Faded Memories: Playing Cricket circa 1994, with Mahi.. or… Dhoni(?)

It was 1994. One year since I moved from Kendriya Vidyalaya, the government school that I was used to studying at, to DAV Shyamali in Ranchi. End of my standard 9th exams, a below average academic year by the standards set for myself, in a new school, and a notice on the notice board which talked about an upcoming cricket camp during summer vacations, I joined the camp. I guess more because it was cricket, and twice a day, than the fact that it was a camp.
That was first time I changed from being a backyard gully cricketer which probably 90%+ of school going boys were in those years, to someone who took (or wanted to take) cricket a little more seriously. And that was the time I met my cricketing quad – Anil Singh, Niraj Singh, Mahi (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) and myself. The camp was for 12-15 year olds. I was 14 then, and Mahi was 13. Niraj and Anil were my classmates.
Note: We still remember him as Mahi. His earlier cricket records from school league would mention Mahinder Singh. Not Dhoni. And yeah, it’s not the punjabi way of saying MAAAAAHI. It was Mahi, simple, with a very very short emphasis on ‘a’ (the ma of Maa – mother vs. the ma of Mandir). Or more ruggedly, “ka re, ee mahiyaa kahan hai”, which was not the mindblowing Maahiya kinds. It was the bihari Mahiyaa (with a very short emphasis on the first “a”).
The quad? because the four of us played for the DAV cricket team the same year. Anil was a left arm fast bowler, with a very nice angling run-up (Mitchell Johnson kinds) and had a natural outswinger. But too inconsistent, and too prone to nautanki (like trying to invent a left arm version of Kapil Dev’s vintage bowling pose). Niraj was a leg spinner who also batted up the order. Mahi was a keeper batsman (used to come in at 1 down or 2), and I was an off-spinner (the most lowly of breeds in the game of cricket).

In a short stint, I did well (I had my own off-spinner’s version of Anil Kumble – run up to the crease, jump, and pace – full package deal). That was the era, when India used to have spin trios all the time (Raju, Kumble, Chauhan kinds). So, having bowlers like me, Niraj et al in school league, which was more about slam, bam, thank you ma’m, was not a misplaced error from the selection committee.

Those of you who’ve followed ‘Dhoni’ would remember K R Bannerjee, the school teacher who moved him from soccer to Cricket. Though, in my memory from 1994 onwards, I don’t remember Mahi ever playing football/soccer that seriously. All my memories of him are of him playing cricket with me and the school team folks, or of him playing cricket with the team which had my brother and the likes of Tunna. But then, I must be wrong about his simultaneous calls from district level cricket and football being an urban legend.
We used to live in Mecon colony in Ranchi, and Mahi’s house was in the lane behind our house. J block. And, my brother was his tennis ball cricket team-mate ( they won a few local tournaments together), and I was his leather ball/school league cricket team mate (we also won a few tournaments together).

Back then, like his earlier years in international cricket, he was a mercenary batsman. Few snapshots I remember very vividly from 1994-1997 era- hitting Subroto Banerjee (who had just come back from an India team outing) for a six towards the square leg boundary (the ball landed on top of a huge water tank, several storeys tall a couple of blocks away from the stadium), hitting the double ton in school league final (a 35 over match), hitting 5 sixes in the space of 10 balls in a day-night tennis ball tournament (where for some weird reason, he had not come in at his usual 1 down, and had come pretty late down the order). One of those sixes was a hoist over cover boundary (and believe me, its not very easy with a tennis ball, when playing under dim lights).

The only thing I had in common with him was the devil may care attitude about our game. Hit me for a six, and I would hardly be flustered. Get him out first ball, or beat him three balls in a row, he would hardly be flustered. And he would have the widest grin for everything. That is something still seen on TV. Though I dont remember seeing him get angry about anything back then. He does now. Guess the stakes are too high now.

A batch junior to me in school, and with our limitations limited to the cricket ground and thereabouts, he was the usual 9th standard Ranchi kid back then. Always up to some mischief or the other, had a wise-crack for almost everything, was interested in the girls around, but probably hadn’t talked to more than a couple, loved batting more than keeping, loved taking a single off the last ball to keep the strike, and avoiding doubles even when the opportunity would be for a quick three. Don’t remember him as someone who’d walk away with his bat if he got out early. He also wanted to hit more boundaries than take runs. And he could run the first run really quickly, if it was the first delivery of the over.

