Sunday, October 8, 2017

Anjali - Cricket Practice And a New Phase

Anjali likes playing games and has a good ball sense and rhythm. She also has her favorite sports - badminton for one. She plays cricket with me, kabaddi with her friends at school, and I remember we played football and whatever else games we could when she was younger. She did ask me to enrol her in badminton classes but never cricket. So it was a pleasant surprise when I heard her pipe up while discussing the 'Cricket Practices and Life Lessons' workshop in Mumbai.
Off we go for the first day
'I also want to come Nanna,' she said.
'Come,' I said with no excitement. 'But you must come for all days. Not start and stop.'
'Yes,' she said.
'You will have to wake up every morning at 6 and get ready for the cricket camp,' I warned.
'Yes,' she said.
'You must wait till the classes get done and not hurry me home,' I said.
'Yes,' she said.
'There might be only boys and you the only girl,' I said.
'No problem,' she said.
 I had no other conditions. After we returned from Mumbai she looked for her white track pant (I insisted that she wears white like the other boys). We searched for a white t shirt and she soon found one. White socks and sports shoes and then her bat from Decathlon and she was all set.
Warming up with the right intent
On the first day she was up and ready.
'Are they big boys Nanna?' she asked apprehensively as we went to the academy. I know how that feels.
'No,' I said. 'Most are small. Maybe a couple of 15 year olds.' I had no clue how many would turn up.

'I will call you sir in the academy,' she said. 'After we step out I will call you Nanna.'
'Ok,' I said.
On the front foot
Anjali was all attention to the lessons. She did all that was required of her without complaining - if I said do 9 rounds she did it - so with stretching and other exercises. And everyday she did more - I was surprised at her stamina or rather drive. That was good. She got along with the boys fine. She made notes in her journal and every evening she did her homework. She participated and asked questions in the session.
Catching practice
When we showed them the drills she learned them quickly and that was something that surprised and pleased Baig sir who was there that day. He started using her to demonstrate the correct grip, stance and backlift, defence and drive. Anjali learned the bowling drills and fielding drills and practiced them diligently. She put up her hand when we asked for volunteers and answered when questions were asked. Good.
Discussing strengths and areas to improve
I wanted to see how she would cope with the discipline of getting up early every day but she was spot on. Except for the 'one minute more Nanna' pleas which lasted exactly one minute she would quickly get ready and be in the car with me. She told me she enjoyed the morning rides to the academy and would tell me what she liked or did not like about the sessions.
Listening with rapt attention
There were times of course when she got the wrong answer or could not demonstrate a particular practice well or just got brushed into the background and her face would just become small. But that is what the game teaches you and she learned to cope with it. She is still the perfectionist and does not want to be wrong and takes a long time to recover. So does Smaran and we covered it in the topic on resilience - that the champion quickly learns from his mistakes and recovers fast from a mistake. That they could do a mistake was itself a huge relief for them. There is still some work to do in that area but the seed has been sown. All of them mentioned it in their list of things they learned.
Demonstrating to the class
A few other that stood out were her quick application of things like target setting. When she went in to bat with Hardik they set themselves a target of 12 for their partnership and they helped their side win. Similarly when told to support the team she was always vocal about supporting her team - high fives and encouraging shouts when they did well.
Bowling in a game
She put up her hand when asked who wanted to lead and it was interesting for me to see how she would deal with older boys and also being the only girl in the group. She did a good job on day one. They won a tough match chasing a target of 40 and she did a great job by running singles and keeping sanity in an otherwise adrenaline packed atmosphere with the boys wanting to belt the cover off the ball and throwing all they learnt to the wind. Smaran was quick to recognise this and he voted her one of the two best captains in the group.
Team like a FIST
In her own way she did a great job with bowling despite her limited speed and skill there. She got the ball in the right areas and stemmed the runs from a whpping 23 in the first over to only four in the second. This encouraged Smaran who was their best bowler (in fact the best in the group) to trust her with the last over with only 11 needed. But she gave only four and they won. Talk of trust.

What was interesting about that last over was that she specifically told Smaran that she would bowl that over and would win the match.  Smaran later told me that he trusted her confidence and gave it to her.

In a later game when she was leading, she found Jaivant and Aarav tough to handle. When she wanted to bowl the second over Aarav took the ball and started to bowl, supported by Jaivant. She turned away and cried, but kept those tears hidden from me. Of course I could see what was happening but she had to learn. Bhupinder was concerned when he saw her upset. Then while batting Jaivant wanted to bat in her place when he had already batted and was really pushing her when I had to step in and tell him that he could bat only once, that he had to listen to the captain and just because he was a good player it does not mean he could bat for everyone else. He was supposed to maintain the dressing room atmosphere and support his team.

That day we had a chat on the way back and she was emotional and upset at how the boys pushed her over and did not listen to her. We first discussed how as players in a team we cannot wish some players away - all kinds of players form the team and we must make the best of what we have. We also discussed how as captain she could not let that affect her because it would affect the team. She had to hold her space and somehow convince the team and take it forward. If she gets affected the team gets affected. She nodded and understood how she needed to lead at that stage. It was a lesson I could not expose her to in any other way but the sport because once the game was over they were all friends again.

On the last day we did the lesson on courage - of facing difficulty head on despite the fear. In cricket, the short ball. They did it with a tennis ball and she held on despite getting hurt and despite the tears in her eyes. She got behind the ball, played and tried to play it right.

Much has been shared and learned and I am sure she is also observing me and my behavior, the other boys and their behaviors, and learning how to or how not to from them. The fact that she wanted a new bat for her birthday over a guitar was sign that she wanted to continue. We bought that and a pair of gloves. She also told me she wanted to come every Saturday and Sunday and I said I would take her. Baig sir is quite happy with her and told me to bring her over for a few weeks and well, long as she can sustain the interest and enthusiasm, and learns from Baig sir and others, I guess the lessons will continue.
On the backfoot
Today they were all there and I could see how much they had all improved as people and with skill - Aarav, Anish, Satwik, Hardik, Dhruv, Daksh and now Anjali. When Daksh wanted to change the captain we spoke about how they were part of teams and it was not for them to question captains and stuff and they either played for their team and captain or sat out.
Feeding me a piece of cake
I am pretty pleased with the way Anjali handled the initial fear and discomfort and is slowly settling down into her groove with the other kids. She has developed a relationship with Ann, Mallaiah, Bhupinder and Santsoh and certainly her bunch. Onwards then onto an interesting phase - one I never expected. But then life is life that isn't it, full of unexpected surprises. Like Nisha mentioned about Akshar 'I hope it makes a stronger person of him' I am convinced that Anjali is already a better person for having taken this step. Like I never tire of saying - cricket taught me more about life than anything else.

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