Night Cricket

Susmita Bhattacharya

The lines are drawn with chalk
on the tennis court. A temporary pitch
is created. Lights hang from bamboo poles.
Boys from across the neighbourhood
appear in hordes. Teams are drawn up.
The summer of night cricket begins.

The lads from Hindu colony
swagger in – defending champions. War lines
drawn with face paint,
their bodies like coiled spring,
swinging their bats like Bheem’s mace
to obliterate anyone
who comes in their way.

The other team – the one we cheer on:
Men with beer bellies and silver hair, stiff knees,
creaking bones. But with enthusiasm
no one can match. They swig rum after every over
and are trashed completely
by the Colony Boys.

The jubilation from the club veranda puts
the World Cup stadium to shame.
Later, we order ice-cream sundaes to celebrate
Dad’s contribution of ten runs, toast the losing team
and watch the full moon sail behind the palm trees
that line the car park.

Susmita Bhattacharya was born in Mumbai, India and sailed around the world on oil tankers before settling down in the UK. She is an associate lecturer at Winchester University and leads the Mayflower Young Writers workshops in Southampton. Her debut novel, The Normal State of Mind (Parthian), was published in 2015. Her short story collection, Table Manners (Dahlia Books) won the Saboteur Prize 2019 and was featured on BBC Radio 4 Extra. She lives in Winchester, UK with her family including three cats and a puppy. @Susmitatweets