Cricketers and silence don't often go together. Players tend to be flippant and loquacious in each other's company and serenity is the last thing you expect when 16 of them get together.
So what one saw at the Himachal nets here this week defied logic. Barring the sound of leather on wood and a sporadic "shot" or "well-bowled", there was no chitchat, no chirruping, virtually no sound at all.
Still, it wasn't strained, it was peaceful. And Himachal have reason to be at peace after winning the Ranji Plate Division title earlier this year. “A couple of Delhi players came and, surprised by our seriousness, asked whether we were in class!” quipped Sarandeep Singh, who shifted to Himachal from Delhi and scalped 31 victims this season.
“It’s a whole new world here, a far cry from Delhi, where petty politics and parochialism rule. Here, everyone is committed to the cause," he added. Before Sarandeep could finish, all hell broke loose with coach Rajdeep Kalsi calling an end to practice. The players, unfettered, started making up for lost time and noise levels soared.
Paras Dogra, who had 558 runs this season, was the most vocal. "This year was phenomenal," said Dogra. "We played like men possessed. Last year was ruined due to problems within the HPCA and we all were depressed."
Their one-for-all, all-for-one attitude really leaps to the eye. They may not have the parts that Delhi have in, say, Gautam Gambhir, Aakash Chopra or Ashish Nehra, but their sum is definitely greater than the parts, something not many teams can boast of.
Coach Kalsi agrees. "The players get on fantastically well. There is no enmity and they enjoy each other's success," he said. "Their season last year was ruined, but they came back so fabulously. It speaks volumes of their mental strength. Our ultimate aim is to produce a couple of Test players and I am confident a few will make the cut."
Manvinder Bisla is one player the coach picks out. He might not be a master craftsman yet but he is a humble artisan, a working-class hero who can put together a masterpiece on his day. Bisla had 340 in five games this season but a broken thumb saw him miss the semifinal and final.
"That hurt," said Bisla, staring blankly at his thumb, as if cursing it. "However, we have made the Elite Division and believe we belong there. There are greater things left to achieve."
Despite their one-day loss to Punjab on Monday, Elitists better beware.