Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Microsoft Cup - Part II

And now for the second and final installment account of the tape ball tournament held on the Microsoft campus. In the spirit of full disclosure I’d like to tell you that this was a nameless tournament – I have christened it the “Microsoft Cup” for a very unique reason which you will find out at the end

From the outset I observed a couple of essential rules that added some definition to the chaos:

Rule 1: Hit every ball for a six, even if it means losing your middle stump in the most ignominious way

Rule2: A Yorker is the best first ball and the best last ball. Anything more or anything less goes for a six (especially with the 20 yd side boundaries).

An unusual but entertaining event was when a batsman on an adjacent field hit a huge six. These balls would land in the middle of our match – stopping the game. Some hits from a neighboring game would even land beyond the cover boundary of our field drawing ooh’s and aah’s of respect and admiration.

Our team, the “Superstars” was an all-Pakistani outfit. I’d like to believe we played sensible cricket, but that is definitely an oxymoron in the context of tape ball cricket. We cruised through the early round games with a couple of interesting episodes. In one of the games our opener was facing one of your typical tape cricket bowlers. He had a small 2-3 step run-up but he was as close to being a spin bowler as Warne is to being a fast bowler. He was basically hurling fast off cutters from a standing start, varying his line and length very deviously. Our guy decided to upset his rhythm by walking down the pitch. The bowler was quite furious, maybe too furious - his action changed into a hearty chuck in mid stride. The situation was absurdly unexpected and his action was so unlike his natural action that everybody on the field was flabbergasted. All of us on the sidelines burst out into laughter and the batsman was perplexed. The leg umpire called a no-ball and the game continued. Later on the same individual (captain of the team) was keeping wickets when one of his fielders missed a catch at the long on boundary and scooped the ball over his head for a six. The captain was again very angry and chucked his keeping glove at the fielder – his arm impressed us all because the glove flew beyond the umpire, narrowly missing him and the off-strike batsman.

Another interesting character was a club cricketer from India who had apparently played at the state level. Rumor had it that he used to play a game in one state and then travel then next day to another state for another game. His remarkable control while bowling fast-medium pace was impressive because he was bowling yorkers directed at any stump at will.

And finally to the story behind the “Microsoft Cup”. The rest of our league and knockout games went well and we found our selves in the finals. Since our semi ended before the other one, our entire team went over to watch the other semi final in progress. The side batting first consisted of friends and were another group of Pakistanis. They had posted a huge score of 96 in 6 overs and the side batting second now needed 21 runs in the last over. Our excited chatter behind the keeper was a bit distracting to the batsman on strike who asked us to keep it low. We duly obliged, but when 15 were needed of 3 balls and the 4th ball had just been bowled, we heard a loud crunching sound. One of our star players had been heading back and had unknowingly stepped on one of the standard Styrofoam cups found all over the Microsoft campus.

A fracas ensued, with the batsman on strike accusing us of colluding with the bowling team and deliberately distracting him. Needless to say, the game descended in a farce. He accused the umpire of being incompetent and demanded that the ball be bowled again. Since the ball had been a dot ball, we felt the distraction was just being used as an excuse. This was one of the most absurd moments in my cricketing experience.

We faced our friends in the final and got comprehensively thrashed. Regardless of the final outcome, the fate of the “Microsoft Cup” had already been sealed at the end of the second semi final. Poor sportsmanship at any level is in bad taste.

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