The mystery of the wicket keeping gloves
Footloose and fancy free one Sunday morning back in 1982 or thereabouts, Vasu (S Vasudevan, who led Tamil Nadu to a Ranji Trophy triumph in 1986-87) and I decided to amuse ourselves by watching a V division match of the Chennai league. Actually there was an ulterior motive behind our decision: we wanted to catch a glimpse of a young batsman who had scored a big hundred a couple of weeks earlier, and just back from a masters' degree in the US, he was going to be our new boss.
We had heard unconfirmed stories of the imperious if quixotic ways of our prospective employer, and he turned out to be quite an impressive figure on the cricket ground. We didn't have long to wait to see him in action, as the tall and athletically built young man, let's call him Raj, opened the innings, and moved with great style if not speed between the wickets.
Raj seemed to continue where he left off in the previous match. He cut, drove and pulled with great assurance and his powerful shots frequently pierced the infield and found the boundary. He raced to nearly 30 in no time, and Vasu and I wondered how we would deal with a boss with two successive centuries under his belt, while breathing a sigh of relief with the knowledge he could not become our teammate, at least till next season, having already played for a lower division team.
Something then happened that not only cut Raj's innings short but provided some unexpected comic relief. Between deliveries, Raj, the non-striker, took a few steps to chat with his partner, when the bowler most unsportingly knocked the bails off and made a loud appeal for run-out. The poor umpire, as shocked as anyone else, had no choice but to declare Raj out. Furious with rage, Raj let loose what seemed from beyond the boundary to be a barrage of expletives at the bowler and stormed off towards the pavilion. Along the way, he applied the brakes and just as angrily stormed off towards the wicket keeper. "Give them back, you ungrateful, unsporting bastards!" he must have said to the man behind the stumps, for he meekly surrendered his gloves, and Raj triumphantly marked away, with two pairs of gloves tucked under his arms. Vasu and I later learnt that the fielding side had discovered on arrival at the ground that someone had forgotten to pack wicket keeper's gloves in the kit bag. It had been wicket keeper batsman Raj who had sportingly lent the opponents his personal gear.