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Monday, May 10, 2010

Busting street cricket myths

Like all Indian urban kids I used to play street cricket while growing up. These were possibly the most joyous days of cricket of my life: the days when captains shouted at bowlers for not being able to turn tennis balls on asphalt; when batsmen got out for sending the ball into certain houses and half-out for sending it into some others; when byes and leg-byes were non-existent; when there was always one good bat and one bad one, and the batsmen swapped bats after each single; when every left-handed batsmen or bowler was considered to be kidding when he played for the first time; when there used to be last-man-batting.

We hadn't heard of the word internet, and the Doordarshan feed was so pathetic that trying to find out intricate details of the match was an impossible task. There weren't any library nearby that cared to stock cricket books, so we basically had to follow what the bullies said.

At this age, having gone through the ICC rulebook minutely, I suppose it's time to crush at least five myths prevalent in street cricket. These are rules I had grown up with, and had known to be as true as The Sun, but unfortunately, all of them turned out to be false.
  1. One cannot place a fielder exactly behind the bowler or the wicket-keeper: I was no-balled multiple times for this; since I invariably tossed the ball high, the batsmen often hit the ball over my head. The umpires (often from the batting side) had no-balled me on every occasion. The rulebook does not mention a single word on this: the only restrictions it mentions are (i) no more than five fielders on the leg-side, (ii) no more than two fielders behind square on the leg-side, (iii) no fielder exactly behind the bowler if and only if the batsman objects due to a disturbance (similar to movements of or around the sight-screen), (iv) the various 30-yard circle restrictions applicable in limited overs cricket. That's ALL. I'm sure Ganguly had grown up under similar rules as well, otherwise he could've stopped Marillier in that match by placing a long stop (yes, the position exactly behind a wicket-keeper even has a name, and was a quite common one in the 1800s when people of my girth and fitness were made to keep wickets).
  2. If you bowl three wides on the trot your over gets cancelled: It doesn't. With the advent of Ajit Agarkar and likewise, we got to see overs not being cancelled despite such atrocious stuff.
  3. If you hit the stumps while running you're out hit wicket: Once again, a myth: proved on multiple occasions, the most prominent one occurring during the 1999 world cup when Chris Harris dived on the stumps during a tight single, thereby creating an unidentifiable wreckage of the furniture.
  4. If you hit the ball twice with the bat you're out hitting the ball twice: You aren't. You're out hitting the ball twice if and only if the second hit is with the intention of scoring a run, and the discretion lies fully with the umpire. We have seen batsmen do this multiple times in international cricket, mostly with the intention of stopping the ball from hitting the stumps.
  5. If a ball bounces twice it's a no-ball: No way! The ball needs to bounce more than twice for it to be a no-ball. Here is the counterexample: ">