Saturday, September 01, 2012

Cricket match in Bangalore, circa 1850.

Captain Albert Hervey of the 40th Regiment of Madras Infantry describes (on page 51) of his diary, “The life of a young officer” published in 1850, a Lagaan-style, cricket match played between his team consisting mainly of Indian sepoys and an all-English team of officers based in Bangalore. There’s also a description of a post-match incident when English hospitality was not accepted.. 

The good folks at Bangalore, hearing of our characters as cricketers, a challenge was sent us, and arrangements made for a match between their eleven and ourselves; but this challenge was taking us at a disadvantage, for many of our best players were away with the "left-wing;" we were, therefore, badly off, though our lads were game to the backbone, and eager for the trial. Two of the best bats from among the officers volunteered, and were taken in for want of better, to make up our eleven. Tents were pitched, the ground marked out, and the wickets placed by knowing hands, umpires selected, and scorers told off, all very proper. 

Our men were nothing daunted, although they were much out of practice; they had never before played against Europeans, and their present antagonists, they were informed, were first-rate players. All the cantonment turned out to see such a novelty, viz., that of natives of India playing at that true English game; and it was a sight worth seeing, too; the whole ground was covered with European and native soldiery from the different corps in the place, besides ladies and gentlemen spectators, for whose accommodation tents were pitched and refreshments laid out by the mess of the gallant regiment to whom we were opposed. 

The game was played very fairly and with great  spirit, though it was evident to all present that the advantage was on the side of the Europeans. The first day's result was, however, in favour of our men, notwithstanding their want of practice. That of the second day was against us, which made the match in every way a drawn one, and both parties separated highly satisfied with each other, the Europeans in great glee, and our lads so excited that they declared, had the "left-wing" been present, there would have been no difficulty in giving the "soger logue," (the soldier-people,) a thorough good drubbing. We were to have played the dragoons, but we left Bangalore before a match could be got up. 

It was highly amusing to mark the behaviour of our gallant countrymen towards their darker comrades on this occasion. Not knowing the customs of the natives, the men had prepared a kind of collation with plenty of drink, to be partaken of by the sepoys as well as themselves. The soldiers came up to our men as soon as the game was over, and, slapping them on the back, one of them said:— 

"Come along, boys, and take a bit of something to eat and a glass of beer!" 

"No, sar! no can eat, no drink! Salam, sar, no can do that;" replied a havildar of ours. 

"Arrah, honey!" exclaimed an Irish grenadier, "we'll take no excuse; and by the piper that played before Moses, ye shall have a raal drop of the cratur, too! come along!"

"No, sar! I Hindoo mans! I neber drink! I lose caste 'spose I take the rack; that no good for me!" 

"Well, thin, lave the drink! Come in and take something to eat; do that now, there's a darling, Jack Sapay that ye are!" 

No, sar! salam, sar! Main Mussulman hoon: nahin ka. sukta ! no, sar!" 

"Is it ka sukta do you say? Well, then I don't know what that manes, its gibberish to me! Will ye take a cheroot, thin?" 

"Master sodger give cheroot, I take and make smoke; but no can eat, no can drink!" 

"But ye are all a queer set of fishes, that ye are!" exclaimed the disappointed soldier. "By the buttend of my Brown-Bess, what is it that ye will do?" 

"We go whome!" replied a Sepoy; "go to camp. Roll-call feade got we go, sar, salam, sar, salam!" 

And away they went; thus ending the colloquy which I myself overheard. The sepoys were not accustomed to such instances of true English hospitality, and their caste prejudices prevented their eating and drinking with our gallant countrymen; this I explained to the soldiers, and the Irishman remarked: 

"Bad luck to them, say I! There's as fine a roasted sheep in that there tint, as ever y'er honor would wish to dine off, with plenty of raal good pratis! Do ye think, sir, that they sapays would eat it, if we sind the whole up to the camp? 

"No, not a bit of it," replied I; "they would most probably think it an insult, particularly after having once refused." 

"Ah, you have a queer set to deal with, your honour !" said one of the party. 

"You may say that, my man," rejoined I; "but never mind, do you eat the mutton yourselves; and here is something to wash it down with, and to drink the healths of your sable-faced fellow-soldiers!" I put five rupees into the hands of one of the men, and walked away. 

"Thank ye, y'er honour," called out Paddy; we'll do that same, and wish you long life and happiness, sir!" and, touching their caps, they marched off in high glee to spend the five rupees, and I was informed the next day, that two or three soldiers were taken up drunk by the night patrol. I suppose they must have had "a wee drap in the e'e," in drinking the healths of "Jack Sapay."