Political cricket

'My dear children,' he said, eyes twinkling, 'this is how we politicians play the game!'

The country is gripped by a unique fever today. On one hand there is a fierce battle going on between the Indian and the English cricket teams, while on the other, five states in the country are preparing for Assembly elections. Not to mention the much-awaited visit of the Australian cricket squad for the upcoming series.

This sizzling juncture reminds me of an illustrious statesman and renowned politician Rajaji, who had struck a subtle yet humorous connection between these different battles.

Being a close friend of my father, Rajaji  stayed in our house whenever he visited Bangalore notwithstanding the protocol warranted by the august offices he held from time to time. The year was 1940 and he was the premier of the un-divided Madras Presidency. As usual, he was staying with us when he happened to be in Bangalore at that time. My friends (the children in our street, who were in primary classes then) and I used to play cricket in our compound.

That morning Rajaji was sitting alone in the verandah watching us play, as father was taking his bath. While the game was in progress, Rajaji slowly came down and expressed his desire to be a player in our game. Surprised, we asked him whether he had played cricket before. With a mischievous look he said he had not played but he knew how to play!

“What is there in cricket,” he said with an easy grin. “All you have to do is hit the wicket with the ball, isn’t it? Come on, give me the ball, I will do it! Get your best batsman to face me! But I don’t like to bowl the way you children do. Can I use the throwing action which is more graceful?” he asked. After a brisk deliberation among ourselves, we graciously declared that he be permitted as a special case.

Eager to see his bowling skills, we asked our master blaster Seena to take the stance at the crease. Firmly holding the bat, Seena stood at the wickets with the aplomb of a warrior ready to face the all-powerful politician. Rajaji took the cork ball and playfully tossed it in his hands a couple of times with boyish exuberance, getting ready to bowl.

As we waited with baited breath, he feigned to throw the ball at the batsman with full force, but didn’t! He did this once again which sent us into gales of laughter. As we were savouring this comic scene gleefully, Rajaji suddenly threw the ball with full force, knocking off the middle stump, catching the batsman unawares!

“Oh....this is foul!”we shouted in unison. “You just cannot do this,” we protested vociferously.

“My dear children,” he said, eyes twinkling, “this is how we politicians play the game! The end always justifies the means, you see,” he said getting back into the house, beaming. The full importance of what he said began dawning upon us only as we grew up.

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