My friend Gopal was coming out of Ispat Stadium when I met him.
"How come you are out this early? Have you finally decided to exercise and reduce to human proportions?" Gopal was five feet three but topped ninety kilos.
"No yaar, I have come to drop Babuli to the cricket coaching camp."
Babuli was Gopal's eleven year old son.
"But I thought you hated cricket and considered it a curse."
"I haven't changed my opinion about the game. I still think it is an anathema. However, I have just realized one facet of this mania which, if tapped, can yield great results.
"And what is that?"
"As a career there is nothing like cricket. It beats even politics and bureaucracy hollow."
"What do you mean?"
"See, in politics you have to struggle for ages and even then you might not make it anywhere. A student has to slog his backside off before he can clear the IAS, if at all. And even if he makes it in politics or the bureaucracy the effort is a relentless one. A slip up here and a goof up there can lead to disaster."
"But the cricketer's too have to struggle."
"Yes, I'm not denying it. But how much? At best a few years. Once they make it to the cricket team and play for the nation for a couple of years the are on a cushy wicket."
"How is that?"
"All they need to do is to crack a few tons, take a few 3-wicket hauls and their reputation is made."
"The rest of the time they can spend cashing in on this reputation."
"You are making it sound too simplistic."
"Okay take the case of Veeru So Bhag. A few centuries and he could declare "Duniya meri mutthi mein".
He was deluged with advertisement offers and he grabbed them with both mutthis. Even though his hairline kept receding and his 'score' line started looking more and more like a model's diet he continued to dominate the TV screens. In fact our obsession was so complete that So Bhag and his Sobhagyavati's marriage became a national event. The entire ceremony from ghudchadi to bidai was telecast alive. On the spot interviews were taken of every individual connected with the extravaganza right from the cook to the phoolwala."
"Yes that is true but you know after his failure in South Africa he has been thrown out!"
"So what? He has already made his billions. And don't forget some channel or the other will take him as a commentator and he would be spending the rest of his career making smart aleck comments on the state of the game and earn pots of money in turn. He could also become an anchor like Navjot Piddhu on a comedy show and rake in the moolah by cackling like a maniac. Or better still he could go on some dance competition or fashion show like Ajay Ja bay ja and Yugaraj and M S Bhoni and explore new frontiers of his talent."
I nodded my head, his logic was beginning to convince me.
"And you know Ramen, this reservation policy is going to make an impact in cricket too!"
"Yes, there will be special consideration for the Oppressed and Suppressed classes or OSCs."
"What kind of consideration?"
"Well, there will be reservation for the OSCs in the playing 11. Three places will be reserved for OSCs. Not only that there will be special rules and regulations too."
"What do you mean?"
"For instance after he scores 50 runs every time an OSC batsman hits a four it will be counted as a six and if he hits a six it will be taken as two fours."
"Wait, there's more. An OSC bowler can come up to half-way to deliver the ball. Only if he crosses the half-way mark will it be declared a nobe. Also an OSC batsman cannot be declared stumped or LBW or run out. On the other hand an OSC bowler can get his opponent out LBW even to a wide ball."
"But this is crazy."
"No this is social justice."
"Anyway all this doesn't explain what your son is doing in a cricket coaching camp."
"It's simple Ramen. I'm getting my son trained to become a cricketer. He is pretty good at throwing tantrums and objects at home so he can develop into a good pace bowler. We are OSCs so we'll get all the benefits of reservation and I'm sure very soon you'll see my son Babuli's name splashed across the media, on advertisements, on the ramp, in talk shows, on the net and everywhere else."
"Sure, sure," I said.
"And you know I have already started teaching him commentating, dancing, acting, ramp walking, anchoring and also subtle things like blaming the coach, the toss, the media, the pitch, the weather and almost everything else but one self."
"In that case I think your son will surely become a great cricketer," I nodded.
As I left the stadium I could hear Gopal singing to himself, "Dukh bhare din beete re bhaiyya, ab sukh aayo re....