Thus I ended up with my highest score on the toughest pitch I have ever played cricket. It was Badla!! The cricket between the four walls. And this Sunday, I had my highest score of six runs.
What is Badla? Where did it come from? Who are it creators? What are the rules? And why the name is Badla and not just cricket? My dear friend Pophabhi will tell you more on this on his Madness Continues.
I first played this a year back, to be exact in Feb 2005, when Kich took me to Abhi’s house (Well I should say our house now, I sleep, eat and drink there most of the days) just to play cricket. Boy, never did I know that it would have been so tough, when I faced Abhi and Kich and it was a different ball game altogether. And also to field in that 8x10 square foot area, man it needed some spine in you to face the ferocious pull of Abhi and on drives of Kich. My hands will always be covering my vital organs, face almost against the batsman and all set to turn back while he hits it. An year and half later too I haven’t improved much on that, expect for the fact that I have started to spend some time in the middle, started to bowl in the right areas and go close in at least a step ahead.
What is it that makes us play this without any tiring? A nod of eyes between three of us, or a call from Abhi or an exclamation from Guru –“Innu Vende, Badlikkande” - just after he enters the house after his office at 8 or 9 in the night. That is enough. We are all set to cleanup the mess in the room and start playing.
The normal format of playing is the good old single player methodology. Players will bat based on their names alphabetical order, so that goes like Abhi first, then me and finally Guru. If there are four guys we play the TEST, where two innings are played and the two of us constitute a team. The follow on rule too is applied; if the second batting team doesn’t score half the runs, then they are forced to follow on. But these days PP is quite busy in his own world and he doesn’t find it much interesting. Something is cooking up I guess. ;)
Among us Abhi is the best according to me; he has that patience and temperament to play the long innings. Above all he is committed to the game. He curses himself when he plays a loose shot or mis-fields. I could then imagine how committed he would be in the original version of the game. Bowling to him is always a bit problem as he has that “ChanderPaul” kind of stance with open chest so that if there is anything short he can pull it and if there is anything full he will drive it past the bowler. I still don’t understand how he follows that, as I could never have that stance. I usually follow the normal one, but Badla is not normal cricket. And while bowling too he has that out swingers perfect as I will almost poke at everything and eventually get out. But then he has that deadly Yorker too, which he uses against me when he is fed up with my Thozhaying (moving the bat just like rowing a boat).
Guru on the other hand has a closed approach while batting. He covers the wicket with his legs and bat and gives a very slight view of the wicket. As leg before wicket is not out, he is able to defend with his legs. But there is always one or another way to get him out. In fact I always enjoy bowling against him. I will mix up this, short pitch and then a fuller one, leg spinners followed by an occasional googly. It’s always easy to get him. On the bowling front, he basically has two kinds of bowling. One which any Tom, Dick and Harry can smash it for a run (as explained above in Italics) and another one which is really difficult to get through. And at some weird moment, which he and God only know, he will shift from the difficult one to the easier one. I haven’t yet understood what the reason behind this shift is. He will bowl ten or fifteen good difficult balls to me then suddenly will pop up a dolly, just like Stuart MacGill. So there is all probability that Sir Geoffrey Boycott would not like him, if he watches Badla and Guru’s bowling.
PP is more like a proper techie stand, just like Kumble. And as he is very reluctant in playing these days, I am not remembering much of his stance. All I remember is he had a good defence, even though he had a bit problem in attacking the ball. He tends to favor scoring runs on the leg side, and he was able to do that pretty efficiently. PP’s leg glances were always directed towards the bathroom door, which is on the square leg direction – they hit the turf and bounce hard into the door. But if you manage to bowl outside off to him for sometime and keep varying the length, he is surely going to give you a chance. PP’s bowling is special. He bowls the normal leg spin, with a bit of pace, and he consciously keeps the balls bounce less so that you are cramped for space.
Kich was the best batsmen for college team, when he used to play there. He used to play drives and pulls so good in the real ground. But Badla is always a different ball game. Although he had some real difficulties playing Badla due the pace and bounce of the wicket, he adjusted pretty well to the place. Most evident was his flowing off drives which used to remind us about the good old college days. Kich did not play long enough in Badla to make an impact here, and hence there were ways of getting him out when he was around. Most noticeable thing about Kichan’s game was the way he enjoyed when the batsmen are hit on the face, be it his bowling or someone else’s. He used to get into his usual chains of unstoppable laughter, and that laugh is so contagious that the Playground becomes a laughing riot. Quite understandably, his bowling consisted mainly of bouncers, which he used to enjoy a lot. We are waiting for him to be back by December, to greet him with a host of hostile bouncers.
