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KEEPING THE SCOREBOARD GOING Tamil Nadu Cricket Association scorers
KEEPING THE SCOREBOARD GOING Tamil Nadu Cricket Association scorers

With their obsession for colour, order and, above all, cricket, the city's 100 scorers ensure that the game goes on

Among cricket's more puzzling clichés is the one about the batsman who falls for a duck and ‘fails to trouble the scorers'. Puzzling because most clichés have germinated from seeds of truth, and one has only to observe a scorer in action to see that every delivery, whatever its outcome, invariably causes trouble. When a batsman falls for a duck at least ten entries have to be made — neatly, precisely, rapidly.

Cataloguing the course of a game in dots and dashes and other coded symbols, and doing it with integrity and accuracy, is a demanding job. It is central to the conduct of organised cricket. Fortunately for cricket in Chennai, the city has a group of committed, highly competent scorers who not merely ensure the game will go on but also add, because of their warmth and their eccentricities, to the viewing experience of the few faithful who turn up to watch local cricket.

The Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) has over a hundred scorers, twelve of whom look after the city's first-division league. They've come to the job in different ways — some were players, some were umpires, some were fans — but common to all of them is an almost obsessive love for cricket, order, and colour.

C. Madhusudan, who played for Indian Bank and now scores for the team, was drawn to the job after seeing senior scorer Bhaskar's sheets. “They were so neat and colourful and beautiful, and I was really attracted by that,” says Madhusudan. Arun, who scores for Jolly Rovers, calls scoring an “art” not everyone can manage. Vijay's T. Chennakesavulu is a qualified computer-scorer but prefers the manual method. “A scorecard done by me is unique whereas with the computer it doesn't matter who scores, the score-sheet looks the same,” says Chennakesavulu. “It's not as fulfilling.”

As is often the case with practitioners of complex, esoteric crafts — wicketkeepers offer the most persuasive evidence for this — scorers are happiest among their own. There exists a deep camaraderie between them, a camaraderie not affected by the fact that they work for competing teams.

Delightful oddities

And as is often the case with little known crafts, scoring is rife with delightful oddities and superstitions. India Pistons' Ravi, for instance, always recorded Sadagopan Mahesh in light blue pencil. Chennakesavulu draws a cartoon duck every time a batsman is dismissed for one, a practice he suspended only once — Sachin Tendulkar was the unfortunate batsman, and Chenna didn't think a legend deserved such treatment. Sankara Subramanian, who has worked with ABC radio, maintains a vow of silence on Thursday and dispenses details via SMS on such days.

Scorers are better looked after these days, but more can be done to reward their sterling service. K.S. Mani, who started in 1960 and has seen the job evolve, says, “It's been a wonderful life. Even though we were not really recognised till perhaps the last decade or so, and we literally had to plead for what was due to us, the sheer love for the game has kept us going. It's a tiring job because we have to concentrate for over six hours but it allows us the opportunity to stay close to a game we love and to meet many wonderful people. Things have improved for us, and with us in the 25th year of the scoring committee, I hope it improves further.”

S. RAM MAHESH

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