KPL20/20 - Killiyoor Premier League: A Cricket Match
It was beginning of summer. Our annual examinations just got over when the Third Version of IPL 20/20- Indian Premier League Cricket - matches had an exciting close. We missed watching most of the preliminary games. After cajoling our parents, we were permitted to watch the semifinals and finals matches. Finals were an exciting fight between two great titans – Tendulkar and Dhoni. When Chennai Super Kings led by Dhoni won the finals, we jumped to the roof. A lot of betting had gone on between our friends for the finalist slot. Sachin was in great form and in irresistible mood. I was so sure he would win, but he let me down least realizing the stakes involved in our town. I ended up losing twenty one rupees entertaining my comrades with masal vadas.
I stayed in Killiyoor and ours was a small rural town. Ours was a narrow street where old houses stood majestically in multi colors for centuries. Many of them hadn’t seen painting for at least a few decades. Though a small town, people had large hearts. We were all very friendly with each other, though occasionally we had punched each other’s nose when it came to burning real issues like ‘Who was a Superstar – Ajith or Vijay?’ Elders never interfered with youngsters. Our fights were usually settled with exchange of a few ‘Cadbury’s kit-kats’.
My name is Venky alias Venkatakrishnan and I was twelve and Kicha alias Krishnaswamy who was younger by two years was my bosom friend.
“Why don’t we play a cricket match?” Kicha asked me one fine morning pulling me up from my bed. He ought to have lost his sleep over this, the previous night.
I couldn’t wait to brush and wash. We ran out. We had some fine players in our street team - our talents matching only with the likes of Raina and Shewak. I already started dreaming about the match.
“But we are only seven people – how can we form a team, yaar?” asked Kicha
We immediately called a general body meeting of all the little ones in our street in Kicha’s house as it was bigger than others. Our street-houses were narrow, but mile long. The houses were divided into several smaller rooms, named differently as nadai, rezhi, muttam, thaazhvaaram, kottil, patta salai and so on. Our meeting went on acrimoniously even while Kicha’s grandmother ‘Sundari Patti,’ a kind and affectionate lady, kept sending sundal to all. The only other interruption came from his grandfather when he was powdering betel nut in a hand-held stone-grinder with loud thuds and when he intervened to tell us why he considered the earlier days’ five day test matches as superior and how Chandu Borde those days used to stand at the crease rock solid not-out even three full days while his score would be inching towards a century.
“Hey, Vasudev and Harini are reaching here next week for the vacations. We can include them in our team.” This was Subbu. They were his cousins.
“You stupid! Harini is a girl yaar …… we can’t take girls in our team” said Sai.
Immediately a long list of all those who were expected to visit our village during summer vacation was drawn and probable team members were considered. We spent next several hours selecting team. Fighting erupted every now and then over ‘Who would be in whose team?’ even as we devoured tasty murukku, kadalai and other snacks sent by Sundari Patti! Some were willing to prolong the discussions in the hope of getting more items to eat.
We narrowed down on fourteen names to be included in the team. We were still falling short of people.
“I can bring Sailesh and Gopu,” I told, bringing some hope to our discussions. They were my seniors in the school. “But they will come on some conditions” I paused adding suspense.
“They will play only if we get them onion rava masala dosa from Murugan Idli shop.” I said. They were cricket giants in our school and also notorious gourmets.
Sundari patti shouted from the kitchen, “Oh Children! I would provide puliodarai for everyone that day………… your food problem is solved.”
“I know Sailesh and Gopu stay far away. My father has a TVS 50. He will bring them to the play ground. Don’t worry!” assured Ramki.
With suggestions coming from different corners, we somehow cobbled up twenty members. The next battle began for the captainship of the teams.
Kicha wanted to be captain for one of the teams and insisted on his right to choose his team. Others did not agree and there was a fight. Situation got flared up and suddenly Kicha walked out of the meeting.
