Recently, I was invited to participate in a charity cricket match. I wasn’t a cricketer in my school days. In fact, it’s been years since I’ve held a cricket bat in my hand. So, I volunteered to umpire the match.
I thought that would be relatively easy. Besides, the match was to be played between television actors and a local cricket team. So it was meant purely for entertainment. At least, that’s what I’d thought.
So there I was, in my white jacket, feeling every bit an umpire. I looked forward to a bit of fun on the field. The match started and I stepped onto the field for the toss.
I was all smiles, expecting to see my co-actors in a cheerful mood. But I was surprised to look at some serious faces and with a look that said, “This will be a tough fight.”
They were actors. How would they even hope to compete with a local team, which played cricket every day? It turned out that I was the only one who thought that way.
The actors’ team believed that they were nothing less than the Tendulkars and Sehwags of our country. A determined killer look in their eyes would make up for their obvious lack of talent on the field.
The match started with the actors’ team going in to bat first. Despite all this, I was still hoping to have fun. Then, came the moment when I had to make an important decision that would change the fate of the two teams.
When I thought someone was out, I raised my index finger. But I was the only one who thought so. The actor-turned-opening batsman, came charging towards me and gave me a piece of his mind.
He was convinced that he wasn’t out. This guy was a co-actor and friend. But on the field, I thought of myself as the umpire who had declared him out.
The match continued. I must admit that the players intimidated me. As the match progressed, it was quite evident that the local cricket team would win hands down. But actors are a resilient lot. After all, more often than not, they are used to being winners on screen.
When I declared another co-actor out, he just kept staring at me in disbelief and anger. It was as if he had expected me to be partial to his team, at least at this juncture.
This was no fun match. My friends who are extremely polite normally, had suddenly metamorphosed into aggressive cricketers. They spoke the kind of language that would make the Australian cricket team proud.
The actors had been convinced that they would do a Lagaan on the other team. Unfortunately, there was no fairytale ending for them. The local team beat them hollow.
After the match, a couple of them walked over to me and told me how I had let them down. They also told me just how much of an umpire they thought I was. I smiled. I had a newfound respect for umpires.
When I reported for my shoot the next day, I was subjected to a volley of questions. Some even told me that I was biased against them.
No more umpiring for me. The next time, I’m required for a charity match, I’ll probably end up as the commentator. That seems to be easier.. and less dangerous.