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Double-century? I've done better
« on: March 06, 2010, 11:13:33 AM »

Double-century? I've done better
Granted, that Tendulkar fellow did decently well, but let us now talk about a real giant of the game
Sidin Vadukut
March 3, 2010

The one other cricketer who has seen a steep rise in popularity post the TonDeux-lkar extravaganza seems to be Australia's Belinda Clark.

Clark, I am nowadays relentlessly reminded in cafés and on Metro trains by loud, obnoxious people with internet connections, once scored 229 runs in an ODI against Denmark.

Yes, yes Denmark has a population equal to Shivaji Park on weekends, and as much cricketing tradition as Razor Ramon. But still, Clark reached the landmark first. And poor Sachin will always be second.

Or is he?

Because - and indulge me a little bit here - if one is willing to expand the definition of "ODI cricket" a little bit, then these records are going to look very different indeed.

If you, dear liberal, flexible reader, are willing to consider "all forms of cricket" played over "the course of one day", then I wish to bring to your notice several innings played by a keen cricketer. He is as talented as he is good-looking. A true sporstman whose achievements were only limited by the talent of his opponents.

And, if not a true ambassador for the sport, he is, at the very least, an agricultural attaché.

Yes. I am referring to myself.

My first record-breaking ODI innings was sometime in 1991, when, having been picked only as the C wicketkeeper of the B cricket team in a class of 30 people, I walked out in protest and joined a game of badminton cricket.

Baddy cricket is the illegitimate love child of badminton and French cricket.

French cricket, all of you know surely, is a variation of the game, where there is only one batsman at any given time. Your legs are the wicket, and as soon as someone bowls at you, you surrender, move to Vichy and wait for the Americans to bat instead.

In baddy cricket you do the same, using a badminton racket as a bat and a shuttlecock as a ball. The key here is to be the first to bat. Once you settle into your innings, it is well-nigh impossible to be given out. This is also because a shuttlecock thrown by hand moves at the velocity of light commercial vehicles through Milan subway in Mumbai during monsoon.

In one of my stellar baddy cricket innings I carried my racket through an entire Physical Education period and scored well over 400 runs. However, I was never again invited to play with those boys. We seldom even poke each other on Facebook anymore.

Greatness can be lonely.

Years later, while pointlessly walking through a mall in Abu Dhabi, my young, impulsive brother convinced me to use our pocket money to buy a cricket game for the PC at home. We walked into a store and sat spellbound while a wonderful cricket game designed by EA demo-ed on a big-screen TV. The graphics were spectacular and the gameplay magical.

Therefore little wonder that just minutes later we walked out of the store with an entirely different cricket computer game endorsed by Anil Kumble and manufactured, I think, by an IT company belonging to Kumble's brother.

The game had exactly one interface: an overhead 2-D view of a green cricket oval, designed in Microsoft Paint by a colour-blind, one-eyed man. Blindfolded. Gameplay involved pressing keys with timing. If you got it right, a white line would shoot out from the centre of the pitch and hit the outer oval boundary.

This white line signified the trajectory of the ball. A line that stopped at the outer oval was a four. A line that cut through it was a six. A line that suddenly stopped halfway through the outfield either meant two runs or - and this is where things got interesting - that the game had crashed and your hard drive had been formatted accidentally.

Yet even in this game I managed to master the key-pressing and scored several gajillion runs in an innings against Australia. But I was soon bored of the success.

Which is why I went back to that most pure form of cricket which requires no technology.

Correct. Book cricket.

Book cricket is cricket for the masses. It is the Garib Rath of cricket. The Ryanair of cricket. All you needed was a book, friends, and the patience to open to a random page and read the last digit of the left page number. (Right page number if your domicile was outside Kerala and Bengal.)

Book cricket was particularly good fun if your were in boarding school and supposed to do group study. While it looked to the wardens like you were whooping and screaming over optics or complex numbers, in reality you had just scored four sixes in a row.

To this day I am known in my village as the Don Bradman of book cricket. (There is a new player there now who is doing very well, and frankly, reminds me of myself in my younger days.)

Later still, after a PS2 gaming console came home, I exorcised demons of old by actually buying an EA cricket game. This time the graphics were good, the commentary was by Mark Nicholas and Richie Benaud, and the music was peppy. Yes, it had its flaws. For instance, EA didn't have rights to use the names of most international and all Indian players.

So it used entirely unrelated, weird-sounding fake names: Tendehar, Yuharay and Dhenee. Don't ask.

But then I soon discovered a loophole in the logic of the game. First you reduced the game difficulty from five stars (self-root-canal procedure with pencil) to one star (Danish girls primary school) and then put a fielder at deep cover-point. Then you bowled on a length just outside off stump. The batsmen would hit it up in the air straight to the fielder at deep cover-point.

And then again and then again and then again and then again. And not just the West Indies team.

I once beat Australia by some 4000 runs. Okay, kidding. 1300.

So really, if you consider every form of the game played over one day, Tendulkar's achievements pale in comparison. A double-century is not bad. But I've seen better.

I don't see why there aren't paparazzi outside my flat right now. And specials about me on TV.

New Delhi. Dwarka. Sector 4. I am waiting.

Sidin Vadukut is the managing editor of Livemint.com. He blogs at Domain Maximus. His first novel, Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese is out now
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