In the streets of Pakistan, shine tomorrow’s stars

Published: June 8, 2013

Perfect delivery: A child bowling on the streets. PHOTO: REUTERS

Every Pakistani boy who has even a tiny bit of interest in cricket must have played street cricket, at one point or another in his life. The game is coined as street cricket or galli cricket in Pakistan as it is mainly played on residential streets in cities. 

This form of cricket is played with a tennis ball covered with electric tape. Taping the ball is sheer skill and every boy that has played the game has either mastered or tried mastering this art. The ball should remain round shaped after the taping otherwise it will move around in the air as well as after pitching.

There are some typical terminologies used in the galli cricket which one will never hear in professional cricket, neither by the players nor by commentators. Terms like ‘touch and go’ are common in street cricket. It means just play the ball while running and try to score a run whether the batsman hit the ball or not. There are many such terms that are not strange to the galli cricketers but would sound odd to the layman.

Children playing street cricket with a makeshift wicket. Photo: Reuters

Cricket seems to have evolved quite a lot in the recent years. There have been many new inventions in shots and bowling styles. Sometimes people like me are amazed at how some of the avant-garde deliveries and shots played by the batsman are extremely common in street cricket. There are some examples of such new inventions in international cricket that have been used in galli cricket for decades!

In April 2008, a mystery spinner was introduced by the Sri Lankan team who took the entire world by surprise. That spinner was Ajantha Mendis, whose magic “carrom” ball left the cricketing world bamboozled. I was pretty bemused to see the whole world talking about this magical delivery with such awe.

Carrom ball is known as the “finger” ball in our streets and is used by every second person playing on the streets. Mendis ruled international batsmen with this very ordinary carom ball but he couldn’t fool Pakistanis with it! Our cricketers had been playing the same delivery successfully for ages – Mendis did not show Pakistan anything new.

Playing in narrow streets does not allow freeing the arms and hitting long mighty blows, because there is a risk of hitting the ball straight into some cranky aunty’s house, who would give you the third degree for ringing her bell and asking for it back. Due to this, a common shot played by the batsmen in our streets is one that is played by getting onto one knee and scooping it over his shoulder.

Sounds like a tough and awkward shot, does it not?

This shot has no real name in our slang street language, but the world today knows this shot by the name of “The Dilscoop”; yes, the shot that is supposedly invented by Tillakaratne Dilshan is a pretty common shot on our streets.

The "Dilscoop" by Tillakaratne Dilshan. Photo: AFP

The innovative galli cricketers of Pakistan are extremely talented.

However, it is sad to notice that the upcoming talent in our cricket seems to have a bleak future. This is because of the lack of cricket played in the streets these days, due to the worsening law and order situation. The streets of Pakistan have produced legendary players like Mohammad Yousuf who was founded purely on raw talent when he made his debut.

Legendary player Mohammad Yousuf. Photo: AFP

Galli cricket is such a massive asset for our international cricket. One can draw parallels with street football played in Brazil, which has produced icons such as Ronaldinho and Neymar, and continues to enliven their youth. Street cricket has suffered a lot in the past two or three years and the constant reduction in the craze of playing in the streets can also be attributed to international teams boycotting playing games in Pakistan.

Young Pakistani cricket enthusiasts. Photo: AFP

Playing on home turf hypes and engages the people, while an absence of it has started alienating supporters. This is why it is vital that street cricket be promoted at a higher level; it attracts the youth from every walk of life in the country.

Pakistan can produce more heroes in the world of cricket and this is a platform that can provide that pathway. We have the potential and it shines on the narrow streets of our cities and on the arid playgrounds of our muhallahs.

Someday street cricket talent will show on international pitches and make a name for Pakistan; the world will witness the raw talent Pakistan still produces!

arslan.sheikh

Arslan Sheikh

An undergraduate student who is a resident of Karachi. He loves cricket and writing.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Uzair Ahmed

    Very nice artilcle ! Unfortunately sedentary habits like video games and internet addiction are replacing this great sport of cricket in our young generation. Moreover law and order situations no longer allow parents to let their children play in the streets like we were used to play in our time! Recommend

  • Gemini

    We suppose to bowl this delivery with snapping our fingers. I know it’s not that easy with a hard ball but in tennis ball it’s easy.Recommend

  • Bee

    Though the Law & Order situation is still a factor but this culture is dieing more due to excessive use of Internet and video games by the young generation.Recommend

  • Gali Cricketer

    A really nice piece of work! Actually the kids playing our streets are really smart cricketers, they can serve Pakistan big time. But, unfortunately this ‘Parchi System’ in selection buries many diamonds before shining.Recommend

  • Umair Naseer

    Excellent article !!!! v v true a player who can place the ball n take run on every ball was considered the best player of galli cricket !!!!! Uppper cuts and dill scoops are very common in street cricket !!!!Recommend

  • sana sajid

    Excellent article. I do follow cricket but didnt knw that Mendis magic is routine on our streets. Recommend

  • Pakistani

    The ball should remain round shaped after the taping otherwise it will move around in the air as well as after pitching.

    And this uneven round shaped ball is called ‘Anda’ (egg) in Street Cricket. It is sometime act as ball tempering too. Street Cricketers of Pakistan are genius!Recommend

  • Boy

    Nice piece of work! Well, there is at least one bowler in every street who would known to be a terror like Rawalpindi Express and boys used to play him running with ball hitting their body quite fiercely. That is simply amazingRecommend

  • Arslan Sheikh

    Thank you all for liking my article. It is really close to my heart because I have been a Gali Cricketer myself. I wan to dedicate this article to everyone of you who has played Gali Cricket with heart and soul. No doubt Pakistan has the best talent.Recommend

  • Adeena Shahzad

    I. dont know much about cricket, but my brother is crazy about this game. He says that all the weapons of street cricket is now being used in international arena.Recommend

  • China Noor Center

    wow i like your approach i totally agree with you i am also street cricketer and playing since so many years.when i read this article i remember my past days when i was playing with my friends your every word feel me crazy and i was thinking about my past when i was playing with my friends and we were laughing and giggling s on the street on stupid jokes as well.i must say we have really a best talent in the world of cricket specially in bowling i saw so many fast bowler having a fastest speed as well.Any how such a nice effort done by Mr Arsalan i must say special thanks to you may ALLAH bless you ameen.Recommend

  • No one

    Amazing article with all the facts. Love playing gali cricket. Hope that government support thatRecommend

  • Haider

    Very nice article, sent me back to my gali cricket days and I too have witnessed each point you mentioned.
    Growing in the 90s, we used to have a “waqar younis” in every other team, the run up, the broad chest, the round arm action, and to emulate the reverse swinging yorker of his, techniques such as excess layers of tape on half of the ball, or excessive sweat / hair oil on one side and layers of street dust on the other, were used to much success.Recommend

  • Rija Sohail

    i dnt knw much abt cricket as m nt intrestd in it but the way u carry ur article is vry impressive! :)Recommend