Playing cricket in Germany
Back home in India, a week before coming to Germany, my entire family was discussing the essential things I would need to take along with me to Germany. And I had mentioned, “Cricket bat! I want to play cricket in Germany.”
My mom was like, “Stop fooling around. I will give you pressure cooker, plates and sweet boxes. That is more important!”
My dad asked, “Cricket in Germany? Do Germans play? Are there enough Indians atleast?”
My reply was, “I do not know about Germans but there are plenty of Indians coming with me. I am sure some of them will play cricket.”
I spent one entire day researching about baggage rules, asking Oman Air about bag dimensions and if a cricket bat would be allowed. Once he told me it would be, I headed straight to the sports shop with a measuring tape to calculate the dimensions of the bat and match it with the dimensions of my suit case. Finally, I systematically brainwashed my 11 year old sister to buy me a bat and she bought me one (yeah, she paid from her piggy bank savings). Some people would be thinking how rude and cheap I am. No, there is nothing rude. In India, if you become an adult and have a younger sibling, relatives tend to give money only to your younger sibling. And hence, she is richer than me, piggy bank wise atleast.
Once I came to Germany, I was desperate to play cricket. I saw a picture my friend Avinash had uploaded on Facebook where he was playing cricket. I was so happy that I asked him to call me in future and as promised, he did.
I casually asked him, “Who all are coming?” and he replied, “You, me and a few Pakistanis!”
I headed straight to the ground wearing a sweater, covering my hands with gloves, a cap and my cricket bat. A guy introduced himself, “Hi, I am Zohaib from Karachi!” and that is how I made my first Pakistani friend in a cricket ground. A few minutes later, another man named Adnan, wearing a cap, talking in typical Punjabi boisterous voice said, “Ankur ko apne team mein le leta hun (I will take Ankur in my team)”
It is not a cricket ground as you can see in the picture. The basketball court is our pitch and the field is spread out accordingly. I was sent to open the innings. Little did I know that batting in 4 degree Celsius would be terribly hard. You see, I am not used to wearing gloves and sweater while playing cricket. I come from Chennai where I used to play cricket in 30-40 degree Celsius. I was shivering to the core. And I had no idea that people from Pakistan tape the ball. The ball swings, skids at times, and it was very hard for me to judge the pace and bounce. So my life was basically hell out there for those few minutes; all the more miserable because I had not played cricket for years. The bowler was Zain bhai. I hardly see him talk much unlike others. One day before the match started I asked Zain bhai to bowl me a few deliveries to get acclimatized playing with tape ball and under such harsh weather, and he obliged.
After having asked to open the innings, I took a single somehow. My partner was Saveez bhai, perhaps the tallest amongst all and I am the shortest amongst all. Imagine, the tallest guy and the shortest guy opening for their team. Saveez bhai is a left handed batsman and he hits sixes effortlessly; more like Chris Gayle. Anyway, the next over I faced a guy wearing spectacles, Saqib bhai. My room keys were in my pocket and the ball came straight hitting my thighs, correctly on the keys. In such weather, if you mistime and the ball hits you somewhere, the pain is awful. The mark was there on my thighs for days.
Playing with all these people is immense fun. Pervaiz bhai, in my opinion, is the funniest of the lot. He takes sledging to a whole new level. I am sure he can give the Aussies a run for their money. When someone is batting and they miss the ball or mistime a hit, he goes ahead and says, “Bhai, wapas Pakistan jake batting seekhke aa (Go back to Pakistan, learn how to bat and come).”
Adnan bhai is another hell of a character. When he bats, his standard dialog to the bowler is, “Aaj toh aar ya paar (in this context, do or die)”. The last time I went to play, he was mocking Zohaib bhai who missed a shot, from long boundary position saying, “Ek batsman tha opponent ka, woh baatein bohot karta tha (there was a batsman from opponent team, he used to talk a lot” and I cracked up along with many people, and so will you if you have watched SRK’s Mohabbatein and heard a very similar dialogue; hilarious it was.
Zohaib bhai does not sledge like others or mock often but somehow everybody keeps poking fun of him. He is a very nice person.
Then comes this guy, Khalid bhai. I have heard a lot about his biryani (in case he is reading this, I would like to self invite myself over for Biryani). Khalid bhai comes in a Chelsea woolen cap and an NUST (must be his college) jersey. He has never been in my team till date and he somehow seems to be happy when I am umpiring because he once said, “Tum pe bharosa kar sakta hun (I can believe you)”
I was asked to umpire once after a so-called blunder in a match earlier where Asad bhai, another person, signaled a wide (apparently wrongly) in the last over which resulted in my team winning somehow due to an extra delivery. Our opponents comprising of Pervaiz bhai, Saqib bhai, Khalid bhai and others went berserk and were fuming. Asad bhai, like everybody, is a very sportive person. The day India beat Pakistan in Asia cup, I was loitering around wearing Indian jersey, he said, “Aaj ki jeet mubarak ho par hum bhi kabhi jeetenge (congratulations on your victory but some day we will win too)” and I smiled.
I also vividly remember Saqib bhai taking my bat and asking, “Yeh kiska bat hai, itna chhota kyun hai (whose bat is this, and why is it so small?)” and he started calling my bat as “baby bat”. It is no different that back home in India I was the youngest bloke, I am the same here as well; a malnourished, short, innocent looking kid. Although a very good batsman, Saqib bhai launched a huge one with the baby bat off the first ball. But he ran out of luck as he tried to emulate the same and got out the very next ball.
Avinash, my friend from India, comes to play always and is brilliant; excellent batsman and bowler. Saurabh, Kiran, another Avinash (let’s call him Avinash 2.0), Dhinesh, Shani bhai, Saad bhai come once in a while and it is fun to play with them too. It is a laugh riot when Avinash 2.0 and Kiran keep quarreling with each other about Bihar and Karnataka.
There are so many other instances when I laughed really hard at whatever was happening on the field, whether I was on the winning side or the losing side. I am really sorry if I am forgetting and missing out somebody here. It is not that I meet them only when I play cricket; I meet some of them off the field as well. We catch up for dinner together, pull each other’s legs on the day of India’s or Pakistan’s match, stumble upon each other at Penny or Edeka and walk home together, and what not. Cricket is a gentleman’s game and it is amazing to not only play cricket with all these gentlemen but also spend quality time with them. I do not see them as Indians or Pakistanis; I just see them as a bunch of lovely, sportive and humble human beings.