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Ancient Aviator Anecdote

Cricket in the Forties

Author: Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Cecil Parker, MVC

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Some of us from my generation (which predates Midnight's Children by 15 years) are still around and are quite au fait with our national obsession i.e. cricket.

During World War II (1939-45) our boarding school in Bihar, along with its extensive playing elds, was taken over and converted into a major British military hospital. We were relocated to a city in UP for four years (1943-46). At Independence we returned to nd a large number of new buildings on our erstwhile playing grounds leaving just one eld for hockey, football and athletics in their seasons. Post demobilization after the war, some British armed forces personnel chose to stay on in India. Among them was an ex- Sargeant from what he termed as the 'PBI' (Poor Bloody Infantry'), who was appointed as our Games and Sports Master.

Sarge, as he was known to all of us was very popular (not only for his earthy language!) but for a very likeable, friendly and helpful personality. He was also an extremely keen and experienced cricketer. He set up 'nets', acquired cricketing gear and taught us the rules of the game and skills required for batting, bowling, elding and umpiring fairly. Under his guidance we improved our team work, leadership attributes and other character building qualities. If any of us ever hesitated at the crease over a perceived doubtful LBW decision, he strode down the pitch, pointed to our makeshift pavilion and proclaimed imperiously, 'Mr._______, we walk!' (Our subsequent private mimicry of his accent / action generated many laughs for us, but we did learn the meaning of discipline – an attribute I needed in great measure in my air force years). Other games were not neglected but all of us seniors (1947-48) practiced hard to make it into our very rst ever school cricket XI.

 

In our nal year, we played our rst interschool cricket match watched by our faculty, their families, guests and (most popular of all) the senior girls from our girls school…….of course 'Cheerleaders' were still in the distant future! We won that match narrowly and Sarge was the toast of the school. In the air force, cricket was conned to just a few centres which did not cover any of the ghter air bases where we young pilots spent our formative years.

Cricket as we knew it, has of course changed over the years, as much else has, in our lifetime. In 2004, in my early 70s, I was invited by my old school to be the Chief Guest at its Platinum Jubilee celebrations. I was given a tour of the school buildings by the Head Boy and was amazed at the transition of our school from less than 100 boarders in my time to one that accommodates 1850! Seeing no playing elds, I asked him about games. His response was, 'Yes Sir, cricket is very popular; we have TVs in all our Common Rooms and are allowed to watch outside class hours'. I instantly decided to say nothing about cricket in the 40s; am certain Sarge would have approved – as did my grandson!

The author is a retired air vice marshal of the IAF and a freelance writer who can be contacted at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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