Monsoon in India – Cricket on the Back Foot?

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It's that time of the year when several mothers across Indian homes are surprised to see their sons' ragged 'MRF' and 'Rbk' bats lying at home on weekday evenings. The cricketers-on-a-break would be outdoors though, but playing a different ball game. Football - with rocks as goal posts, invisible bylines and perhaps even fake Rooney t-shirts becomes the new flavour. Come July-August, and the long-term relationship between gully cricket players and their preferred game literally runs into rough weather.

Rains and cricket are the only equalisers in our megacities - only in times of a torrential downpour or a tense humdinger do our people stand as one, in awe of proceedings. But what happens when one equaliser flattens the other?

It must take a lot for the inimitable joy of cricket to take a beating, if at all. Take now for instance, the last international cricket match starring our players was more than two months ago so everyone's felt a discreet vacuum. The street cricketers, though are among the worse ones to be hit with rains diluting their 'stumps' on yard walls or inch-high grass and puddles appearing on and around their pitches.

However, the love for the game has been famously kept alive in Mumbai through the special tournament called Kanga League, where cricket is played even under extreme conditions - damp wickets and rough outfields. Many have credited this, the only such competition in the world, for the gritty talent that the region has produced at Ranji and national levels over the past decades. Unfortunately, torrential showers and resulting logistical difficulties have been instrumental in washing out the last two years' editions of the league and it'll be interesting to see how far it goes once it kick starts this year on August 5.

Also, before you decide that India abandons its favourite game temporarily during the season of dark clouds, think again. Many of Mumbai's and Delhi clubs begin fitness sessions from July onwards. Both Tendulkar and the Tendulkar-inspired are found taking a few knocks and roughing it out on cloudy, drizzly days simply to keep away the rust from their technique. Besides, some cement pitches and indoor centres don't mean much interruption.

Indoor cricket can mean a different game, ask any one raised on a diet of bat and ball. The average urban boy (or the sporty girl, for that matter), will display an array of entertaining cricket 'games' - such as trump cards, board games or the vastly popular ones on computers and Playstations. It's almost as if they're socially conditioned to not stop 'living' cricket even if the national team's on a break or it's pouring outside!

Thankfully, Team India isn't on a break any more. Their hiatus, the longest in six-seven years, has ended and they're already in hunting mode in the current series in Sri Lanka. It's a rather pointless one but will get cricket back on the front foot anyway.

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