The Art of Street Cricket
For years the concept of Street Cricket was alien to me, and only recently have I familiarized myself with this mesmerizing format
Since I describe myself as a fairly lazy person who’s habitual in forgetting the suggestions of his friends, I did not pay much heed to their insistence that Street Cricket has a class of its own, something that regular cricket cannot offer. This mere claim was nothing less than a joke, which is why for years this lad never fathomed the possibility of giving it a go. However, fate pans out in mysterious ways as recently, the same bloke gripped the ball tightly between his index and middle finger, counting his steps, approaching the crease, hoping that the metal road offers his off-spin extra spin and bounce to deceive the batsman on the other end.
If someone was to question that which player I identify myself with, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment before claiming to be a Sharjeel Khan 2.0. This isn’t because both of us are chubby, but due to the similar style of “Stand and Deliver” cricket. Regardless of how fast the opposition bowler may be or how tricky the situation may be, pitch it anyway near middle or middle-leg and watch as a massive heave on the leg side carries the ball right out of the ground! Thus, naturally, one would relish the opportunity to play in large grounds with ample room for sixes on the leg side. Therefore, the idea of street cricket, where defense is the sole trait of survival and success, did not tempt Faaiz as he was aware that success would be hard to find in that format.
With the successive waves of Corona in Pakistan, the opportunity to swing the bat at proper grounds or arenas became hard to find, with the urge to play cricket becoming irresistible. With a leap of faith, the lad headed to the road right outside his home with a couple of tapped tennis balls, a set of wickets, and his favorite bat. Much to his surprise, the rules of this format negated the true principals of the “Gentlemen’s sport” with the baffling realization that this may be the only place where a six or a solid block on the front foot could see him swapping the bat with the ball. Amazing, right? For the former claim, one of the most pivotal rules of this format was that in case of a ball going to someone’s house, the batsman is automatically declared out! Be it a false shot, an edge, or even a dazzling six over the heads of everyone, you’re out the moment it lands in someone’s house in the neighborhood. For the latter claim, the trivial rule that makes this format most interesting is the “One-tip one-hand OUT”! Imagine channeling your inner Misbah-ul-Haq, presenting the full face of the bat to an ordinary ball, only to find a guy rush in to take it with his right hand. Not sure about the others but this realization proved to be fairly painful and hard to absorb.
This might be the perfect time to quote Michael Jordon who once said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” Despite being skeptical of the whole format of Street Cricket and speculating the worst, with humiliation that would dent my credentials as an excellent player in my family, after a while, the nervous lad dictated the play with his stellar performance with both the bat and the ball. Well, ‘stellar’ might be an exaggeration with the bat as all you have to do is survive the longest, which means playing with a dead bat. Considering the importance of street cricket as a whole, I was not surprised to hear the mention of this format in the recent PSL Anthem sung by Naseebo Laal, Aima Baig, and Young Stunners.
“Aaj Cricket ka Gali (street) main match Laga, Dil say Door lagao, Yaroon kay Saath….”
If you’re a Pakistani and express hatred for this sport, some consider it to be a cardinal sin. THEY JUST LOVE IT! WORSHIPPED LIKE A RELIGION! PEOPLE ARE CRAZY FOR IT! Be it village, city, street, park, or any other place, you would see someone lingering with a bat or a ball. Age is not a factor either as to be it, kids or grandparents, everyone watches it. One of the fond memories I have of my grandfather is him watching the India-Pakistan match, where Shoaib Malik scored a century, and him presenting his analysis on the proceedings. Similarly, away on holidays at my maternal home, I fondly remember how my mom would turn off the cricket match if it was too late at night, only for my grandmother (Nano) to plead our case in front of mom, compelling her to turn the TV back on! It won’t be wrong to claim that this sport has become a part of Pakistan’s history and cultural identification with the fans being super energetic, carrying a big heart as they repeatedly watch their national team make every match super dramatic and uncertain. Here, it is crucial to state the dialogue that every Pakistani has memorized, “Pakistan Cricket at its best….one minute down, next minute up”
The only downside of this sport is associated with not the sport in itself but the society as a whole. Regardless of the place you play, there is a dilemma for which one cannot find a solution. Despite this sport running in the blood of every Pakistani, as almost every shop has a small TV on which you would find people watching matches of Pakistan, one questions if this format is designated for boys only? I’ve played numerous times with all of my friends and siblings and would never be disturbed by anyone. However, whenever a girl joins the match, there’s an undesirable audience which one wishes just wouldn’t exist? People would take detours, offer uncalled help or just stare for no reason, just to fulfill their desires. Those barbaric eyes would look from head to toe as if scanning the whole person. You feel so disheartened and ashamed of what’s happening and tend to cast a blind eye to make sure it does not become prominent. However, at times you do take a stand when the situation becomes unbearable. In both situations, the result is that those girls start avoiding the sport, shunning their inner passion for the sport as some morons from society confined them within the walls of their home. We’re living in the 21st Century yet it breaks my heart to see such goons walking around us, labeling themselves as ‘humble citizens’. Would we get over these issues anytime soon? Would our streets prove to be a haven for all the genders? Only time will tell but one can only stay optimistic and try their best at an individual level to make a change.
After a short stint at street cricket, I have concluded that it serves as a proper incubation for the generational talent that is to shine for this nation. While the pandemic damaged the popularity of the sport as a whole, with people avoiding it for their protection (justified), it is time for some of us to be rational and with proper SOPs, reignite the dying art of Street Cricket as the teachings of this format, offer a different perspective and cutting edge upon the rest. Even Shahid Afridi, in his autobiography, has stressed the importance of Street Cricket with his habit of smashing the Dunlop ball for massive sixes during his childhood, proving to be critically important in developing his unmatched slogging ability that shook the world!