‘I hate cricket,’ Laila proclaims.
Ishaan doesn’t mind. He’s too busy playing with his rowdy friends to care. Then one summer, all the friends vanish. Some have gone away on holiday, some are visiting grandparents, others are busy with various camps. I encourage brother and sister to play together: it’s high time they learn to play with one another.
That night we are watching the IPL.
‘Why don’t you both play cricket?’ I suggest.
Daddy objects. The rules of the house prohibit flying objects. But for once, I plead for leniency. Ishaan promises not to hit any sixes.
Laila picks up a red plastic bat that, if you believed her brother, belonged to him a few decades ago. Ishaan finds a yellow plastic ball. He promises to bowl ‘softly’. We use the doll’s pink pram as wickets.
Ishaan bowls. Laila gives the ball a whack and it hits the french windows at the other end of the room. Ishaan’s eyes widen and he begins to laugh: he’s impressed. Sister doesn’t take her eyes off the ball. Sixes and fours fly off the old bat. Brother keeps laughing. I can’t help but laugh as well. At last, Sister is bowled – but not without some friction.
Three times Ishaan claims he’s got her ‘leg before wicket!’ Three times the umpire turns down his appeal. The batsman remains stoic through these ups and downs. At last though, she’s out.
Now she bowls. The ball flies through the air: steady and true. He’s clean-bowled on the third ball.
The whole of the next day is spent at my in laws house and is devoted to cricket. I speak to Ishaan on the phone that evening.
‘No Mama,’ he says, ‘we didn’t watch any TV. We played in the compound all day. And Mama…you know…I made 200 runs today!’
‘Wow Ishaan,’ I smile into the phone. ‘You must be really tired.’
‘Ya,’ he says proudly.
‘And what about Laila? How many runs did she make?’ I ask, my voice casual.
‘None,’ he answers. ‘She only bowled.’