Hailing from poor families, these youngsters do not even wear footwear while playing in the barren ground under the hot sun.
In a cricket crazy nation where millions of people not just play and follow but worship the sport, it is strange to notice that the threat to the game has come not from reports of match fixing and betting but from the ban being imposed by the police on local tournaments in rural pockets.
"The trend of the police prohibiting cricket matches, on the ground of preventing violence due to ensuing enmity between contesting teams, must be nipped in the bud," says P. Anand of DX Air Boys, a local cricket club which had to obtain court orders to conduct a tournament on Sunday.
The club situated at Perungudi, a locality close to the airport here, consists of school dropouts, college students as well as employed youngsters. They do not belong to the elite group of players who could afford to play the game with helmets, pads and guards.
Hailing from poor families, these youngsters do not even wear footwear while playing in the barren ground under the hot sun. It is the passion for the game and the absence of other avenues of entertainment that makes them sweat out during weekends.
Last week, the vice-captain of the club, P. Thanga Pandian, filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court Bench here alleging that the Perungudi police refused permission for conducting a tournament among various cricket clubs in the district in view of a local temple festival.
Disposing of the case on Friday, Justice K. Venkataraman directed the police to grant permission for the league matches to be conducted on July 1 and 8 as well as the finals on July 15. However, he made it clear that in case of any untoward incident, the individuals concerned could be arrested by the police.
Pursuant to the court orders, the first set of league matches were conducted on Sunday under the watchful eyes of a Sub-Inspector of Police and a constable. The policemen stood guard for the “Perungudi Premier League” T-10 matches from 10 am to 5 pm as ordered by the High Court.
Asked why the police denied permission for the cricket tournament, M. Mariswari, a sub-inspector attached to the Perungudi police station, says that it was done as a precautionary measure following many incidents of assault and even loss of life due to clashes between cricket teams in various places.
However, looking at the issue from a different angle, A. Mahaboob Batcha, Managing Trustee of Society for Community Organisation (SOCO) Trust, a non-governmental organisation here, says that banning cricket tournaments in toto could not be a solution to the problem faced by the police.
“Many murders take place for gain. Does that mean the police will impose a blanket ban prohibiting people from keeping money, jewels and other valuables in their houses? The police can only advice the youngsters to play the game in the right spirit,” he adds.