Gone! His participation was important. We weren’t ready to lose three of his stooges and patronage of Sundari patti. Some of us ran behind him and virtually prostrated. After much persuasion from me, he finally settled for vice-captainship on the condition that he would be given the opening for batting and allowed to choose at least four of his team players.
Many promises were given and many compromises were made. Vasudev was chosen as captain for one team and Subbu would be the rival captain. We heard that Vasudev was a big guy now and he had even started having his shave. Knowing Vasudev as a big-time batsman, Kicha jumped to be his vice-captain and we couldn’t refuse. Subbu was hardly ten, but was an able bowler with his slow ball that could deceive even Dhoni.
Somehow, the team composition was agreed upon, but there was one catch. We had only eleven members in each team, the twelfth man was missing. We hoped that they would somehow emerge wherever they were.
Finances were a source of worry. We needed complete cricket kit, with new bats, stumps, and balls. We were ready for funds-drive and agreed to go for door to door collections. We set out in small teams on a Sunday morning. The highest donation – Rupees ten – came from Gopalasamy, the loyal and sincere vegetable vendor who supplied vegetables to most houses in our street every morning. Subbu’s team collected seven rupees, I collected five and Kicha fifteen, thanks to Sundari patti who was ever generous with her contribution of twelve rupees. His thatha had grumbled, but Sundari patti over-ruled him as usual. On day one our kitty swelled to thirty seven rupees – very meager, but promising.
“What can we buy with just thirty seven rupees, everyone is a kanjoos yaar.” Subbu retired dejectedly.
“Hey, how can we play without any practice?” questioned Ramki. Our conditioning camp began the very next day. Ramki pulled everyone out at five in the morning. Not only that, he also spoke to his father who was a good friend of Ganapathi Sir, our school drill master who agreed to be our coach and umpire for the match. Though he was due to retire in the next couple of years, Ganapathi Sir, was enthusiastic and energetic even with his rounded little belly and grey overgrown moustache and side-burns. He promptly reached our place at five thirty every morning in his khaki shorts and blue cut banian. He made us run for twenty minutes all the way to the nearby water tank. This was followed by exercises and then the cricket coaching began. We had two used bats which bore multiple plasters and some old balls and Ganapathi Sir didn’t grudge about them.
‘We need a name for our tournament?’ said Kicha another day. Everyone immediately assembled in the courtyard of Rangu Thatha. Discussions went on for a few hours.
“The name should be very captivating,” said Rangu thata. Many names were sponsored and finally Subbu’s team was christened Killiyoor Demons and Vasudev’s team Roaring Lions. Great! I came up with the title “KPL - Killiyoor Premier League 20/20” for the game and the name spontaneously captured the excitement of all.
The D day was nearing and some of us were getting nervous. One thing, money was short and collections did not improve. The team members expected from outside our town was getting more and more uncertain. In between, three of our players fell sick due to fatigue practicing in heat. Subbu cut his toes while trying a return-catch when he bowled to me during practice and took rest next few days.
Suspense and drama was heightening day by day.
On Ramki’s suggestion we all did hundred and eight pradakshinam at the street Ganapathi temple seeking His blessings for the success of our match. Lord Ganesha too answered our prayers soon.
One evening Subha gave us the good news that her uncle was expected from America in a week’s time.
“Hey, Can Subha talk to her uncle about financing our cricket kit?” asked smart Subbu astutely.
“Oh, Subha is very haughty, yaar!” snubbed Sai.
The responsibility to talk to her was thrust on me. Subha was only six and could be very demanding. Somehow I persuaded her to talk to her uncle and she agreed on the condition that her two American cousins should be included in the team. Now, we were used to any compromise as long as it met our objective.
“Oh, that is not an issue at all!” I promised without knowing the consequences. It was only much later when her cousins arrived we came to know that one was five and the other three and half years old. We were shell-shocked. Subha, however, maintained her side of deal and got us the entire cricket kit – two new bats, six stumps and a dozen balls and a few hand gloves through her American uncle. Her cousins were graciously included as twelfth men in the team. We got a bonus too. Her American uncle volunteered to capture the entire match on his Digital video camera.
