Leg Cricket: India’s gift to world, where cricket marries football
There is a batsman – legsman according to the nomenclature – but there are no bats. He can be declared out if it touches his ‘wrong leg’. The umpires won’t fret at all about the line, impact or whether the ball would go on to hit the stumps. There is a bowler but the ball is almost four times the size used in cricket… Welcome to the world of Leg Cricket, where India’s unparalleled passion for cricket matches the simplicity of football.
Conceptualised in 2010 by Joginder Prasad Verma, Leg Cricket is a sport of India, by India but not necessarily only for India. The Indian Leg Cricket Association (ILCA) which was founded a year after the sport’s inception, currently has 34 registered state and UT associations in the country.
“It is an India origin sport. It was first played in Karnataka and then gradually spread across different parts of the country,” India’s current Leg Cricket team captain Chandan Ray told Hindustan Times.
According to the ILCA, there are five other countries apart from India who officially play the sport – Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The first international Leg Cricket match which was organised by the International Leg Cricket Council (ILCC), was played between India and Nepal in 2013 at Kathmandu. Since then, there have been multiple series and tri-nation tournaments among India, Nepal and Bhutan spread across different age groups.
“After setting up the ILCC, our association officials approached different countries, mainly South Asian countries, gave them online demonstrations about the rules and regulations,” added Chandan who hails from Bhubaneshwar.
Cricket with a twist
In Chandan’s words Leg Cricket is the simpler and easier version of the gentleman’s game. It doesn’t have the complexities of powerplays, field restrictions, LBWs. In fact, it doesn’t even require bat, pads , and gloves. All you need is a football, stumps and 22 players.
It is played on a circular ground with a radius of 80-120 feet and pitch is 8 feet wide and 40-48 feet long – slightly smaller than cricket - depending on the age group. Boundaries too are smaller as compared to cricket.
The basic rules have been taken straight from cricket. The difference is that the bowler has to roll down the ball properly and shouldn’t bounce. If it bounces then it will be called a no ball.
“We have a centre line on the pitch. There is a 21-meter centre line. A batsman has to declare his strong leg and if it touches the other leg, he will be declared out. There are no fielding restrictions. You can put 9 fielders on a straight line too,” added Chandan explaining the rules of the game further.
Apart from the obvious no bats and equipment difference, Leg Cricket only has one format and that is T10.
“We train keeping both cricket and football mind. We take the fielding drills from cricket and we take the fitness part from football. You have to be supremely fit to play this sport. The catching throwing and bowling parts are obviously cricket centric but the kicking and fitness aspect is taken from football,” added Chandan, who started playing the unique sport at the age of 16 and was appointed the Indian Leg Cricket team captain in 2016.
21-year-old Chandan adds that just like cricket, a bowler in Leg Cricket too can swing or spin the ball. “Yes if the bowler practices in the right manner. He can achieve swing while rolling the ball down. He has to stretch his arms wide and aim for the front leg of the batsman.”
IPL-like league a dream
Just like every other sport, the pandemic has hit Leg Cricket too, cancelling one of its major tournaments in June and delaying the national championships.
“We had a tournament in June but it was cancelled… Right now federation is planning a national championship. The dream is obviously to have an Indian Leg Cricket league, in a parallel format to IPL where players will be auctioned and bought by franchisees,” Chandan said.
Tough road ahead
Despite being an Indian-origin unique sport, Leg Cricket is yet to be recognised by the Sports Ministry of India. The players don’t get any match fees and more often than not are left to sponsor their own travel expenses.
“So far it’s all about passion. We are waiting for government recognition. It will make our lives a lot easier and will make the sport more popular. Whatever tournaments we organise now, we have to do it with our own expenses. The players so far are doing that. We also have women’s Leg Cricketers, they also show a lot of enthusiasm but I hope the sport gets recognition soon,” said Chandan.