Friday, April 29, 2005

Let the Games Begin...

I had dream last night, in which I was back in school again. It brought back memories of all those crazy games we used to play as school-children. I mean, the games and variations that we invented back in St. Vincent’s were so out-of-this-world, that I'm sure a US patent would not be undeserving.

Here are just a few -


Let's start off with that King of all Indian games, shall we? The irony of the situation was that cricket was officially banned in our school. The words "officially banned" here are a bit misleading. All they meant was that no student could bring a cricket bat or ball to school and use them in the following manner - one student hurls the ball over his shoulder at another who uses the bat to strike the ball thus hurled, with other students standing around to intercept or catch a ball thus struck.

This of course only proved to be a stimulus for the fertile imaginations of the young cricket enthusiasts in my school and gave birth to an endless string of variations of the sport, that could be played without breaking the law.

The less imaginative resorted to using a tennis ball and a field hockey-stick as a bat. Others would scour around for a small bough from a tree. The more imaginative would obviate the need for a bat itself. The most popular form was "leg-cricket", where the bowler rolls the ball along the ground and the batsman(?) takes a swipe at it with his foot. The concept of LBW was obviously non-existent in this variation. There was also a slightly less radical variation which involved one hitting the ball with a closed fist. In this variation the was a certain zone in which the ball had to bounce so that it didn't reach the batsman too high or too low.

All the above variations necessitate the existence of a tennis ball. But there were even more extreme variations which did away with this need as well. The most common one involved the use of a clip-board and a ball made out of a rolled up hand-kerchief! Throw in the "book-cricket" that we played in the class-room itself and you have quite a list!


More commonly known as football in these parts, soccer was easily the most played sport at St. Vincent’s. It was not uncommon to see matches going on during the lunch break that involved 40-50 children. The rule was simple - anyone who came and wanted to play could just join in. The law of averages ensured a roughly equal spread of players in both teams. If it didn't, then there would be a mid-game reshuffle. Another point is that on any one pitch you would have 6-7 soccer matches in simultaneous play. Keeping track of which match you were involved in was a tricky feat. Like the experts say, "Always keep your eyes on the ball!" Failure to do so would often lead to embarrassing and sometimes dangerous situations!

As you can imagine, in a 20-a-side game touching the ball itself was a feat that called for celebrations on the scale of what you would expect after a Senegalese goal in the World Cup! It's safe to say, I stayed well clear of such matches, which often reminded me of 12th century barbarians playing rugby!

Not all budding soccer enthusiasts though were courageous enough to brave the melee on the soccer pitch. These individuals would have their matches on the sidelines with a tennis ball and 2 backpacks to signify the positions of each goal!


It pains me to admit that us basketball players were probably the least creative of all the to-be-sportsmen at St. Vincent’s. Sure, there were half-court matches and D-games; but nothing very extraordinary. And the basketball courts like the soccer pitch, weren't spared the hordes either! Five on five became twelve on twelve! And yeah, once again each court would have at least 4 games in progress simultaneously!

Other Sports:

There was no scarcity of creativity in sports like table tennis, tennis and even volleyball.

Table tennis was played on one of the flat benches, with a line of twigs in the center to demarcate the two halves. Paddles were only used if you had them, else the palm of your hand sufficed. This, when there were official table tennis tables in the hall 15 meters from these benches!

Tennis was played with a tennis ball (what else?)! The court was shrunk down in size to about 4 meters by 8 meters. The net was a line of lunch boxes and our palms made-do for racquets. The variations included singles, double, triples, quadruples.

What if there were say 7 people? No worry! The game would get underway three on three with the seventh guy sitting out. After the first point, the person committing an unforced error or missing a shot would be replaced by the seventh guy and then this process would continue. All fair and everyone's happy!

The volleyball court never had a net and so sometimes on Saturday when we wanted to have a game of volleyball we would use a soccer goal instead. The two uprights and the crossbar would serve nicely as a net!

Behind our school hall there was an area of about 12 feet by 12 feet with a flat wall on one side. This served as the venue for our squash games, played with a table tennis ball and bats. Of course, the rules were suitably modified to meet our needs.

Apart from all these variations, we also invented quite a few sports. Like, for example, once five of us got together on the basketball court with a soccer ball. So we came up with this strange sport where you use only one basket, and the aim is to put the ball into it. What's so strange about that, you ask? Well, you could only touch the ball with your legs, head and torso! In other words exactly like in soccer. All five combine and help each other to try and score a basket. It was a mini-court and so the basket wasn't very high. Whoever was the last one to touch the ball before it went in scored a point. But somehow I don't think that game was about winning! Too bad it didn't catch on.

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