When tape-ball cricket was the best kind there was

A batsman could give a ‘batta call’ to make the umpire measure the bowler’s arm-bend to see if it exceeded the limit.

Hammad Mateen December 19, 2016
Watching the Pakistani team bat against Australia yesterday morning in the first Test match somehow made me wish every Pakistani batsman could get two chances to bat in each inning. The thought, although impractical, opened the doors to my childhood memories when I used to play tape ball or ‘kirmich’ ball (as we used to call it) cricket quite regularly.

This is how we played; if one team was a player short, a batsman from that team was allowed to bat twice. This is so far from the real world of cricket and yet many good hard-ball cricketers give credit for their success to this format.

In this piece, I am sharing 22 of the most interesting memories of ‘kirmich’ ball cricket that I have. Some of these are not only hilarious but also bizarre to a certain extent when compared to the actual rules of the game. Whichever way you look at it, it was (and still is) the golden period of many Pakistanis’ and specially Karachiite’s lives.

For me, playing ‘kirmich’ ball cricket was the time:

1. When it was considered a taboo for someone to open the batting line-up and bowl the first over.

2. When the most coveted fielding position was wicket-keeping.

3. When wicket-keeping was called ‘keepering’.

4. When the last batsman could bat alone without a partner on the other end.

5. When the last batsman needed to make two runs in order for it to be counted as a single.

6. When walls were used for ‘deewaar-catch’ with the most amazing stipulation of using just one hand.

7. When a one-hand catch would also be considered legitimate if it was caught on a single bounce aka ‘one-tip out’.

8. When ‘heads or tails’ was first ‘chaand ya chaap’ and then ‘Quaid-e-Azam ya Masjid’.

9. When nitto tape was the most desirable victory prize for a team.

10. When there was a whole science behind putting the tape on a ball.

11. When it wasn’t necessary to have enough players to form two teams. ‘Numbering’ would just be the format of the game.

12. When batting numbers were decided by guessing how many fingers a person was holding up behind his or her back.

13. When stumps were the distance between two pebbles with a hypothetical height.

14. When umpires were from the batting side.

15. When regulations would be stricter than the International Cricket Council when it came to bending the bowler’s arm.

16. When a batsman had the right to give a ‘batta call’ to the umpire so he could measure the bowler’s arm-bend to see if it exceeded the limit.

17. When the bowlers could object to the batsman covering the stumps. ‘Wicket chor ke khelo, bhai!’ (Stand a little further away from the wicket, bro)

18. When the play could be limited to offside or onside due to the lack of fielders or unsuitable terrain.

19. When batsmen didn’t need to run because the ball hit the wall behind the wicket-keeper. That would automatically add a single or double to the score-card.

20. When ‘ghar mein jana’ (the ball landing in someone’s house) could either deduct runs or result in the fall of a wicket.

21. When a player could be substituted by another permanently on a need basis.

22. When the ball hitting the body of the batsman was as good as hitting the stumps (one body out).

Some of the above are not only memories but rules that still prevail. Tape-ball cricket is a sport and passion in its own right. For all those guys out there playing tape-ball cricket regularly, keep rocking and keep the game alive.
Hammad Mateen
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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