When I was in Class 8, I was one among the popular guys in my class. But when I entered class 9, he joined our school. There was something about him that made everyone to turn their attention towards him. He had an aura of Grace around him. He carried himself like a True Gentleman. I knew that my popularity days in school are finally gonna get over.
Note: Why is Jadeja's picture added here? Read on, to know the answer
On the second day after he joined our school, He brought a whole cricket kit to school. The kit included a cricket bat, three stumps, cricket pads and even a groin guard. The bails and the ball did not feature in his cricketing kit. He would practice his shots with an imaginary bowler and we all saw his imaginary shot making practice sessions from our class room windows. On a couple of occasions he even stepped down the track like Ganguly and hoisted the imaginary ball for a mighty six over the Girls Toilet. After every shot, he went down the pitch and hit the ground with his bat. None of us knew why he did that. We had seen the professional players doing that on TV. But we did not know why it was done. The girls were soon falling for him and I did not like that.
The third day, we approached him and soon we found out that he knew everything about cricket. He used too many technical terms which none of us understood. None of us dared to ask any doubts. He even said that he had a video cassette of the match in which Kapil Dev scored 175 against Zimbabwe in the 1983 world cup. Only after the intervention of computers and Search Engines, I found out that the 1983 world cup match between India and Zimbabwe was actually not covered as BBC went on a strike. But that was almost a decade after I was fooled by Bablu. Yes that was his name. When he was born, his parents started calling him Bablu and that eventually became his name.
Coming back to Bablu and his heroics, we soon found out that Bablu was not just an amazing batsman but also a world class bowler. He always talked a lot about Shane Warne, Mutthiah Muralidharan and Kumble. He even predicted that Shane Warne and Mutthian Muralidharan will one day become world class bowlers. Cricket was flowing in Bablu's blood. Even while holding a pen for writing, he would hold it as if he was gripping a cricket ball. He would always do some hand gestures and would call that gesture as "Top spin", "Leg Spin" ,"Off spin , " Flipper" etc.. We have heard of slipper; but definitely not flipper. We never dared to ask him to explain more. We silently believed all that he said.
After a month of "All Barking and No working", we finally decided to enter the cricket field and play a game along with Bablu. After much fuss, he finally agreed.
"Look, friends! I normally play matches only in Chepauk Stadium. But as you are my friends, I would play with you," Bablu's voice had a sternness in it. He also told us that he would soon be featuring in the Indian under 16 national team. When our classmates selected our respective teams, we all wanted to be in Bablu's team. Unfortunately 11 of us had to be in the other team and I was one among the unlucky 11. To add to my woes, I was given the role to open the bowling attack. I literally shivered because I wasn't a fast bowler. I was an ordinary leg spinner who could turn the tennis ball a long way. But this was my first time with a real cricket ball. I was even more scared because Bablu would be facing my first ball. I have seen him coming down the wicket and play imaginary shots like Ganguly.
With a short run up, I bowled the first ball. It pitched wide of the leg stump and spun a long way and hit the leg stump. I was about to jump in joy when Bablu shouted " Trial ball". We had this habit of bowling a trial ball before bowling the actual ball. So I went back to my original position and started my run up. But Bablu was not ready. He was not happy because a small boy stood outside the Long-On Boundary. Bablu said that he was blocking his view. The boy was removed from the scene. So I started my run up for the first ball with little confidence. Bablu charged down the track. The ball spun away and the keeper did the rest. We shouted with joy and jumped around. Taking the wicket of Bablu wasn't an ordinary deal at all. But Bablu shouted and said " Chriz! You chucked ". I seriously did not understand what he said. Then he said that as we were cheating, he did not want to play with us. He took the stumps, packed it in his cricket kit and walked off. He did not come to play with us the whole of next week.
Finally after a week, we pleaded with him to come and play. After much coaxing he agreed. This time he was the bowler. His run up was similar to Shane Warne's. He would also grip the ball like Shane Warne. While releasing the ball, his facial reaction also replicated Shane Warne's release expression. The only difference was that Shane Warne's ball would spin a mile and Bablu's ball just went straight. When we asked him why it did not spin, he would say that it was the "Flipper". As always , he was too technical for us and we did not dare to cross question him. But we found one thing - "Bablu neither knew how to bat nor bowl". If at all the ball hit the batsman's pads, he would sit in western-toilet position, extend his arms and shout "Howzaaaaaaaaatttttttt". Even if the ball had pitched way outside the off stump and even if it was missing the stumps, he would go on appealing. Then he would even walk up to the umpire and tell him some technical stuff which the umpire would have no clue about.
That evening he called us all and told us that he would soon introduce a new form of bowling called as "Chinaman" bowling. The next day, Bablu came to the ground and bowled like the South African cricketer Paul Adams. We were all shocked. The ball landed everywhere except in the pitch. He soon told that such bowling will be suitable only in Chepauk pitches. We all burst out laughing. We felt sorry for the poor Indian under 16 team that would soon have our Bablu in their ranks. We knew that he was lying, but we did not corner him because none of us had a cricket kit with us.
Last night, I happened to see a cricket match in which Ravindra Jadeja played for India. When ever I saw him bowling, the only person who came to my memory was "BABLU". If you are Jadeja's classmate, please share your school life experiences with Jadeja. I am sure that Jadeja would have been like our Bablu.