It's been almost two years since we went to our beloved ML Jaisimha Cricket Academy which has been the source of much learning and fun for the past decade and more. Weekends were about going to the academy, meeting Baig sir and picking his brains about cricket and coaching, helping any kid who wanted some help and mostly staying in touch with my favorite game. Bowling a few overs and getting the better of some young batsmen gave me great kicks.
|Me, Baig sir and Prakash|
Then came the pandemic and in January or February of 2020 the academy was closed during the lockdown and we never went back again. Baig sir fell seriously ill in between and was mainly confined to his house. Life has been going here and there - something was missing and that was when I thought we should get back to playing.
I called Prakash and asked if he wanted to come this Sunday - just a few of us to get the limbs moving. He was game and he asked Bhupinder. I called my old buddy Ramaraju and we were four of us at least. We were to meet at 630.
At 6 Prakash called me and asked if he should get Baig sir over. I said that would be great - he would so love being around the cricket nets - but was his family OK with it? Prakash said yes, they were and he would bring sir over by 730.
|Ramaraju (in red standing apart), Anu (next to him), Abdulla (kneeling, in yellow), Bhupinder (in blue stripes), Om (kneeling) surrounding Baig sir|
Word seemed to have spread because by the time we went there was a big crowd of Baig sir's coachees - Anu, Pande, Abdulla, Om, Bhupinder, Tarun - and it was heartwarming to see the affection they all felt for him. I met him and asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing good but what about cricket he asked. We laughed. I told him I now know him for 40 years - I had met him in 1982! I asked who would win today's match and he said - England (and so it did).
Everyone took pictures with him and he sportingly obliged despite his frail condition - a legend that he is. 'You realise that as you grow older your body cannot take its own weight,' he whispered to me. Almost philosophical. When I bowled a few deliveries and came he smiled in his usual manner and said - still good huh Hari. 'I am putting it on the spot sir,' said I. Not just that said he, you were trying variations. Now how did he spot that!
Arre this boy's foot is getting in his follow through he lamented when he saw one kid locking his foot in his follow through. Exactly what he had corrected me and made me a better bowler those 40 years ago at school. My heart went out for him. He was not strong enough else he would have dragged that boy and got him to correct it immediately.
A while later we told him we should not push it - first day out for him. Next week we can push it longer depending on how he fares today. And for the first time he listened to us - we had become the ones to tell him.
|The lot - they just came out of nowhere|
Once again a lesson to learn from Baig sir - when you love someone or something everything else falls off. Just being there at the nets he forgot all his pains, his illness and just became his old self. All we need is to love like that - like Baig sir loves cricket. If we can love anything like that, we are blessed. It is a life worth living.