December 26, 2000


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Dilip D'Souza

Catch Snatched At The Match

It didn't take me long to realise that the highlight of the keen cricket match(es) you are going to read about here was Nisha's spectacular catch. There were rumours that the selection committee was present at D'Monte Park in Bombay, where the matches were played, and on the basis of this catch alone have decided to induct Nisha into the Indian team for the upcoming first Test against the Australians. Trouble is, it was the selection committee for the wrong game that turned up, and so Nisha is in the team for the first gilli-danda Test against Australia. Never mind. I shall be happy to pass all congratulations on to Nisha.

More of the catch shortly.

It was a warm, sunny morning, with just a hint of moisture in the air, as the two captains, Vibha and Nisha, walked out to the middle to toss. They were surrounded by over a dozen males, hanging on their every word, because Nisha and Vibha were going to choose their respective teams. Vibha won the toss, and began by choosing Sanjay. Upon which Vibha's husband threw a tantrum and had to be admonished severely by all present.

Fortunately, the selection proceeded without any more hitches, and these were the two teams:

Vibha's team (The "V" Team):
Mayank, Manoj, Alok, Sanjay, Samar, Vibha. Joined by Krishnan in the 2nd match.

Nisha's team (The "N" Team):
Vineet (Manoj's dashing young son), Khuzaima, Prakash, Jitender, Mihir, Dilip, Nisha.

It was a warm, sunny morning, with just a hint of moisture in the air, as the two captains, Vibha and Nisha, walked out to the middle to toss. They were still surrounded by over a dozen males, because this time they were tossing to see who would bat first. Vibha called correctly again. Knowing her pace bowlers' proven ability to extract bounce from the pitch and swing from the morning moisture in the air, or maybe vice versa, she promptly decided to bat first. Judging from the dancing and joyful leaping around her team members were seen indulging in, this was a popular decision.

And so it was that Mayank and Manoj walked out to open the V team innings. Mihir was given the new ball.

Runs flowed freely from the bat. They also flowed freely from wides and no-balls declared by the umpire, Vibha, who certainly could not have been accused of being partial to her team's fortunes, oh no, not at all. It was only when Nisha, disgusted with the performance of her pace bowlers, decided to put herself on that the tide was stopped. Mayank was bowled by a googly from Nisha that Nisha thought was going to be a wide.

Manoj was going great guns at the other end, whacking an easy four. With some spirited batting, he and Alok were on the verge of putting the game away when Nisha had her second inspiration. She put on master bowler Jitender, who promptly bowled Manoj with an off-break that had started out as an outswinger. After this, the V team's innings crumbled away, despite a captain's knock of great maturity from Vibha, who held one end up stoically as the wickets tumbled at the other. She scored 0 not out. She remained stoic even when her husband, fielding at not-so-short-mid-off, dropped a toe-level catch off her bat, prompting some sly smirking about how husbands become butter-fingered when wives bat.

Mihir got rid of the danger man, Alok. Sanjay was caught going for a huge hit that took about three minutes to fall out of the sky. We know this because the drinks interval was held while waiting for the ball to come back down. Samar indulged in some late hitting to get 6 not out, and extras also bashed the ball about for 9 useful runs. In 10 overs, the V team had scored 44 (Mayank 6, Manoj 12, Alok 10, Sanjay 1, Samar 6 not out, Vibha 0 not out, Extras 9).

After one more drinks break, this one spent free from the fear of balls falling from the heavens, Nisha and Vineet opened the N team innings. They had to face the fiery pace of Sanjay, running smoothly in to bowl from somewhere near Chikmagalur. They staged a fighting opening stand of 1 run, before Alok shattered Nisha's stumps with a slower ball that started out as a chinaman. Vineet held up one end for a while longer before Vibha, chewing on a sprig of grass at quite-fine-leg, casually caught his murderous hook off a Sanjay bouncer. He scored 1.

But then came the innings of the match: Mihir's. Dilip was now at the other end, and Mihir started by whispering to him that Sanjay's fearsome pace had got him frightened. Either this was a ploy to boost Dilip, who had himself been running for the pavilion every time the Chikmagalur Express came in, or it was this supposed fear that inspired the repeated boundaries that Mihir thrashed Sanjay and every other bowler for. Watching this exhibition of power batting, and also looking for ways to escape Sanjay's thunderbolts, Dilip's only wish was to rotate the strike to give it to Mihir. Only, he couldn't. Luckily, he got out to a catch at middle-of-the-road-wicket.

