runs. It was time for us to bowl. Nagaraj opened bowling and took a wicket in the first over. Second over, I could feel the same adrenaline rush as I was waiting at my run-up. I approached the bowling crease gently and released the ball full and the batsman got beaten. Growing more confident I ran in for the next ball with more speed and released the ball with my full potential and saw the stumps uprooted. We ended up bowling them out for 70 and my first match with MindTree was a massive victory.


  1. frist to comment on the above wriiten,
    in a word, tantalizing!
    in a sentence, too good for a beginner! highly captivating.
    once again, proved ur smartness.

    loved ur way of writting! :) keep going..
    hi5 bro :)

  2. studied ur love for the game. best of wishes for ur progress.
    awaiting PART 2 !!!

    **thanks a lot for considering my suggestions :)
    was thoroughly filled seeing RANDOM REFLECTIONS!

  3. Thanks Rasmi... For the title and comments...

  4. he hee.. get me a gift :P :D :) :)

  5. Great my name figures in the pleased...nice writeup and yes Nagaraj was a good cricketer and good friend...