City Pleasure – Street Cricket, India Gate

The Delhi walla‘s pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls – Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Passion for Cricket

Delhi loves its street cricket.

[Text and pictures by mayank Austen soofi]

On a Monday noon as hot as this, these boys should have been cooling their heels in their lecture halls. Instead, they are playing cricket at India Gate maidan.

All are dressed in white, two wearing hats, and one stretching his limbs. No one seems to be soft-spoken. The age of gentleman cricketers is truly gone. Maa-behen curse words are flying as high as the bowler’s ball. If India Gate were a woman, it would have been blushing red. In fact, there used to be a marble statue of King George V in the cupola in front of it. Thank God, it was removed after Independence. The poor king with Victorian sensibilities wouldn’t have been able to survive the locker room talk of our cricketers.

However, isn’t it strange that in a city of 13 million, there are only three cricket stadiums? That hardly bother Delhi’s cricket lovers who happily play wherever one can set up a makeshift pitch – from Karol Bagh bylanes to Pahari Bhoja rooftops to Ramilila Maidan to India Gate.

Here, under the dusty haze of the maidan, indifferent to the temptation of media publicity, these future Sehwags and Dhonis are clearly not easy with the interfering presence of The Delhi Walla. “Please leave the pitch,” says the captain finally. “Why don’t you go to the pavilion?”

The pavilion –a grassy spot under a tree – is already choc-o-block with rough-tough batsmen waiting for their turn. “We’re all from across the Yamuna, from Lakhsmi Nagar,” says Subrojeet Modak, a IInd year student of B.Com in Dayal Singh College. It’s not far from India Gate. “We’re all from Dayal Singh,” he is adding, “… oye! That’s a wide ball!”

It’s hard to fancy these cricketers as the darlings of Dayal Singh professors. Not only they are bunking classes, they are also unapologetic about it. “Cricket ke liye kuch bhi karega,” says Gaurav Sharma, another IInd year student. “We ditch bandis (girls) for cricket,” says another, “what are classes?”

Take all-rounder Mohamamd Shahid Jani. Just 17 years old, he dropped out of school at Class VIII and now he does nothing but play cricket. “My hero is Shoaib Akhtar,” swoons Jani. On one of those rare occasions, when his college-going friends are actually attending classes, he stays back home in Lakshmi Nagar to play his game. But can there really be any open space in that congested part of east Delhi? “There is, in front of the Coffee Home, behind V3S mall,” says Jani, but it’s not even half the fun.”

But what fun is there in the heat and dust of India Gate maidan? After a few minutes of trying to enjoy the test-series pace of Lakshmi Nagar cricketers, I leave the ground feeling sure that cricket’s future lies on live TV’s adrenaline-pumped 20-20 telecasts, not in India Gate maidan.

On a Pahari Bhojla rooftop

Home Tour

Near Humayun’s Tomb

Cricket in the Air

Near Humayun’s Tomb

Mullah-ji Plays Cricket

In Matia Mahal market

Hail Cricket

The Lakshmi Nagar cricketers

Passion for Cricket