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No gully game, it’s grove cricket

my trip to miami fl

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It’s how many in Kerala started playing

There is a great sports concept that can be nurtured in the context of Kerala and its unique landscape, a State that has derived its name from keram, a Malayalam word for coconut palm.

When we were growing up in our village, Olavipe, full of coconut groves and surrounded on three sides by the backwaters, my cousins and I played cricket and other games. However, the rest of the village did not play the gentleman’s game, but was into football.

The chief reason was that coconut trees covered all the grounds. The playground adjacent to the only high school those days was reserved for football, which was far more popular all over Kerala. The remaining grounds had sandy, beach-like soil where not even a tennis ball, leave alone the red cherry, would bounce.

We played cricket among the coconut trees wherever the ground was firm and covered with buffalo grass, imagining the tall palms to be fielders who could stop a drive but would never take a catch. We used tennis balls or plain rubber balls and bats fashioned out of the wood of fallen palms. Sometimes, stumps were chiselled out of coconut trunks, but often, sticks broken off from the neighbouring fences would suffice.

We enjoyed our game thoroughly, with our own improvised rules. Some of us became accomplished batsmen, bowlers and even all-rounders. Then we formed a regular team, armed ourselves with proper bat and ball and played a few matches on proper cricket grounds against college teams in Alleppey (now Alappuzha) and Changanasserry, besides Swantons CC, a club team in Enakulam which, in later years, produced a Test cricketer in Sreesanth. We did not do too badly.

To the big arena

So it is possible to graduate from cricket played in coconut groves to cricket played in regular stadia. The exponential expansion of electronic media and the consequent increase in coverage of Test and One Day Cricket led to a spike in the popularity of cricket in our State. Kerala cricket has, by now, produced a few international cricketers and State teams do well in domestic competitions, even the Ranji Trophy.

But my feeling is that there would have been even more success stories in cricket from Kerala had “cocoricket”, the game played in coconut groves, got more encouragement. In land-starved Kerala, it is not realistic to expect to be able to discover and develop more cricket grounds. It is possible to lay down innovative rules for “cocoricket” without following the diktats of the ICC and the BCCI.

Look at the natural advantages that “cocoricket” will have in Kerala. Coconut trees are planted at a distance of 20 feet from each other, enough space to lay a pitch. Coconut cultivation and “cocoricket” can coexist without any problem. Byproducts from the coconut tree or its parts can be used for making bats, stumps and bails. Matting can be made from coir, another byproduct of the coconut tree. Coir nets can be used for covering the ponds to stop a lustily hit ball from landing in the water. Balls made from rubber, another product of Kerala, can be used instead of cricket balls made of cork and leather. Thus various natural products of the State can be given a boost by promoting “cocoricket”. With players running across the length and breadth of the groves, weeds would wilt in the fields.

If Test matches attract meagre crowds as they do of late, we may consider converting some Test venues to coconut groves. Let the game go on!

(The author is former

Secretary, RAW)

pkhtharakan@gmail.com

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 12:59:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/no-gully-game-its-grove-cricket/article31431727.ece

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