The Second Airtel Test Match at the Wankhede Stadium isn’t the only cricket of colossal importance to be taking place in this cricket crazy city right now. Journeying to and from the stadium, past the sprawling Maidans with every square inch populated by some Test/ ODI / T20 or other taking place, every cliche you’ve ever read about cricket being the other religion in India seems to ring true.

Outside my window last evening on the Adi Marzban Marg, the local leg of the the municipal One Hand, One Bounce Championship was taking place. Featuring a dozen or so local blokes, bowling was under arm from a drain cover ten yards from the stumps (in this case a battered bar stool). Big shots over midwicket towards the Sam Ruston & Co Garage were banned. Heaving blows over extra cover towards the relatively gleaming fleet of Marutis were similarly outlawed. Running was not allowed.
You batted time. The man that withstood trial by turning tennis ball off the erratically paved street, multiple short legs and determined self discipline the longest was reckoned the winner.

The location of the Marg, within a KP six hit of the old financial district, meant play took place once a week, when the bustle was replaced with a something approaching quiet in Mumbai. Yesterday, play was suspended a handful of times for pedestrians or the odd Ambassador doing its rounds. Then it was straight back into the action beneath the Dome Palms and Padouk trees and the jutting Gothic offices.

On my way back from the ground, a few feet from my hotel I was summoned over to take guard, something of an honour I felt. The rules were explained to me through trial and error and before long I was stoically displaying the full range of my smothering forward defence technique to the street’s bored residents. Sensing their ennui, I decided to get on with it and was bowled through the gate. Celebration, or more likely, relief abounded and after the obligatory handshakes I went to field at short midwicket next to one of Mr Ruston’s Hondas where I mulled silently among the excitable yelps of “catchit, catchit” and “shot, shot.”

The BCCI are a horrible, horrible organisation. Their Gauleiters on match days, the local police force, are them personified with their over bearing officiousness and maniacal jumped up sense of self worth. Lalit Modi is still trying to do his best to own the sport too. The ICC are meant to be the sport’s chiefs, yet appear passengers to the whim of the BCCI taxi drivers.
Cricket, despite International Test Day yesterday, where four, yes four glorious Test Matches were taking place around the world, is not in a good place at the moment and seems, owing to the presence of money, TV scheduling and odious governing bodies, lemming-like to be following football over the cliff.
Thank goodness then for the sanity and unalloyed joy of Maidan and Marg cricket that proves their is still a soul to our wonderful game.

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