Ishan Kishan

None of what Kishan did in the Ranji Trophy 2016-17 semifinal will be in the mind’s eye of more than a handful of 200-odd people at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium. © KCA

Ishan Kishan was stepping out and hitting a six straight. Then he followed it up with another. The first shot was not perfectly middled, but sailed over nonetheless. The second might have travelled to downtown Nagpur if it hadn’t hit a wall beside the stand at long-on. If the wall had a memory, it would remember Monday (January 2) as the day it met an object harder than itself.

Later on, Kishan would hook Jasprit Bumrah over fine-leg for a third six. In between, he kept coming down the track to Gujarat’s fast bowlers with the impunity and impetuousness of an 18-year-old, timing the ball with the assurance of a 30-year-old.

The next day, Ishank Jaggi unfurled shots that could have only come from wrists built by titanium, flicking and whipping the ball in a manner that would have done VVS Laxman proud. When Kishan had gotten out after looking set for a big one at the fag end of day two, it was Jaggi that the younger man went to sit with, his face an ashen mask. Jharkhand were on the upswing against Gujarat, but Kishan’s wicket meant an immediate swing in momentum. Jaggi, nine years older than Kishan and very much the older brother, might have felt the frustration of seeing a superb partnership nipped in the bud by a rash shot, but he was the picture of understated, understanding commiseration.

None of what Kishan or Jaggi did in the Ranji Trophy 2016-17 semifinal will be in the mind’s eye of more than a handful of 200-odd people at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium. Perhaps 300, if you include the squads, support staff and the VCA staff along with sundry journalists, scorers and selectors. That’s because this match, though a Ranji semifinal pitting two sides who are both eyeing a first appearance in the final, is not on television.

To twist the old philosophical saying about a tree falling in a forest: If Ishan Kishan plays several delightful and chancy shots while smashing the bowlers all over with no one (almost) watching, did he really make 61 off 59? If Ishank Jaggi shepherds the lower half of the batting into almost doubling his team’s score while himself scoring a century of outstanding skill, did he really make 129 and take Jharkhand from 213 for 5 to 408 all out?

That this came alongside the news of the Supreme Court shaking things up in the Board of Control for Cricket in India like they had never been shaken up before meant the cursory reports devoted to the game also shrank in size. It was easy to miss the few paras, inside a box, tucked away in the middle of the other, televised semifinal between Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, buried beyond the main headlines of the fates of Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke.

To twist the old philosophical saying about a tree falling in a forest: If Ishan Kishan plays several delightful and chancy shots while smashing the bowlers all over with no one (almost) watching, did he really make 61 off 59? If Ishank Jaggi shepherds the lower half of the batting into almost doubling his team’s score while himself scoring a century of outstanding skill, did he really make 129 and take Jharkhand from 213 for 5 to 408 all out?

It was as if the game was caught in a time warp of its own. I could sympathise. My trusted smartphone chose the moment I was to travel for the match to Nagpur to decide that life on earth was overrated anyway, given the sort of year 2016 had proved to be. So on the last day of the year, it went quietly into the night, never to wake up again despite administering emergency CPR in the form of charging, recharging, taking it apart and putting it back together again.

If you travel to a new destination on New Year’s Eve and are unable to tweet about it or put it up on Facebook; if you cover a game that hardly anyone else has had the opportunity to see but are unable to take commemorative photos of it – did you travel at all?

The kindness of the VCA officials meant I could lay my hands on a working instrument, so that the basics of calling and receiving text messages was possible. But all the modern technology that you take for granted as part of everyday life had to be foregone. No internet on the go, no calling an Uber or an Ola to get from Point A to B, no WhatsApp. (So if you’re reading this and I didn’t respond to your Happy New Year wish, you now know I wasn’t being impolite or anti-social).

When you say ‘cricket match’ to the lay public, there are some things you take for granted too. The ability to see a replay if you happened to look away at the wrong moment, access to ball-by-ball commentary to go over a passage of play if you want to, being able to check what the score is without having to ask anyone. In the non-televised match though, these are unaffordable luxuries.

But whether it’s WhatsApp or a cab service, a replay or a ball-by-ball breakdown – they are not necessities. Thanks to a friend who fortunately for me was covering the same match and staying close by, I managed to get by with relative comfort. Thanks to good arrangements by the VCA with scorers and technicians seated close by, I could ask for the information I wanted and have a working internet connection.

If you have the good fortune of some helping hands, there is a charm in the unadorned. There are benefits too. I had almost forgotten what it was to not worry about the phone being drained of charge. And nothing can beat the intimacy of a domestic match played over four or five days, especially when the participating teams are a friendly bunch who don’t mind swapping stories and sharing laughs after the play is done – even with the forbidden and forbidding tribe known as ‘journalists’.

So I’ll take my 2017 with a dose of the old-fashioned. At least until the realities of a demonitised India get me digital again. Hopefully, the cozy setting of a Ranji Trophy match will stay though, no matter else changes.