Aravind scarcely plays nowadays, since he is in his fat preservation mode. During the early days, he used to venture into our Badla field with a plaster on his knees for guarding that, and boy – he used to look professional. Aravind was a typical defensive batsman, with defenses as strong as the wall. Although he never used to take so much runs, he is used to stay long enough and frustrate all of us. Quite opposite to the nature of batting, bowling used to be very aggressive with quicker ones, Yorkers and timely bouncers keeping all batsmen at bay. Its long time since we saw him play, and we understand that age does get into action at times :).
Siraj, before he got married, was staying with us and was one of the main initiators in the game of Badla. I think it was imperative during those evenings to play Badla for long durations, when he was around. The test cricket evolved, during one of those innovative moments that Siru always possessed. Guru and Siru became a team, while PP and Abhi were another. This was the most competitive game we ever played, with lots of first person swearing, challenges being swirled upon – Australian kind of professionalism being shown and what not! Siru always made the games wonderful with himself acclaiming that he has the most destructive ‘pazham’ bowling, and starts churning his spinners on. While he fields, it was difficult to get the ball past him, because he was as huge as the wall. J - After marriage we have not got a chance to play our test matches, guess we will catch hold of him someday!
I have been the latest and most regular member to our Badla club. I was struck with awe when I first landed up in the game. Everything seemed so new, and so quick for me to digest. But I caught up with the intricacies of the game quite fast, and became one of the ardent students of the game. I am a self-proclaimed bowler who keeps bowling the special kind of whizzing leg spin that pitches irregularly in leg and middle stump and whizzes past the stumps.
The pace and bounce of my bowling, combined with accuracy makes me a very difficult customer to face. Abhi is always excited to field for me at the short square leg position, when Guru is batting as I keep pestering Guru in the leg stump line, and he get lots of chances to improve his reflexes while fielding. The best part about me is my batting.
I am the best when it comes to ‘thuzhayaling’ outside off stump. I frustrate Abhi with thuzhayaling at his out swingers and missing every ball by around 1 mm distance, and finally he will bowl my weakness ball – the Yorker and get me outJ. My technical stands, with a high back lift, make it difficult for me to bring down the bat on time to Yorkers, and they know that this is my weakness. But I believe my tremendous spirit for the game and unending enthusiasm makes me a perfect heir to this game.
And to play Badla there is no time schedule or time frame, any time of the 24 hours allotted in a day we can play. We play till we sweat out. There are instances were sweats will be dripping out of our body and the crease where we need to stand and face the ball is fully wet. Still we play. Our shirts are saved as we normally don’t play wearing shirts. Our trousers or shorts will be soaked in the sweat. The bat handle will be wet, and since there is no grip it’s quite tough to handle it. We stop then, take some rest, have a bottle or two of TANG and then start again. Mad we are, but as Abhi say Madness Continues.
Some of the craziest things happen during Badla. It may start with Guru proclaiming, “All you chaps see how I am going to thrash you today” and only to find himself beaten up. Appealing for umpteen times is one thing I cherish, it always seems like Abhi or Guru will take an edge onto the walls, and I will appeal but it may not be. I always go crazy with Abhi because his hand and bat are so close I never really see if it took the bat’s handle or his arm. But still I appeal. If I ever played under ICC, it would have dismissed me from playing the cricketJ. The other thing that happens these days is calling PP to play with us. He will be busy with his laptop or watching a movie, and before start we will just open the door of the room a bit so that we can stuck only our heads out and nod him asking him to play with us. PP will produce his sweet smile, which tells us that he wants to play but something else is holding him. We will close the door, but then Guru will open it again and call.. .. “Peeps .. vaada..” he will blush again, but his strong mind will not allow him to play… then Abhi will climb on top of all of us, will stuck his head outside and call again.. “Edaa ... PP ... vaada .. oru kali.. enthada ninakku pattiyee …Vaada..” Then I will stick my head out and smile at PP and nod with head and eyes indicating to come and play. He will be in a no man’s land thinking to play or not to play. Till now he has been on the negative side, but we hope that one day he will break the shackles of his laziness and will tie up his lungi and come and join us to play the TEST.
At the end of all these there is nothing gained or lost. Only thing that keeps us to play it is the passion we have for it. The pleasure we get when we sweat it out in that small room bowling those bouncers aimed at the nose, pulling and driving without giving any feeling to the person fielding just a few steps in front of you and fielding to keep the batsman on their toes. The skills that you learn here can’t be used on a play ground and the skills that you use on a play ground may not help you here. Its cricket, but it is something else too, it’s Badla. You need a great amount of concentration, skills of batting and bowling in a closed room and fielding to the balls that will wiz past you at the speed of Schumi’s Ferrari, the dedication to stand there tall to face the music of Abhi and Guru and last but not the least a strong heart.
Text Copyrighted © by Pophabhi & Dhanush ®
Images Copyrighted © by Guru & Teju ®