Criminals cross swords on a different field

The 2,000-odd jail inmates, lodged in the high-security prison, came out of their cells to keenly watch the two sides — Saraswati and Jamuna teams — named after the prison blocks, vieing with each other to clinch the winner’s cup.

While Ajay Jha, convicted for kidnapping and murder, led the Saraswati team, Naushad, a hardened criminal, was the captain of Jamuna. The slanging match, often witnessed off the field, was replaced by intense and healthy rivalry on the pitch.

When the fierce competition eventually began, it never mattered who was on the crease — whether he was a simple pickpocket or a petty criminal, or some one charged with extortion and dacoity. All that mattered was how many times he could log off the ball outside the boundary in the two-hour match.

The crowd, which also comprised nearly 100 imprisoned naxalites, cheered lustily every time the ball went outside the fence. For a while, the competitive cricket made these prisoners forget that they were sworn enemies in the big bad world.

“The cricket match has helped cool down the tempers and establish harmony in the Beur jail,” said Jail Superintendent O P Gupta, who thanked the format of T-20 cricket tournament for organising such match.

“Telecast of one-day and T-20 cricket matches inside the jail acted as a strong binding force even among those who were at daggers drawn within the jail premises,” the official said dwelling at length how more such tournaments would be organised as part of the jail reform measures.

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