Memoir Monday: The Cricket Ball

by Aditya Singhvi, Reporter

The cherry-colored, beaten up cricket ball lies in a drawer in the garage. Its surface is rough, with flakes of the well-worn leather covering coming off to expose the dirty brown cork underneath. Although surprisingly smooth near the seams, the overall fuzzy texture of the spheroid contrasts with the otherwise indurated material. Six white seams, their stitches relatively intact, run parallel to the meridian where the two halves of the ball are fused together.

Picking it up, I roll it against the seam a few times, lightly tossing it into the air and catching it. I imitate a cricketing bowling action, taking a few quick steps before I deftly release the ball, rotating my wrist in the process to impart the necessary spin and watching the ball as it bounces with a dull “thud” on the hard floor, turning a significant 15 degrees in the process.

As I watch the ball roll, my mind rolls back to the jubilant memories of playing cricket in India. Since the age of six, my friends and I played street cricket obsessively. Almost every evening, we could be found in the dusty parking lot of our apartment building complex, loudly bantering over whether the last ball constituted an “out” or not. We would bring bats and play until seeing the ball became impossible. Most of the kids preferred to bat, but I was always much happier bowling (pitching). In cricket, the ball typically bounces once before reaching the batsman; a bowler either bowls extremely quickly, or spins the ball, which causes it to change direction off the bounce and confuse the batsman (batter). The idea of baffling a batsman while bowling slowly intrigued me and I naturally gravitated toward spin.

We always played with tennis balls — proper cricket balls don’t bounce on concrete — which we often lost, hitting them into the balconies of angry neighbours who refused to return them. It wasn’t until I was eight that I saw a leather ball in person for the first time. I had just joined a semiformal cricket program, so my parents gifted me a leather ball and a collection of other cricketing supplies for my birthday. For months, I was too amazed by the pristine perfection of the shiny leather to use it. During practices, I always had the ball in my bag, but chose to use the worn out balls that the coaches provided. Finally, one day, the keys to the supply shed went missing, and I was forced to use my mint-condition leather ball for the first time. Although nervous at first, I quickly neglected any qualms I had, taking my first wicket with that ball that day.

That ball became special, and I was always oddly possessive of it. Even when I moved to the United States at the age of 10, I refused to leave that ball behind. In the process of trying to adjust to life in a new country, I tried to find a similar cricketing program in the Bay Area, to no avail. Eventually, cricket faded away from my life as American culture slowly eroded the Indian and that amazing little ball now sits in a drawer in my garage, venturing outside occasionally as I reminisce on my childhood in India.