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‘Is it football or cricket?’: Captain of India’s Leg Cricket team decodes the sport

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India is a mosaic of multiplicities as according to Shashi Taroor. India is extremely diverse; essential iconic of the great Indian thali for that matter. It is so rich in its culture, traditions, art and sports; we have sports in India which is played by just us or well maybe a few other nations as well. Into this category falls the booming sport of leg cricket. Much confusion still prevails as to what sort of a sport this is and the most commonly shot question at it is ‘Is it football or cricket?’

A growing form of sport, leg-cricket is a fusion of cricket and football, where most of the rules of cricket apply and abilities of a footballer come in handy. While the concept of leg cricket has been in existence for some time, it was played only for recreation. Founded in 2011, the Leg Cricket Federation of India is registered with the International Leg Cricket Council. In India, the Nationals are a regular fixture. India were the winners of the 1st Indo Nepal T-10 Leg Cricket Series in 2013 and runners-up at the 1st South Asian Championship at Nepal in 2016.It was in 2012 that a rulebook was established.

An excerpt from the Rulebook of Leg Cricket India reads, ‘Leg Cricket is not a new game. It’s an ancient game. We have been playing Leg Cricket since the time of Mahabharata. It was told by the people of Brij Mandal that Lord Krishna in his childhood was used to play Leg Cricket on the bank of Yamuna River and the event of ‘Kalia Dahan’ was performed while playing Leg Cricket, the ball entered into the entered into the river Yamuna. But it’s not my personal views. Almost all of us have played Leg Cricket in our school or college time.’

The excerpt continued, ‘I met a lot of people in India and Mr S. Nagraj from Karnataka is one of them. He was a physical education teacher just like me and had devoted a long period of his life to this game. He had conducted some inter-state leg cricket championship in his town. But it was not a grand success… In July 2012 I announced Senior National T-10, Leg Cricket championship at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium Bawana, Delhi. I called some reputed person for the opening ceremony of this championship.

They were fascinated to see 24 teams of boys and girls in the very first national championship of Leg Cricket. And Mahabali Satpal Ji is one of them, The Chief Guest of Second Days’s Championship. Since 2012 to 2014-15 we have conducted 3 national championships and 2 Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan Series of leg cricket of different age group. At present we are working in 22 States of India along with 8 international countries. Very soon we will knock at each and every part of the world.’

The game is played between two teams at a time. Each team would consist of 11 main players, including one captain and a vice-captain, and 4 extra players, making a total of 15 players. The fundamental skills required are bowling, legging or kicking and fielding skills. Both men and women can play the sport. A detailed rulebook can be found at the website of the Leg Cricket Federation of India. The sport which is played in just four countries of the sub-continent (India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan) and in just 11 states of the country is in many ways similar to cricket, the main difference being in the use of leg instead of a bat for scoring runs. The ball is big too like a football unlike the cricket ball. It is played on a circular ground with a radius between 80 and 120 feet. The pitch is 8-feet wide and 42-48 feet long, depending on age-group or category of the players. When one side is legging the other will be fielding. The bowler rolls down the football-sized ball using under-arm action and the legsman needs to hit the ball to score single, double, triple runs by running across the pitch or score a four or a six by kicking the ball out of the boundary line as in cricket. A legsman is declared out if he or she touches the ball twice or kicks with the wrong leg, caught, run out or hit wicket as in cricket. He has to tell the umpire in advance as to which leg he will be using to hit the ball. The team which scores more runs is declared the winner.

A growing arena of sport, leg cricket is yet to gain an official recognition and hence meets a lot of barriers and shortcomings. Over a telephonic interview with The Bridge, the captain of the National Leg Cricket team, Chandan Ray said, ‘This sport has not yet been recognised by any government body and this sport is running on its own currently.’ The sport requires encouragement by various sports bodies, including the Indian Olympic Association and needs recognition from the ministry of sports. Leg Cricket Association President, Jogendar Prasad Verma told the press, ‘The idea of leg cricket was born in 2010. We saw that there were many children in different states, who wanted to play the sport like cricket and football but did not have enough financial means. Leg cricket is easy in the pocket as it just requires a football and field of today and amalgamation worked well for the youngsters.’ He further said, ‘It is easy to learn the rules and play but it’s not that easy. Players apply strategies and just like in cricket, they bowl slow and fast deliveries. Field placing is important as also the fielding…The best part is that chances of injuries are less.’ And even though numbers and records don’t have an official stamp yet, Verma shares that 216 in five overs have been the highest score a men’s team have smashed to date.

Lack of official recognition barricades proper and sound funding and financial support, which in turn can have a pull-back effect on the development and success stride of the sport. Chandan told The Bridge that the current Sports Minister of the nation, Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who is an Olympian is very enthusiastic about bringing the sport to official recognition. Chandan told to The Bridge, ‘The Leg Cricket Federation of India is currently working on collecting and preparing the paperwork that the Sports Ministry requires to officially recognise the game…within the coming year we expect the process to be completed.’  The federation, as well as the players, are all ready and in preparation to make the game recognised and reach better peaks of success.

An attacking right-leg middle-order legsman and a part-time bowler, Chandan Ray made his International debut in July 2013 against Nepal. Chandan holds numerous captaincy records such as most back-to-back wins by an Indian captain. Under his captaincy, India won the 2013 1st Indo-Nepal Series, 1st South Asian Championship. Chandan was awarded Khel Gaurav Award by SSCAF-INDIA and the National Best Player Award by Jankalyan Seva Sanstha, Government of Maharashtra for his outstanding performance and captaincy.

Source: Chandan Ray

Chandan is one of the most dedicated young sportsman that the country could have. He is completely on the mission to spread more awareness of the game as well as to earn official recognition for the sport. Chandan told The Bridge about how he got into this sport, ‘It was the year 2013 when I had just finished my 10th class and was waiting for my results, when a few friends and the physical education teacher of our school started trying on this game….day by day my interest grew and I could play better as well. I started getting compliments for my performance from everyone and I started getting more enthusiastic about the game.’

The game is still a somewhat unknown genre of sports. During the interview, Chandan said that the most important step right now is to increase the awareness of the game and this can be majorly done through the media, especially sports based news media. He told The Bridge, ‘More and more people need to be aware of what the game is, how it is different from football and cricket, what are its rules, with what kind of ball it is played with.’ Awareness is definitely a key step to bring out the sport to the world’s face. From being a completely unknown sport, if the game could reach so far, then it can reach farther more in the road to success.

India is a platter of uniqueness and variety in her every face and bone. Leg cricket is yet another new and bright colour to the great Indian mosaic of multiplicities. With Khelo India on a roll, leg cricket too must be on the spotlight this New Year and gain a better world-wide momentum! The government definitely needs to rise up in some action to let this game bloom better and to make this sport roll out on better scales.

For more details on the game as well as the Federation please visit http://legcricketindia.com/

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