As I am writing this half-prepared, half true, half embellished but a wholehearted story, I am an “adult”. Emphasis on the adult because I am not sure if I have really grown up.
But like any other person in their early years of adulthood, I miss my childhood. It is a clichè of sorts because everyone misses it. And like many boys of my time, my childhood memories are linked to a sport.
Although I played any sport with my friends, my favorite is and was Cricket. My fondest memories of my childhood are based on the grounds and streets(or gullies like we call them) of Kathmandu where we played. And on these grounds and gullies of this city, the very best of my childhood years were spent.
Like all(or most) children of the late 90s and early 2000s, I waited eagerly for Saturdays and other holidays. We all waited, waited for these days when we were able to play from early morning to dusk.
We played during weekdays after school but those were nothing compared to the hours spent on the playing field during weekends. There we were, a bunch of kids with no remembrance of the past and no care for the future. We just wanted to do one thing, play cricket.
It didn’t matter if we played on a field or the streets near our houses, we gave it all. It didn’t matter if it was against your mates or against a team from another area, we played to perform well.
Because no matter what someone said on the outside, scoring a duck still hurt a little, even if it was among friends. And as we grew we still played with heart. And we still had that hunger to score runs or take wickets.
As years passed, the grounds became more and more scarce. And we were forced to play in gullies more than we would have liked. But our love for the game didn’t care for the restrictions or boundaries of the streets. We just wanted to enjoy the game.
And to be honest, the streets didn’t restrict us but rather gave us more freedom. Freedom to play the game we love. Freedom to improvise in difficult circumstances. And the freedom to enjoy every bit of our beloved sport.
The matches in the streets or the gullies were fiercely contested. And I enjoyed every part of that competition. We played to have fun but our cricket was never taken lightly.
We played to enjoy but everyone always wanted to improve. Because no matter how improbable it seemed, we all had a small spark of a dream inside us(at least I had it) of playing for something bigger.
A dream of doing something to make a mark on a sport we dearly loved. And with every weekend of cricket, we fell in love with it more. With every ball, we bowled, and with every shot, we played, our desire to keep playing increased. And in those streets, in between those overs and somewhere in-between those weekends, we all grew up.
As we all grew up, we also grew apart. Those games on the weekends did not matter much. Time flew by so fast that we couldn’t even take hold of our memories. As reality hit, our dreams for this game faded.
Our hopes became thin and sometime in between these changes, our gully cricket matches completely stopped.
And just like that, my heroes of the game and matches on TV were all that remained of my love for Cricket. But the love was there and I kept playing here and there.
There were gaps but I still enjoyed my cricket every time I got a chance. And sometimes, those hours in the streets paid off. Playing for my college, I rekindled my love for the game again.
And in all those games I played with my new teammates, there were traces of the streets I played in. It was in those streets where I had learned the game. And although we left, the streets remained and the influences of weekend gully cricket remained.
Those loose balls and dropped catches, those pearlers and stunners, those mistimed shots and some pitch-perfect hits, all had a hand in shaping me into who I am. And the grounds and the gullies all played a part in my journey of loving cricket and playing it at any level.
And today as I am a so-called grown-up, I have found solace in gully cricket again. I learned the game in these streets and the game gave me a million lessons.
And now as I play in these streets, still a ten-year-old child at heart, I do it with a smile on my face but with a will to play well. I have some rough days too and I enjoy that too.
Because if Cricket has taught me anything then it’s that, no matter if it was your friend who dropped a catch off your good ball or if it was your own mistake that led to a boundary, you always pick the ball up and have a go at it again!