The Math of Cricket

There was a hush at the dinner table.  The half-yearly school reports had been brought home for parental review. The two sisters of the three-sibling trio had acquitted themselves rather well in terms of overall performance. The quiet that prevailed at the table was because of Arun, the third sibling, whose teacher had requested that both parents meet with her, at the earliest, to discuss Arun’s abysmal performance in Math.

The silent eruption occurred after dinner. Dad was furious and all he had to say was, “Arun, there is a world beyond cricket and the sooner you realize it, the better. No playing cricket, watching cricket or cricket-talk in this house for a week.”

This was like a death sentence, because Arun lived and breathed cricket.

After all, he lived in cricket-mad India, where cricket is the pulse of a billion people, where cricket-talk is revered, and is considered appropriate for any occasion. How could a young boy escape its magic?

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Arun minus his ‘cricket-aura‘ was a sorry sight and an unbearably grouchy companion. His two sisters gave him sympathetic looks. But Dad was Dad. One did not argue.

The meeting at school did not go well. The teacher’s overall feedback was that Arun was smart, but never focussed in class, never showed any interest and was always rattling away mindless statistics about cricket. She also added that he had not grasped even the basic concepts of averages and means, and mental arithmetic that the class was currently doing.

As with every child who has had bad reports, Arun promised his parents that he would do better.

The saddest week of Arun’s life finally came to an end. His excitement was palpable. He eyed his cricket bat hungrily, and looked forward to an India vs. Sri Lanka match that would be telecast later in the day. Somewhere in his head, there was a vague discomfort about school, but cricket caused them all to fade away.

It was dinner time, and Arun’s Dad decided to make it up to the boy by watching the India vs. Sri Lanka match with him.

And then, before his very eyes, he saw his son transform. As the game unfolded ball by ball, Arun rattled off statistics, computing them on the fly – the required run-rate, batting average, probability theory….! Problems in Math that had seemed out of Arun’s grasp in school, the concepts of averages and mental arithmetic that his teacher had wailed about, were being demonstrated right before his eyes. Hope!

He stood up and gave Arun an impromptu hug, much to the boy’s amazement.

He said, “I am not worried about your Math, I am confident that you will get there. Maybe if you look at every problem that the teacher sets you, as something related to cricket? Maybe that will help.”

“Yes, Dad,” said Arun as he stood up to practice one of his batting strokes.

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