All the indian guys in my office want to play cricket.
That makes about 4000 men trying to out-bowl each other for 11 thrones. It is so competitive, this has become literally The Games of Thrones. Due to this high competition, the Captain has had to keep auditions-- where the men walk down the cricket ramp to demonstrate their bowling and batting swings. They are shortlisted based on looks-- looks of their batting style, and looks of their long term commitment. Two teams are made to accommodate the volume of interest-- the Blues team and the Greens team, very creatively chosen names. The men who don’t qualify to be Blue or Green, are politely lathi charged into a misc team; who still, with every ball bowled, look at their smartphones, anticipating an invitation phone call, that will never come.
Now my office has a women’s cricket team too, which I founded--and I, having little other talent to show off, proudly sneak the fact into conversations. “Open the pressure cooker to remove the mashed potatoes, carefully, just as carefully as I started the womens cricket team. The potatoes will be hot, so watch your hands...” I am not an expert at cricket, but I have become an expert at training women to play correctly. I take inspiration from the office mens cricket team, and have watched them closely.
Office men’s cricket can get really vocal.
While the ball is in the air, and while our womens team is playing quietly in a corner, voices from the men erupt. You hear war cries, and it is always the same word -- “Catch it”. What an excellent reminder, i say, as if the fielder wouldn’t have known what to do otherwise.
All the men erupt into a cacophony of “Catch it”
You hear the deep throated, “CATCH IT!”
The long un-speedy “Caaaaaaaaaatchhhh eeeeeeeeetttt!!!”
overlapping with the repeater who goes “CATCHITCATCHIT CAAAACHHIIT!”.
You might hear slang “Boss ... catch it!”,
the occasional un-trusting “Yaar, Caatch Karro!”
Or the instructional “catch it.. easy easyeee!”
And when you look at them, they are in a trance-like condition. Nothing exists, except the victory of catching an evasive ball. Catching is their vengeance.
The mens team has a bonding method, written down in their imaginary rule book probably titled “Cricket: How to catch it while taking it easy”. Their bonding method is to abuse each other. Readers, this is not the kutta-billi gaali. These are carefully worded phrases, that pressurises them into better performance.
“What, you’re a girl or what?“.
“That was such an easy shot, even my mom could catch it“.
“If you can’t hit his ball, you should stop playing cricket”. It is an empty threat because the man continues to come back for more cricket every week. Since I cannot imagine him wailing into a pillow that night, clawing at lumps of ice cream, and crying through a full mouth to his bff “I’m tho Inthulted”, i suppose he moves on very quickly. I see advantages of this abuse-bonding. It makes the men tougher, more motivated and they learn the art of respecting the abuser! A very modern Gandhian philosophy.
But i don’t agree with abuse-cricket-bonding. These abused cricketers are the ones that become the disgruntled fielders and bowlers.
When they grow up, they are the ones who shout out “catch it” and “out-aaay” at every ball.
They are the ones that warm up for 20 minutes and get out for a duck.
They are the ones that dramatically skid on their knees to stop a ball that was already still.
Let’s stop this male abuse. Let’s revert Cricket back to a gentleman’s game. This means we should stop reminding fielders to “Catch it” and instead encourage them with something more obvious like “Thy hands, thee shalt outstretch and shalt catcheth the ball, and nothing less! Bravo, my worthy friend, bravo!”. We should stop saying “I could have done better than you” with “I could not have caught the ball better! Even if I did catch the ball, I would still not have caught it as well as you did!” and the men should give each other a warm hug. These small changes will make healthier cricketers, and end world poverty.
There is talk of rough politics in mens cricket. Office cricket, unlike, school or national level cricket, is an unregulated industry. There is a casting couch and it leans towards bro’s.--the person they can abuse the most. Selections are based on answering ‘how available are you?’ and not on talent, and bat swap promises are rampant. The politics is evident at the start of any match: Since everyone wants to bat, the least favoured player is made the 11th man, so far down the batting order, that there is a high chance he will never get to bat. I have no idea why the 11th player doesn't just throw his 'FRIEND' cap on the ground, stomp one foot, hide the extra balls behind a bush as revenge and go home. But no, he will stick around. Now it is a matter of pride. Even though I’m 8th, 9th,10th or last in the batting order, I’m here to play!
This type of politics has generated a high attrition rate. Thousands of cricketers have quit trying for office cricket and have become willow TV subscribers. Now a guy just wants to play a good game, right? He just wants to forget his problems, make a fat score, clean bowl a few people, catch match winning balls, and feel the satisfaction of exercise despite a jiggly belly hidden behind a loose fitting T shirt. That's all muffin top chubby Raju wants. Are we asking for too much here? No! Then why this politics?
Don’t be disheartened. There is a time when the office cricket enthusiasts come together in unison apart from the cricket ground, and one person makes that happen. Sachin Tendulkar. Some think Sachin is god, some are forced to think he’s God, and some think he’s not God because they need to be different from the rest. But they all talk about Sachin. When Maria Sharapova asked ‘who’s sachin?’, the cricket team office boys drew an effigy of her on an envelope and burnt it with someone's cigarette lighter in the office balcony. Nothing draws muffin top cricket boys together more than a common hatred. Then all the politics is forgotten, and all the ‘i can dive, skid and ruin my clothes catching a stationary ball, better than you can’ is all forgiven. They are all friends now.
When he’s not playing cricket, the office cricket boy has a social life, but he must not be trusted completely. Don’t believe him when he says he ‘doesn’t remember’. He can fetch out details of last nights match and then compare it with last decades match. “Dhoni’s catch last night was just like VVS Laxmann’s catch during the 2002 Bangladesh tour“. So, “I forgot your birthday” should not be accepted without implication. Also, don’t believe him when he say’s “I cannot make it because it’s impossible for me to wake up that early”. These very men, will spring out of bed at 6am for an India-England match, or flight sleep up till 6am, watching India-Uganda re-runs. If you look at their browser history, their late night google searches are “terrific cricket catches”, “best run-outs 2016” and “she smiled at me, is she interested?”.
But Office Cricket is dying. The average cricketer has found other avenues to express his swing. He can join saturday games with a club, that have with fear-inducing names like ‘Fremont Fighter’ or ‘Bangalore Burritos’. There he gets to play with boys from other companies, and gets judged by a legitimate umpire in white clothes and a white hat. It’s filmy. If he doesn’t like that, he can just show up to play “pick up cricket” with random boys, where any skill level is allowed, including the boys who bowl too many wides, or always drop catches. If he’s lazy, he can get a kick out of watching cricket on Youtube.
I wonder how long my office cricket women will last, or turn into behaving like the boys cricket. For now, I cannot imagine them abusing each other, and I, as the founder, and perfectly ok with batting down the order.