It is really difficult to work at 14,000 ft. in the Trans-Himalaya where the temperature can dip to an astonishing -20C, but it is even harder to play a sport like cricket in such harsh conditions. The frozen ball pierces you when you try to stop or catch it, and you can imagine the agony of it hitting your shin after missing a hit while batting! You’re probably wondering, why bother playing cricket in such icy landscapes?
I didn’t realise the significance of cricket in the high altitudes until my field vehicle broke down in a remote village in Spiti. I was alone and still new to the mechanics of an old, borrowed Gypsy. It was freezing and I was trying to fix the car when a group of people walked up to me. I thought they would recognise me as “someone from NCF” or think I am Charu and help me out, but lo and behold, one of them exclaimed “he is the guy who caught the Chichim opener at silly point during the republic day matches!” They remembered me from a catch that I took in a cricket match over a year ago! Later, I was told that they were surprised that my reflexes had not frozen in the numbing cold. Needless to say, they all helped me fix the car.
Cricket is a social glue in many high altitude areas of the Himalaya. Yes, I am generalising, but while I was working on field in the Gobi desert with colleagues from Pakistan and Nepal, we spent more time talking cricket than any other topic. Our Mongolian colleagues were quick to note that while the snow leopard ecology was slightly different in the relatively uneven Trans-Himalaya of Spiti and the relatively moist and rugged Khunjerab of Karakorum, the cricket we all played remained the same!