If you live in India and don’t know anything about cricket then I can’t help you, because you happen to be an atheist as per the definition of the game. It’s a kind of religion with millions of ardent followers. I don’t remember when I was baptized into the game; probably it was when I came to high school and was old enough to throw the ball up to full length of crease. We (I and younger brother Pushpendra) got our first bat carved out of a scrap wooden plank and then what followed was like an obsession of a newly inducted believer.
After some time we got our new bat and a plastic ball. Team size kept increasing, some time even more than conventional eleven. I kept on being sluggish in all three departments namely batting, bowling and fielding, while other friends were budding promisingly. One day Pushpendra was bowling and I was on the facing side, rooted like obstinate tailender, neither scoring nor leaving the bat to another boy. Next ball was full toss, directly came at the handle of the bat and struck at right hand thumb, as there were no gloves, it took off the nail. I came home taciturnly hiding blood soaked palm. But it could not be hidden for long from the caring gaze of my grandmother (Dadiji). The bat was snatched and used as firewood, and ball was hidden out of reach. For the next two weeks there was calm but after that the bug of cricket won’t let us be at rest. Dadiji would not let us buy a plastic ball as it was too hard to play according to her. There didn’t seem to be any option other then getting a soft ball. Tennis ball was unheard of for us by that time.
So we decided to make a soft ball by using cloth and jute yarn. First attempt was not up to the expectation. Ball was totally out of shape and could not be used. Second time we used another method, tore off the cloth in inch wide strips, wrapped these tightly over small ball made of jute threads, and then the damn thing was sewn with plastic strings taken out of empty cement sack. It was perfect sphere, looked nice and we were proud of our efforts. But it didn’t bounce enough and lost its shape in few rough shots. Now the only choice left was to get a plastic ball somehow.
That time around I read news that waste plastic can be reused for making roads and other purposes to dispose it off. So we decided to make our own plastic ball instead of buying a new one as we didn’t had any money for that. The task was tough and required ingenuity and willingness. We started collecting polythene bags. I took a fused bulb and removed it aluminum cap carefully such that the glass didn’t break. Now the idea was to burn the polythene and put it in this glass mould. We took the stuff to rooftop so that nobody notices our plans. I stated burning the plastic bags and dropping the liquid plastic in the glass shell. But the job was not as easy as we thought; one bag burnt fast and clung to my fingers. The wound was not big but I was severely in pain. We dropped the things there and came down silently. The plan was canceled. But we wanted to make the ball again; this time may be just for curiosity rather than the use of it. We took another fused bulb, lot more plastic bags than before, and started burning it. The bulb was filled in almost half an hour and we left it to cool down.
We broke the glass shell after some time, removed the glass pieces and there it was, the ball. It was like a black stone and too heavy to be used as a cricket ball. But we could not stay without testing it; after all it was made by so much effort and inquisitiveness. We played with it only to break a friends head.
Well, quite an “October Sky” effort. Isn’t it?