A professional, organised version of the sport, in which legs and not hands and bats are used to send the ball sailing over the boundary fence, is becoming more and more popular.
India, in fact, has both Men’s and Women’s leg cricket teams.
In April last year, during the lockdown TimesofIndia.com had spoken to India’s Men’s leg cricket captain Chandan Ray about the game and its unique rules etc.
Timesofindia.com caught up with Chandan, a 21-year-old from the Bargarh district in Odisha again ahead of the upcoming 9th National T10 Leg Cricket Championship in Mathura from February 21. Chandan is also the captain of the Odisha Leg Cricket team.
Leg Cricket might be something that brings back memories of school time, with kids playing it to pass the time. But at the highest levels it takes a lot of dedication and effort, just like any other sport.
Chandan gets up early in the morning, calls his team-mates who assemble near his house in Attabira village in the Bargarh district and then they travel to the Veer Surendra Sai Stadium in Sambalpur, 35 kilometres away. That’s his everyday routine these days.
Odisha won the last National Leg Cricket Championship, held in 2018, under Chandan’s leadership and the captain wants to add another trophy to his cabinet.
“I didn’t get too much time for practice during the lockdown. But I made a small work- out area in the backyard of my house and have been practicing there. I worked a lot on my physical fitness. I am so happy the championship is happening this year. This was scheduled to take place last year but was postponed due to the lockdown and the pandemic,” Chandan told TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview.
Odisha, the defending champions won the title in 2018 after beating Telangana in the final by 140 runs. Ahead of the final, Chandan got the news of his brother being admitted to hospital due to illness. The 22-year-old had the option of returning home, but he decided to stay with the team and guided them to a title win.
“I was practicing a day before the final (in 2018) when I got the news that my brother was admitted to the ICU in my village. It was a tough moment for me, but I decided to stay with the team and focus on the final. The team needed me. I called my relatives and asked them to help my parents. After the final I immediately rushed to visit my family,” Chandan recalled.
“Batting first, we scored 213 runs for the loss of 4 wickets in 10 overs. In reply, we bowled out Telangana for 73 in 8 overs. That was a massive performance by my team,” the 21 year old further said.
Apart from Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, and Uttarakhand are the states which will be competing in the National Championship this time. Delhi have the most number of titles to their name. They have won five out of the eight championships played so far. Haryana, Karnataka, and Odisha have won one each.
Chandan and the defending champions are now aiming for their second title in a game where cricket meets football.
“We have good players in the team. I am confident that we will retain the trophy. M Behera is a quality opening bowler in our team. He is clever and will spearhead the bowling attack. T Meher is an aggressive opening legsman. He is our match-winner and can turn the game on its head. If he is set, then we can post a mammoth total on the board. My team is prepared and we are raring to go,” the Odisha captain told TimesofIndia.com.
The idea of playing Leg Cricket seriously was born in 2005. However it took seven long years to bring the sport to the state level. Its founder Joginder Prasad Verma, a physical education teacher in a government school in Delhi, once saw many poor children playing cricket in a park. They were playing with a wooden log and a plastic ball. Watching them fighting over batting and bowling turns, Verma came up with the idea of playing cricket with legs.
“The idea came in 2005 when Joginder sir came up with this idea. First, they popularised this sport in localities and some areas of Delhi and later they brought this to the state level. In 2012, they organised a Leg Cricket Championship in New Delhi. The maximum number of states participated in that championship,” Chandan recalled.
So what exactly is Leg Cricket?
For those who are not familiar with this unique sport that is a marriage of the gentleman’s game and the beautiful game here is a refresher:
LEG CRICKET – THE BIG RULES
– There are no bats in Leg Cricket
– A ‘legsman/legswoman’ uses one leg to strike the ball, instead of a bat
– The ball used is the size of a football or handball of a specific size
– Bowler bowl underarm
– Is played on a circular ground with a radius of between 80 and 120 feet. The pitch is 8-feet wide and 42-48 feet long, depending on the age-group or category of the players
– A Leg Cricket match is played between two teams of 11 players each
– After winning the toss, a side opts for legging or fielding
– The bowler rolls down the football-sized ball using an under-arm action and the ‘legsman/legswoman’ needs to hit the ball to score a single, double or triple by running between the wickets or score a four or a six by kicking the ball across the boundary line just like in cricket
– If the ball bounces while reaching the legsman/legswoman it’s a no ball
– A legsman has to announce to the umpire which leg he/she will use to strike the ball
– A legsman is declared out if he touches the ball twice, stops it before kicking or kicks with the wrong leg. He/she can also be caught, run out, or hit-wicket, just like in cricket
Chandan also explained the exact rules while his team practised recently, taking us through all the nitty gritties of the game, including all the no ball rules, bowling and legging styles both allowed and not allowed in Leg Cricket and more.
Watch the full video here:
04:30Leg cricket: When cricket meets football
LEG CRICKET – BASIC EQUIPMENT NEEDED
The Leg Cricket federation of India has its own manufactured ball which is roughly the size of a football (size No.2) or women’s handball. Teams need a correct sized ball, sports shoes, stumps to play the game.
INDIAN LEG CRICKET – THE JOURNEY SO FAR
The Indian Men’s leg cricket team has played 4 international tournaments so far – Indo-Nepal (winner), Indo-Bhutan (runner-up), South Asian Championship (India, Bhutan, and Nepal), and Indo-Nepal (winner).
Apart from India, Leg Cricket is also played in countries like Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The parent body for global Leg Cricket is the International Leg Cricket Council.