Cricket and laughter co-exist… at least sometimes. Yes, we have seen the famous yawn behind the wickets in CWC 2019 and Sarfaraz was trolled like mad for days. The televised matches make sure that every yawning gap between a ball rushing towards the boundary and a fielder diving valiantly to miss it by millimeters, the way throws towards the wickets hit players or even pigeons at times. Yes, there was a match where the throw hit an incoming pigeon and… well, the batsman survived but the pigeon died. I do not remember the match nor the player but one of the videos on YouTube showed one diving to stop a ball that had been hit hard and the big screen showed neither the missed ball that had crossed the boundary nor the the batsmen sighing with relief but focused on the fielder whose white trouser had slipped down to reveal his black underpants. For the spectators this was enough to howl with laughter.

GBS, had he watched cricket as it has evolved in the past few decades, might just have added a few more zeros to his thoughts when he said, ‘Cricket is a game played by 11 fools and watched by 11,000 fools.’ After all, this is one game where even commentators sometimes produce ever-green howlers like Trevor Bailey gifted this world when he said, ‘The Port Elizabeth ground is more of a circle than an oval. It is long and square.’

I remember watching one of the league matches in CWC 2019 and my niece was sitting with us watching. Specky, my wife, suddenly asked a couple of questions, “What are the Base Layer benefits for Cricket players and why do they even wear them?” and ‘Where is this match being played?’

Niece: ‘On a cricket field.’

Well, this is one answer that redefined ‘rofl’ for me. I remembered once when we were school kids and were crowded around the transistor listening to the commentary of some match being played somewhere and there was a sudden roar of thousands of spectators. My father and grandfather too stood up and roared the way everyone roars when something stupendous happens on the pitch. I was baffled and asked, ‘What happened?’

My father shushed me and said, ‘No idea. Let’s wait for the commentator to say something.’

I tell you, these cricket matches have the power to produce some of the best laughter moments that I have ever experienced. There was this time when I was in the outfield somewhere between mid-on and long-on and the ball was hit in my direction. I ran hard only to realize that the elasticated lower that I was wearing wasn’t as tight as it should be and showed signs of surrendering. I caught my lowers with both hands and didn’t know what to do with the ball that I calmly left to roll over the boundary! We didn’t have whatsapp, twitter, and the rest of the social media then or I’m sure this incident would have gone viral.

There is another funny incident that happened during a press event a few years back where the match was being relayed live. A new batsman came in, took his time taking guard, patted down several invisible bumps on the pitch and was clean bowled in the first delivery. The commentator shouted excitedly, ‘Out for a duck!’ The man sitting next to me whispered, ‘Do you get a duck when you play this game?’

I turned towards him and whispered, ‘Well, that fellow there on the screen was definitely out for a duck and I’m in here hoping for one tonight. But I know they won’t go beyond chickens.’

I know we are a cricket crazy country and during vital matches everyone sits glued to their television sets. But the funny part is that most of us most of the time are just watching without registering much. I realized this when we were out shopping during one such match-day and I casually went up to a few youngsters staring at the multiple screens in a store window and asked, ‘What’s the score?’

‘No idea.’

‘Who is batting?’

‘No idea.’

‘What are you watching?’

‘No idea. I forgot to carry my glasses today.’

Obviously then, we are a nation who loves every moment that enters and exits with loud uncontrollable roars. During CWC 2019 I noticed that in matches where any of the teams from our sub-continent played, the spectators were on a cricket high and carried placards, banners, flags, drums, dholaks, vuzvuelas, horns, and in one incident, even bansuris and were forever jumping around, waving, shouting, pointing, and gesturing. Contrast this with spectator behavior when, for instance, England and Australia were playing… the spectators just sat there and clapped. It was during one such match that my niece yawned and said, ‘There is nothing happening. I’ll go to my room and sleep. Good night!’

CWC 2019 isn’t yet over, but for a large number of Indian fans it is now in the past. But this doesn’t mean they have stepped away from joking about this game. This morning, even the doodhwala smiled, took off his earphones and said, ‘Even Uber will now not want Virat as a driver.’ I blinked a look of not understanding him and he explained, ‘You have not seen his ad? You don’t watch kirket?’

I knew then that cricket and laughter have a long-lasting relationship.

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Sarfaraz yawned and entertained cricket enthusiasts during CWC 2019
Sarfaraz yawned and entertained cricket enthusiasts during CWC 2019

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Arvind Passey
11 July 2019