Khuzaima and Prakash helped Mihir speed up the proceedings after that, and Jitender played a scintillating knock of 1, but it was fittingly a fine drive from Mihir that saw the N team clinch the match with 5 balls to spare. (Nisha 1, Vineet 1, Dilip 8, Khuzaima 5, Jitender 1, Mihir 16 not out, Prakash 4 not out, Jitender 1, Extras 9).

Naturally, Mihir, 16 not out, was declared Man of the Match. He celebrated by spraying lemon barley water at everyone in the stands. Which put paid to any prospect of further drinks intervals.

In the second match, Nisha finally called correctly. Mindful of her bowlers' ability to extract turn and bite from the now-worn pitch, she promptly decided to bat first. This time the dancing and leaps of joy came from her team. This may have been due to the prospect of batting, but more likely it was because Nisha and Prakash announced that they were off to get some snacks and more lemon barley water.

Jitender and Vineet opened the innings. Unfortunately Jitender was unable to duplicate his sparkling form of the previous match, and was out for the first duck of the day. Vineet batted in a serene, untroubled way, picking up the singles here and there, showing Dilip, the new batsman, how to do it. Sadly, Vineet had to retire hurt when he was hit in the eye by a bouncer from his father Manoj, apparently frustrated at being unable to control a mere son's runs.

Our statistician tells us that this is the first instance of a father doing this to his son in any grade of cricket since 1387 AD, when Parmanand Cherrapunji Kappagantula hit Malladi Venkata Rama Subramanya Jaya Vardhana Vara Prasad Parmanand in a match in Jhumritelaiya, but that does not count because it was in the course of a fist fight between the two. Besides, cricket had not been invented yet.

Mihir came in when Vineet retired, and took up where he had left off in the first match, scoring 4s at will and even a massive 6 that nearly reached the starting point of Sanjay's bowling run. There was no stopping him in the mood he was in. He was out towards the end of the innings, at which point Vineet came back in but didn't last long. Khuzaima trotted in in search of quick runs, but while going for a huge leg-bye, he was stumped by Manoj at the 14th attempt.

Nisha and Prakash, still wandering the city in search of snacks, did not bat. So in 9 overs, the N team had scored 37 (Jitender 0, Vineet 3, Mihir 19, Dilip 9 not out, Khuzaima 2, Extras 4).

Samosas and the like, finally produced by Nisha and Prakash, were consumed at this point. They must have helped the V team, as will be evident.

Sanjay and Mayank opened the batting against the hostile pace bowling of Dilip, running in from somewhere near Calcutta, oops Kolkata. His first over produced exactly half the required runs, and from then on the result was purely academic.

But it was while the runs were being scored that the highlight of the day -- and I know you've been waiting for it -- happened. Sanjay, who had been batting brilliantly, hit a ball from Khuzaima hard over Nisha's head at extra-strong-cover. She stuck her hand in the air, and while the TV cameras had already focussed on the boundary, we realized she had caught the ball! A truly spectacular catch. Even Sanjay had a huge smile on his face as he came over to congratulate Nisha, who was unable to stop leaping around in joy for the next 15 minutes. She was also unable to let go of the ball for the next 15 minutes, which prompted many questions about which brand of glue she had used.

Mayank and Alok quickly took the V team to victory with 2 overs to spare. Mayank, in particular, batted like a champion and never looked like getting out. Strong rumours circulated in the stands that he had spiked his samosas with some rum. (Sanjay 7, Mayank 20 n.o, Alok 7 not out, Extras 5).

Mayank took the Man of the Match award for his grand knock, though the rumours about the rum revived when he fell over on his back while accepting the award. Mihir was the undoubted Man of the Series for his 16 not out and 19. Nisha took the best catch award, no contest. Extras were a strong contender for highest run aggregate.

So both teams, having won one match each, retired to a nearby club for a swim and a late lunch. The weary cricketers consumed about 253 pitchers of beer and some 15 bottles of Old Monk Rum. Jitender consumed another 17 bottles of Old Monk.

A fun time was had by all, which is why I suggest you imbibe the same quantity of the same stuff this upcoming New Year Eve. Besides, that's the only way you're likely to make it into the N team for the next match.

PS: Fevicol. The glue she used was Fevicol.

Dilip D'Souza

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