INITIATIVE Twenty boys, winners of a ball boy competition, got the chance to watch IPL matches. A few of them recount the thrill of a ‘live’ game and meeting their idols
“Watching a match at a stadium is an amazing experience. There’s so much noise that it is even hard to keep track of when a ball is bowled,” says Narayan B. Pai, a Class 10 student of Thirumala Devaswom High School, Mattanchery, one of the 20 children selected as ball boys for a few matches in the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL).
Narayan and the rest of the group got the chance as part of ‘Kuttikombanmar’, an IPL ball boy competition conducted as a CSR initiative by the Muthoot Group. The children were divided into two groups and got to watch Delhi Daredevils (of which the Muthoot Group is one of the sponsors) take on Kolkata Knight Riders and Pune Warriors at Raipur.
Adithyan Ouseph, a student of Class 10 at Mar Augustine’s High School, Thuravoor, says that he fancies himself as a batsman. But he also proved his ample bowling skills by passing the selection process for the ball boy programme, which included skill games such as bowling at and hitting a solitary stump.
The boys got a chance to interact with the Delhi Daredevils and get autographs, besides being able to patrol the fringes of the ground on the boundary line as they waited to collect any balls that came their way.
“All the players were really friendly, the players who were not playing a particular game would accompany us on the boundary line and chat with us,” he reminisces.
Abdul Kalam, who is in Class 11 at MMOVHS, Palluruthy, expresses a sentiment shared by most of the youngsters in the group, that Virender Sehwag is one of the most approachable members of the Daredevils outfit. “He did not really comprehend when we said we were from Kerala but the moment Kochi was mentioned he was very excited and immediately came over and mingled with us,” he says, recalling the occasion.
The youngsters were selected from government and aided schools from the fringes of Kochi and the ones who showed most interest in cricket and passed the skill tests made the final cut to become ball boys for the matches.
A budding fast bowler, Narayan had previously watched an India-England ODI as well as a Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Delhi Daredevils clash at the Kaloor stadium. He hopes to one day play cricket professionally, recounting how he and the rest of his family often play cricket matches at local grounds near his home. “I was among the top ten in the skill tests they conducted for selection,” he says with a straight face that belies a hint of pride.
Giving children who may not otherwise have had such a privilege the chance to see the action up close is one of the reasons behind conducting the contest, according to George Alexander Muthoot, the managing director of the Muthoot Group.
Most of the children in the group were travelling by air for the first time, and for some it was even the first time venturing beyond the boundaries of the State.
“We have done many activities of a similar vein in the past, but this is one of those that I am most proud of. The selection was held in a way that ensured only children who required aid in order to take up the role of ball boys were considered,” he says.
George then explains how the group advertised at different schools, “We made sure that advertisements were given near schools that matched out criteria, and just to be thorough we even had a van go through the streets announcing the contest. And as a result we had some bright youngsters turn up,” he signs off with a content smile.