Monday, April 25, 2016

Cricket Club – Proddatur Diaries

Vasu Reddy

The heat of the summer never was a factor for playing cricket in the holidays, and when we were home in proddatur.  The early days for my cricket experience was to join the big guys in town get accepted into the team.  I really don’t remember what we called the team but I believe it was “Proddatur Cricket Club”.  The first question that was asked of me was if I had a cricket kit: which simply meant cricket gear including proper cricket dress and shoes.  The team shared the bats, balls, pads, gloves and obviously the guard, each player needed just the cricket whites and appropriate shoes, some of us even wore a sweater like the professional cricketers did.  I always played in school during the regular season, so I was well prepared for my first experience with the hot days on the field and fondness for the game.

The only difference was the age of the guys.  Most of the guys were either in college or already done with college, and I was still in high school.  To start with the captain of the team and the man who paid all the bills was John Mohan Reddy.  As he paid for everything to do with the team, he was also the selector and coach and director of the team.  John came from a political family and a senior man on the team.  I believe he was already done with his college when I first met him.  He was a big guy in personality, and you liked the man immediately.  He spoke very well and was respectful to everyone.  He did not have the air of a senior or the captain, and I still remember that he was kind, gentlemanly and always polite.  I never saw him upset while managing the team.

John was a big brother “Anna” to everyone.  I remember having the whole team at his home for a great lunch.  Outside of Cricket the whole team got along very well, and I still remember John’s home and his hospitality.

The team itself had a variety of personalities (I mean it well as I don’t have a better word to describe each one of them).  Prabhu who is one of my best friends and Ramana were the quickies.  Both were vegetarians (I think) and were both quite quick and good.  I followed behind these two guys as a quick bowler.  I was the newest member of John’s team and youngest of the lot.  We had a ensemble team of guys, and I might not remember everyone but some of the guys include; Babu the wicketkeeper, Eashwaraiah, Prasad, Prabahkar (mama) the opener, Rama Subba Reddy (Anna), Subba Rao (who was very stylish) Kittu (high level), Doctor, and so many great guys (some names I don’t remember), but each one was a great team mate, and great to hangout if you saw them outside of the field.  It was a diverse group, but practiced and played well together and I know each of us liked John.  The little time I was a part of the Proddatur cricket club was wonderful.

We practiced and played at the polytechnic college (Prabhu’s dad the late Mr. Kameshwar Rao was the principal) and also at the municipal high school grounds.  My recollection is that sometimes was had a mat we used that covered the length of the pitch.  The grounds we played were very dry (they used to be rolled to stay firm) and fast, and they were in pretty good shape to bowl and bat.  The conditions were hot always and the heat never bothered the payers or the spectators.  I never saw everyone get a sun stroke or heat related problems.  The local clubs were all over the place, but I don’t believe there was any organized structure.  Most of the teams just played each other for mostly bragging rights, and sometimes tournaments were organized (funded) by local cricket enthusiasts.  It was my first experience of being part of a team outside of school teams.  We did not have a long tenure with John’s team as most of us were in and out of town, and were off to college or work somewhere else.  But I remained friends with each one of John’s team mates, and the experience I have not forgotten to date.

It was the time we did not have television in our circle of people.  Gavaskar was playing along with Vishwanath, Mankad, Engineer, Solkar, along with many greats of Indian cricket, along with the four great spinners; Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan.  Those spinners bowled forever and the long spells they did was incredible to listen to even today.  With these guys Indian cricket team was traveling well around the world and winning matches.  There was a lot of test cricket being played around the world.  All we had was a boom box to listen to the matches or read about them in the newspapers next day.  When the Indian team played overseas it was at an ungodly hour in India.  We had to be up late in the night to listen to the commentary.  Often we would hangout and listen to the commentary on the boom box.  Compared to today’s coverage it was surreal and fascinating.  If I recollect well, one of the radio commentators was Mr. Parthasarathy, who was quite popular.

The life along with cricket was more than just that in proddatur.  John and the cricket club teammates, all of them friends, each of us in different parts of town with different backgrounds and path to life, but all one team and one unit.

There are three of the most wonderful memories that I have kept with me with being a part of John’s team.  

First; it was my first experience outside of school to become a part of a club.  We were well organized and played well together.  Today if I look back at the team, we had a lot of different personalities, the really hot weather, and buttermilk and rice could make for such a wonderful team, it could only be because of my town and John.

Second; each of the guys was great.  The little time I had with them was full of great friendship.  My academic life had nothing to do with anyone of them, but I enjoyed my friendship with each one of them.  I still remember my individual relationships with each one of them, and someday soon hope to check on every one of them to see what they are up to.  I hope to reminisce on the good old days.

Third; and most important aspect that I have carried with me how a group of guys who had nothing in common could bond so well and care for each other and play the game with such passion and happiness; all of it only for the pleasure of it.  John was so good in getting the team to be together.  No one was looking for accolades or recognition beyond being a part of the team.  It is something I have not experienced around the world, and something I can’t explain, which is something I carry with to date.

I really don’t remember what we called ourselves; but Proddatur Cricket Club is the apt name for it.  With so much of my life far away from home, I have not really kept in touch with most of the guys.  I know each of us have gotten older and doing what life has thrown at us.  Proddatur as a town has had a wonderful space for the team, and each of us.  It’s a town really full of great people, not just my old team mates, but the whole town was and still is a great place.  In ensuring years, in India I did join a couple more cricket clubs, but none were in the same spirit as Proddatur Cricket Club.  Cricket on hot days and red hot ground these days must be hard to imagine, and listening to cricket on a boom box is prehistoric, but the pleasure of listening to a voice from a faraway land, and trying to imagine ball by ball coverage as if you were on the field was as magical as growing up and being a part of Proddatur Cricket Club.

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