Every individual’s childhood is surrounded by incidents which leave an impact on him/her and shape up the road ahead. When I was a child, cricket played a major role in my upbringing. It all started in 1987 when I was little more than three years old and my grandfather introduced me to plastic ball cricket in our veranda. I still remember the yellow plastic bat and the red plastic ball; they continue to be a part of a kid’s toy set in India.
For as far as I can remember there were two things that were a regular ingredient in my growth process – mathematics and cricket. Every morning, I used to wake up at 5am and then go through a rigorous session of numbers and calculations followed by some kind of cricket, either viewing or playing. In 1988-89 when I got my first set of friends in the form of Amrit & co, the game became a reason for all of us to spend more and more time together. Discussing cricket at the age of 5 as if our views had an impact on the overall proceeding of the game made us more close to the game. 1991 was a turning point in my cricketing career when I met two person – Lovery sir (my class teacher in class 2) and Promit Pattnaik. Lovery sir injected the spirit of cricket into both of us and it was supplemented with the action packed 1992 Benson & Hedges world cup. For the first time world cup cricket was being played under floodlights, in colour uniform. The atmosphere was frenzied. It somehow attracted Promit and me and since then we got stuck to the game.
In class 3, when I organised my first cricket match between Digi’s section F and our section (D) I never knew then that in 2010 every ball of that match would still be fresh in my memory. I opened the innings and remained unbeaten on 6 in a 12 over match. We had scored 82 and Digi’s team folded up for 44. My grandfather acted an inspiration as he always encouraged me to go out and play under the sun if I was not doing mathematics or watching cricket on the television. Any time he would see me at home, the first thing he would do was send me out to the grounds. There have been times (1994-1995) when he himself would take me to the coaching class as early as 5am and wait for four hours for the session to get over. Since I was not a natural athlete so it was quite obvious for me to falter in every match but what kept me going was the fact that most of the time I was out of home.
In a way I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in a locality like BJB Nagar, Bhubaneswar which to its credit has got at least 10 manmade cricket fields. So getting involved with the game came as a by-product. That led me to witness quite a number of local club matches which were as competitive as it could get. Then playing with players like Ayaskant (Papuni), Digi (Anwesh Padhee), Tiku (Amit Kar),Manas amongst others and listening to people like Pua bhai and members of Paramount Sportings made the experience a larger than life occasion. Discussing the game and strategising about the opponents 24/7, having team meetings well into the evening and preparing the ground at as early as 5am with a bucket of water and chalk powder made it all an enjoyable childhood journey. A few incidents that bring a smile to my face are as follows:
- In class 4, I left school after the final period but on my way back home got stuck at a cricket ground to watch a match. By the time I returned home everyone was worried about my whereabouts.
- In class 8, when I was organising my first day and night cricket tournament, I had left home at 9am saying that I will be back in 10 minutes. As it turned out, I returned home at 2am and my father made me kneel down outside the house. It remains to be one of the most important days of my life.
- In class 9, I bunked school to attend the district school team trials. My school principal complained at home and I was thoroughly taken to the cleaners that evening by my father as were Ajay Jadeja and Robin Singh doing to the Australians in a ODI match.
- In class 12, one day before my Accounting board exam I was covering up for the regular commentator (Khirod Behera) of our club as he himself decided to play in the XI in the final match of the Paramount Cup 2002
However one thing that got ingrained in me was the statement my father had made then –“You can be a great administrator or official or a statistician of the game but never a good player.” Today as one of my childhood dream got accomplished, of being an accredited umpire – the memories from the bylanes of Bhubaneswar/Cuttack just came rushing back. What I go on to achieve from here on is immaterial as long as that child in me is alive and kicking.
18th March 2010 (Thursday)
P.S. - For the records – 18th March 2010 is the day when I got accredited with England Cricket Board as a level 1 umpire.