Fixing a world record, Indian school style Kuldip Lal (AFP)
New Delhi, January 19
When Anjuman Islam school ran up a monumental 1,121 for six against St John's in an inter-schools match in Mumbai last month, it supposedly broke one of the longest standing world records in cricket.
Not since Victoria piled up 1,107 runs against New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match in Melbourne in 1926 had any team in first-class, club, university or schools cricket scored so many runs.
Anjuman school's mayhem came after St John's had been shot out for a paltry 46.
Too good to be true? Anjuman insist the game was played fair and square. Onlookers believe it was the biggest cricket farce of the new century.
Having bowled out their rivals for less than 50, Anjuman needed to score at least 850 to edge out main challengers Rizvi Springfield school from the tournament semi-finals on a superior run-rate.
They got home with plenty to spare. Anjuman ended up with 989/6 and another 132 runs were added as a penalty for slow over-rates by the hapless St John bowlers.
Ramesh Mamunkar, the coach of another school which was playing on the adjacent ground, was stunned at what was happening.
"We had a clear view of the scoreboad and I was surprised to see the score ticking by every over, from 200 to 240 in just two overs," Mamunkar remembers.
"I then stood up to see how it was done and found that the fielders were not even trying to stop the ball passing just metres away from them.
"I was also very surprised at the way St John's set the field. They had at least seven men around the bat even while defending 46. The bowlers bowled full tosses and still the close-in fielders were not removed.
"There was also a buzz around the ground that the scores were increased."
It emerged there was no official scorer for the match. Nor did St John's have theirs. The only scoresheet of the match belonged to Anjuman's!Anjuman coach Naushad Khan vehemently denied any wrongdoing and blamed Springfields for sparking a controversy.
"The whole thing has been planted by them, after all they have lost out," said Khan.
"We scored 570 runs against the same school earlier. My boys have scored 467 runs in 45 overs this season.
"If somebody says that a team cannot score so many runs, they should leave cricket."
St John's coach Sashi Naik also defended himself and his team.
"Look, we are a very weak team this season," he said. "Most of the boys are new and some of our main players were injured."
Naik also had a reason why his fielders were unable to prevent the run riot.
"On the first day, two of our players, including the wicket-keeper, got injured and we were left with only nine players.
"Of these, only two of them were close to the wicket, rest were all on the boundary."
The Mumbai School Sports Association, which organises the tournament, was unlikely to conduct an inquiry.
"Why give undue importance to something which is not good," the association's cricket secretary M D Paralkar was quoted as saying by a local newspaper.
He acknowledged the incident was an "eye-opener" but could not stop Anjuman from achieving their target — a place in the semi-finals.
Not surprisingly, Indian cricket board official Ratnakar Shetty, who is also the secretary of the Mumbai Cricket Association, dismissed any talk of a new world record.
"Without any official scorer, there is no question of there being a world record," said Shetty. "Let's not get too carried away."