There aren’t a lot of outings we had together. Why? I was from a background where hopes resided on my academic abilities more than my athletic abilities. My brother anyways was a much better cricketer than me, and had succumbed to the ways of preparing for engineering entrance examinations long before me. Though, to be fair to myself and everyone else, I did play a few important matches during that year’s school league, and had the call to join the district team. Its a different matter that the final round of NTSE exams on 14th May 2005 coincided with the district team training and selection camp. That being said, the outings we had together, we never dropped a game. And in some of them, I did play my part as well.
So, starting with the camp, I took 7/12 in the final match of the camp, and Mahi scored 43 of 30 odd balls. I think he took 30 odd balls because Jitendar Bhaiya (the wicketkeeper of Mecon cricket team who was running the camp) had threatened him with repercussions if he threw his wicket away.
In the school league finals (under 15), I took 3/22 in 6 overs, after he scored a double ton against my earlier school, Kendriya Vidyalaya. School league finals (with oldies), I had taken 4/23, while he scored a half century.

We went to the DAV east zone selections together, where we both got selected. It was the year, when the trials had happend in torrential rains. For one of the catches during fielding trials, I had skidded a distance of over 15 feet, involuntarily I must add. Anyways, I was considered as a bowler who had pace variations, a nice loop, and a nice dip. It’s a different matter that I took up off-spin bowling because I did not have the height or arm for pace bowling, and unlike Kumble I was conceptually against building a career in spin bowling, unless I could actually turn the ball. For him, there were no adjectives. He came, played for his trials in the nets, and there was a tick. No one asked a question, no one gave any answers.

By the way, the only time I remember batting in a match in those scattered matches across two years (I did not play much after 1995), was in an internal match where he was in the other team. For the record, I did not get him out in that one, but conceded only 15 runs from 4 overs for 2 wickets. Some achievement, huh?

Fading memory – me and my brother talking about him in 1999, when he had started playing for Bihar/ Railways. Our fear back then was that even if he survived the politics of Bihar cricket (you had to be a favorite of Deval Sahay to be in the Bihar team), it would be difficult for him to survive the national cricket/zonal cricket politics and reach the Indian team. And this was the era, when the teams world over had brilliant wicketkeeper-batsmen (Andy Flower, Alec Stuart, an emerging Gilchrist, etc.), and we wanted to place our bets in him. Bhaiya felt that he was not as good a wicket keeper, but his batting should have been enough to get him the slot, if there was no politics.

BTW, that just reminded me of an incident that a colleague of mine narrated about Devang Gandhi. When he got selected for the Indian team as an opener, apparently, Sadagopan Ramesh missed out. At that time, the culture of Ranji was that you played more cricket within the zone, which mean that DG (from Bengal) would play more against Tripura, Orissa, et al. DG was scoring heavily at that time in Ranji. SRamesh quipped – against teams like that, even Mahatma Gandhi would have scored a double century.

Anyways, almost everyone that we know from those years in Ranchi, like Kaushal or Deepak et al, they’ve all met him post his rise to stardom, and they all say that he is still the same. The wickedness and the nicety in the same pack. And its good to see him rise so much. It’s a small town story that we see in movies. He really did not have a kit full of bats, or a car dropping him for nets or a set of boots (one for batting and one for keeping). He often played cricket wearing canvas shoes (or chappal, for tennis ball cricket). But he was brilliant then. And he is excellent now, in a different way.

Found: Long Lost Post on Tambrahms by Bee

Not sure if some of you have ever read it.. but this one was just brilliant.. Bee’s occasional blog then (bee.theblog.net) seems to have died a domain death since then, and so the article is lost to the internet generation. But after some link-digging, I found the article, and bring it to you for your reading pleasure ..

(Its a dead link, btw)


Have you met someone who is reasonably tall, fair, with a reasonable build (sometimes frail, but never well-built), a tikka on the forehead, and a self-righteous expression on their faces in your college premises? If you still haven’t placed this species called Tambrahmo Sapien, I will describe further characteristics of this species.

The members of this species perform well academically, are generally religious, are sought after for their views, have an opinion on most things under the sun while simultaneously being non-judgmental, and frequently wear an "I have not been given my due by this world" expression on their faces. They are also consciously self-effacing (aka painfully modest) about their achievements (generally academic)

The members of this species have a strong desire to be with fellow species’ members though they are socially ‘accepted’ in other groups as well. When 2 Tam Brahms meet, they discuss a third, when 3 meet they discuss other species’ members, when more than 3 meet, they discuss topics like ‘Changes in socio-cultural patterns of urban India fuelling prosperity in rural India’ or ‘the inherent fallacies in the parliamentary democracy system’ with their collective decibel levels of discussion varying in direct proportion to the proximity of non-tam-Brahms, especially those possessing XY chromosome. A lone tambrahm has this brooding intellectual look about him giving an impression that he is trying to mentally divide 233 by 17 while he is actually benchmarking himself vis-à-vis other tambrahms and later on with other homo sapiens as well. This is a favorite pastime of the Tam Brahms.

They are fiercely competitive but are repulsed by the notion of relative benchmarking and frequently proclaim (with a sigh of relief) that they are glad that they didn’t get sucked into this rat race. That the tam-brahm knows the re-evaluated score in the second cycle test of the little known character with whom he has spoken to exactly twice before in his life is pure coincidence.

