It is an old habit of mine to break into cricket bowling action at random places and totally on impulse. It is a habit I share with my dear friend, writer, journalist and great standup comic Shireesh Kanekar.
You have to understand this rather complex choreography. There is no ball, there is no batsman, there are no fielders and there is no cricket ground. All that is imaginary. Now imagine that you and I are walking in the lobby of a five star hotel or a foyer of an office building and suddenly I break away from you, pretending to grip a cricket ball in my right hand and start my run-up to the imaginary stumps. And then, I bowl. Well, that’s what I did yesterday in the 18th floor lobby of an office building in Oak Brook Terrace. To complete the action I even turned towards a non-existent umpire to appeal for Leg Before Wicket (LBW) as if the non-existent batsman had padded the ball.
I was, of course, unmindful of the surroundings while doing this; unaware that there was an elderly American gentleman watching as he waited for the elevator. “That’s cricket action, right?,” he said smiling. Pleasantly surprised, I asked him, “How did you know?” As the elevator doors opened, he said while getting in, “Downton Abbey.” I am a sucker for these little stories that unfold in life unexpectedly drawing such diverse connections.
‘Downton Abbey’ is a hit television series from Britain that has captivated American audiences for a while. I have just watched a few minutes of the series which has already completed three seasons on PBS. The fourth one will debut in January, 2014. There are indeed cricket matches in this series and that’s how the American gentleman, an apparent follower of it, knew about my bowling action. See the clip above and you would have a fair approximation of what one version of that bowling action can be. I can assure you mine is way better, way way better because I played cricket for 20 years.
While I am on the subject, this charming little quirk is something Shireesh used to engage in as well. I remember once in 1986, while we were working together in Bombay’s Dalal Street area, I saw Shireesh walking down the crowded street. I could see him from the first floor window of our office. I whistled at him and, as if on cue, he suddenly started running like a professional bowler with an imaginary ball in his hand. I should tell you that this is in the middle of one of Bombay’s busiest business districts in the afternoon. A short man with a slight paunch suddenly begins to run in the middle of the street as if he is about to bowl. He had perfected the act enough so that people knew what he was up to, that he was not just running but running up to the crease like a bowler.
Shireesh’s version was quirkier than mine in that he did not actually bowl but created the impression that he was about to do so. Those watching this odd little spectacle, after having overcome their initial surprise, do invest enough in it for him to complete the bowling action. He did not and that was the twist. After running some distance he returned to his normal walking pace and pretended as if nothing had happened; as if what the people on the street saw was something that they had only imagined. Shireesh took care to see that his expression gave nothing away. “Wait, did we just see this man pretend to bowl or did we just hallucinate?” was the kind of unasked question Shireesh’s street performance would prompt at its very best.
So, so like that.