So, it looked everything was set for the great KPL 20/20 match.
There was a lake nearby our place and it usually got dried up during summer. It was agreed to be our stadium. Three days before the match, our drill master also cleared and approved the pitch. On the day prior to the match, it rained unexpectedly. It not only dampened our playground, but our spirits too. We cursed weather god. We all marched once again to Ganapathi temple to make 108 pradakshinam.
Clear messages were sent that all players must be present in our village at least one day before the match. Yet, on the previous day when head count was made we were only 20 including those American toddlers. We required two more players. Seshu mama and Ranghu thatha filled in the place on the condition that they would take care of our evening snacks – couple of pooris and aloo masalas – after the match.
On the day of the match, our whole street bore festive look. People assembled at the play ground very early. Sun God was kind and shone brightly. The pitch was somewhat wet delaying our starting the match. Some old people were seen discussing each team’s prospects. Many compared notes about their good old days when they had played cricket. Even mamis were ready finishing their daily chores early.
Latchumi akka painstakingly brought several pots of water from a nearby well for our use.
Revathi (6), Visalakshi (5) and Aswini (7) provided the much needed entertainment by way of their belly dance. They were present with the most colorful and enticing minis. (Who would watch KPL – Killiyoor Premier League 20/20 if entertainment was not part of it?) Sankaran Anna and the visiting Thiagaraja mama provided music with their harmonium and dolak that they used to play during Bhajan sessions in Margazhi month. All the non-players sang in chorus some popular numbers and cheered the dancers.
Sundari patti sent a large basin filled with puliodarai. A few other houses sent roasted peanuts, candies, kadalai sundal for refreshment.
Subbu won the toss and decided to field looking at the wet pitch.
The two American little ones were allowed to open the batting – we made history by asking the twelfth men to open the innings - and were cheered by all. They never touched the ball and it took fifteen balls to get them out. My senior Sailesh scored just one run. Most catches were dropped. Finally, Roaring Lions of Vasudev managed to score twenty eight runs in twenty overs including a brilliant twenty runs from Vasudev before he was declared run out during their first match. Kicha scored just one run. We had agreed to play three matches to decide the winner.
Ramki opened the batting for Killiyoor Demons. He played a great innings with twenty runs and at the end of the first innings they scored twenty nine runs – one run ahead of RL. I got out scoring a humiliating duck.
During the second match, both the teams got out for sixteen runs each and so there was a tie. But we were all too tired as sun started rising above our head. Most of the elders who initially cheered the players all left the ground and the spectator gallery was looking deserted. Drinks interval was liberally taken by everyone, but no one could complain. During the third match, everyone got so tired. Kicha and Subbu had serious private discussions about continuing the match. It was left to our umpire to decide. After almost two and half hours of play, it was decided to halt the match citing the scorching sun.
Finally, based on some complicated rules, Ganapthi Sir declared Subbu team as the winner. Kicha was unhappy and picked up a quarrel with me and Subbu. He threatened us with dire consequences and loss of patronage by his Sundari patti.
Somehow, when everyone was hungry, issues were forgotten and we all sat down to take a dig at awesome puliodarai.
‘yaar’ means ‘friend’
‘kanjoos’ means ‘miser’
‘pradakshinam’ means ‘circumbulation’ (going around)
‘mama’ means ‘uncle’, ‘thatha’ means ‘grandfather’, ‘patti’ means ‘grandmother’, ‘mami’ means ‘aunti’,
‘akka’ means ‘elder sister’, and ‘anna’ means ‘elder brother’
‘bhajan’ means ‘devotional singing’
‘Margazhi’ is a Tamil Calendar month between mid December of a year and mid January of next year
‘masal vada’, ‘sundal’, ‘murukku’, ‘kadalai’, ‘dosa’, ‘idli’ and ‘puliyodarai’ are South Indian snacks and eatables.