When tambrahms are locked in conversation, they laugh at jokes like ‘Even if you win the rat race you are still a rat’ and ‘statistics are like Bikini, they show a lot but not what you want to see’ but only so much a smile politely at sardar jokes or gujju accent jokes. Not that they mean ill to surds or gujjus, it is just that they have a far more refined taste than that.

They also revel in the knowledge of their own refined taste in art or literary forms and consciously move towards ‘better’ books rather than wasting time in mundane ‘pulp’ fiction. They are wont to make statements like ‘yeah, I used to read Sidney Sheldon when I was in class IX and X. I don’t know why but I used to like them a lot. Sheldon is pure pulp. You read 3 and you can write the 4th. Now, I am glad that I have graduated to Ayn Rand, PG Wodehouse and The Economist’. All this to a poor soul who has just told him that he liked a Sheldon novel that he had read the previous night. After a pause, the tambrahm follows his speech up with "yeah, I read that book and liked it too. Typical, but ok. If you are a Sheldon fan, it’s a great book". The well-kept secret of Tam Brahms is the fact the Tam brahm himself struggled his way through 985 pages of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ precisely for deriving the satisfaction of making the above statements.

Now, where is the catch? What is it that this species lacks? They are academically good (some are ‘gifted’), socially accepted everywhere, well-sought after for their views on everything, adored by even the girls, are considered smart and sincere, are on the right side of ethics and teacher’s favorites.

Wait a second; God isn’t all that kind to anybody. These guys have their share of problems too. In most cases, they are too good for themselves. When it comes to academics, their parochial attitude keeps them on the edge; in sports, upbringing and dietary constraints kill them; in social life, their pseudo-intellectualism does them in, but their biggest problem lies with their performance with girls. They generally get slotted into ‘Oh, he is a deeeeeaaaar friend’ or ‘I can always count on him for a chat after I have had a tough day with my boyfriend(s)’, or in really rare and sad cases ‘If only I had met him earlier’.

There is also a bunch of lads who slot into the between n and n+1 category, but more on that later.

Back from hibernation

It’s been a while since I posted. And as Confused points here, at times, it almost feels like starting afresh.

Anyways, it’s not like I have stopped watching movies, reading books, meeting people, or having thoughts. It’s just that I haven’t felt like writing for a while. Or rather, not felt like typing even when I felt like writing. Tonight is different. For reasons hitherto unknown to mankind (and myself), I am back with (hopefully) a short post.

The update is that biwi Is in Bangalore now. And we are back to meeting over the weekends. Married people can’t stop pointing to the positives of it, and others do not stop sympathizing over it. Bosses, a third group altogether, do not stop worrying about the possibility of my attrition now that biwi is not in Mumbai.   Like always, everyone’s right. It’s just a matter of perspective. And I did my MBA a few years back. SO, I do have multiple perspectives on this matter. But that matter is a different matter and shall be perspectivized some other time.

Just to get my groove back, let me share my reading list for the last few weeks/months that I have not been writing much during. It’s often said that the books you read and like reflect your personality. Well, here is mine.

  • Vengeance of Ravana (Book 7 of Ramayana Series by Ashok Banker – Recommended for those who’ve read the first 6. I would strongly recommend the first 6 first)
  • The Client (Grisham – Good, but passable)
  • Matheletics (Prof. Winston, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in November. Interesting for math and analytics buffs)
  • The 65 Lakh Heist (translated version of Surinder Mohan Pathak’s 1977 classic. Recommended for Bollywood and potboiler lovers)
  • Gods of War (Ashok Banker – passable/avoidable)
  • 30 pages of a M&B (I finally decided to steal one from biwi’s collection to understand why these are so popular with women. My take for “man” kinds – definitely avoidable)
  • The Mckinsey Engagement (Paul Friga) – Recommended for budding consultants
  • Stardust (currently reading, by Rupa Swaminathan (seems interesting so far (first 70 pages, that is)
  • Snow (Orhan Pamuk – for those who like John Steinbeck kind of stuff), amongst others.  I loved it, but at the same time, was extremely disturbed by the time I finished reading it).

More importantly, I finished reading a few comics mini-series –

and have started reading

All of these came with strong recommendations. The recos were right. All of these are excellent, with V and Identity Crisis being my favorites so far.

I also read Super Commando Dhruv’s “Dhruvishya” and “Aakhiri Dhruv”, which in my view, were quite crappy. I miss the originality of the earlier comics of Dhruv Series. The quality of artwork has improved, but the stories have gone from bad to worse.

And in case I never mentioned, I read MAUS – A Survivor’s Tale a little while back, and its phenomenal. Must read!

Now that you know what my latest personality is like, what is your reading list looking like? Anything you’d like to recommend?

%d bloggers like this: