Almost 10 years laterA smiling Sherwin Marcus on Monday walked out of court a free man, having been acquitted of an allegation of carnal knowledge committed on a female under the age of 15 almost 10 years ago.Freed: Sherwin MarcusHis case was heard by judge of the Sexual Offences Court, Justice Jo-Ann Barlow.Marcus was accused of committing the offence between March 1 and 31, 2009 at a community in the county of Demerara. The female was 13 years old at the time.After nearly three hours of deliberation, the jury returned with its decision in a 10-2 verdict of not guilty.After informing Marcus of his freedom, Justice Barlow encouraged him to stay out of trouble, and informed him that whatever he does with his life henceforth is in his hands.This case was prosecuted by State Attorney Narrisa Leander, while Marcus’s legal counsel was Attorney Clyde Forde.
You’re keeping wicket for your first tour match in England. Your next match will be your 150th Test match and you’re hoping you’ll add to your already huge total of 550-plus test dismissals, you need only two more scalps to reach the figure of 1000 international dismissals, something never achieved by any other keeper.In the meantime, your leg-spinner comes on and you move up to the stumps. The spinner immediately troubles the batsmen with his variations and zip. Maybe your concentration lapses, maybe not. Your leggie lets rip one from the back of his hand, it spears back in and the batsman misses it by a house. You’re watching the ball, as you’ve watched, possibly, over 2,00,000 deliveries in your first class career, you’re watching the googly as it cheats your gloves by rattling into the stumps. You’re not watching the flying bail that slices into your eye.People who don’t understand cricket often fail to realise it’s one of the most dangerous sports you can play, if not the most dangerous of all ball games, definitely involving the most dangerous projectile. Cork, string, leather and gut may not sound too lethal in isolation but when combined into a cricket ball they can, and have killed people. In the case of Mark Boucher’s freak injury, the ball created a sub-missile in the bail, but anybody who’s kept close to the stumps knows that the swing of the bat is the second most lethal element after the ball itself – a potential decapitator – while the ball exploding off the bat is third on the list.advertisementPersonalI was lucky I got hit by my first cricket ball when I was only six. I was fielding at something called short leg and the equally young batsman slammed the ball into my forehead at point-blank range. As the doctor stitched me up (three stitches) I asked ‘Am I going to die?’ All the people standing around burst into laughter. I was lucky in two ways: first, the ball we were playing with was really old, with the seams falling apart, and second, it was the year before I was discovered with increasing myopia – in twelve months I was wearing heavy -4.5 specs made from glass that would smash into shards. Had the ball been a bit newer and harder, I would have been seriously injured. If the ball had hit my specs I could have been blinded. Maybe I was actually lucky in three ways. Soon my scar had healed into a slight nick and I had no traumatic associations with the cricket ball.Those damned specs kept me from opting for violence too often (if I took them off I couldn’t see anything, forget about a punch) but they didn’t keep me from cricket and from developing a penchant for keeping wickets standing up to the stumps to all but the most nippy or erratic bowlers. Being a fan of Farrokh Engineer and Gary Sobers, I also internalised (from writing and photographs!) that the fast short ball coming at your face was a gift from the gods, allowing you to play those delicious black sheep strokes, the hook, the pull and the high square cut; as many other ‘batsman’ boys tried to squat in the middle order away from the new ball and fresh fast-bowlers I kept trying to slip myself further and further up towards opening the innings.I began playing regular cricket on the bumpy rock and grass in my local park and at the Calcutta Maidan. When I think of the Russian Roulette bounce of those ‘wickets’, when I remember that each dive for a ball meant scrapes and cuts, I now shudder. At 13, I moved to a boarding school in Rajasthan which had a huge reputation for cricket. Here the grounds were spacious (and scenic) but only slightly kinder to the elbows and knees. We mostly played on matting and this speeded up things while keeping the bounce more even. But even here, till one got to a certain level in the cricket hierarchy, the mats were old and frayed, adding their spice to every delivery. One of my ruthless, wickie’s instructions to bowlers used to be to aim for holes or tufts of loosened weave near the good length spot. When this worked it made life interesting for the batsmen but equally for any keeper standing up.While we might have been fans of Sobers et al, the fate of Nari Contractor – who was disabled when he ducked into a bouncer by the fearsome West Indian, Griffith – was still fresh in our coaches’ memories. In those days, helmets were only worn by racing car drivers and sissies playing American Football, no one could conceive of helmets on the cricket field, so what was drilled into us was: ‘Never ever take your eye off the ball, even when you’re ducking.’ None of the coaches minded that one idiot kid was channelling Wally Grout and also batting at No.3 wearing glasses that resembled the bottoms of soft drink bottles. If Boycott, Lloyd and Gaekwad could do it, why not this boy?advertisementDangerThe headmaster, who had taught at elite schools in Britain, did mind when he noticed and he went ballistic. But such was the power of our cricket coaches that even this fearsome man had to back down when they told him I could handle it. In case this sounds like self-praise or bravado let me be quite clear – it was the worst kind of foolhardiness, boasting about which is almost like bragging about having driven very fast while drunk and blindfolded. I still think of the close calls I had while batting or keeping or just practising and I have to shake off the scenario of the ball smashing into my glasses, blinding me.Of course, I then thought I was indestructible, with the fastest reactions in the world. By the time I gave up cricket at nearly seventeen (no pull to reach the top, Gavaskar and Co rumoured to be anti all players from Bengal and Rajasthan, etc) I had dealt with some reasonably fast bowling for the place and time without any serious injury.ContrastWith contact lenses and cricket helmets both still exotically new-fangled inventions, I suspect I was very lucky I didn’t get to face some sub-Karsan Ghavri or Kapil Dev in club or university games and, having watched Murali bowling at the nets from just behind the batsman, that I didn’t have to keep to some not-that-slow cobra-spinner on a normal pitch.I don’t blame my coaches, not a bit, but the sensibility only came to me when I myself attended a Grade 1 coaching camp in London. The first thing taught was looking out for the safety of the kids, even with tennis and plastic balls. The second lesson was how to approach coaching kids with slight disabilities (as a heavy chashmuddin, I would have been tagged as one). When you introduced kids to proper cricket balls, strict rules had to be followed: they had to be above 11, no child could field closer to the batter than so many feet and that too, always with helmets. New balls only came when you were 12, and by then the batters and keepers were kitted out like Batman. I remember noting the stiff batting, the heavy footwork, missing the suppleness we associate with Sub-Continental or West Indian batsmen. But, looking at Mark Boucher’s sudden finis, I see the sense in it and I yet again thank my stars.advertisement- The writer is the author of The Last Jet-Engine Laugh.