Both sides normally spin on a different pitch, which is why on Saturday when the Chief Justice XI took on the Supreme Court Bar Association at Feroz Shah Kotla, there was less cricket on display than camaraderie.
Kotla, which will host the IPL in a few days, has rarely ever seen a match where there are more players — playing and non-playing — than spectators.
It is not often that the toss and the final playing XI await the arrival of the playing captain, in this case Justice Madan Lokur, long after the match was scheduled to start.
Non-playing captain, Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, walked in right on time. “Don’t think we are old; we are very strong people. We have been preparing for a year you know, not paying too much attention to courts,” he told waiting journalists in jest, clearly prepared to have a good time.
Some time later, he wielded the willow for the official inauguration, scoring a four off a flighted delivery from lawyers’ non-playing captain, Rupinder Singh Suri.
Wickets fell like ninepins as the Lordships batted first, with only Justice Rakesh Jain of the Chandigarh High Court and Justice Najmi Waziri of the Delhi High Court putting up a fight with some lofted boundaries that got spectators, in the sparsely populated stands, clapping.
But that is expected. In fact, to keep both sides even, lawyers start with a handicap.
Nobody aged less than 55 is part of the playing XI. So while the younger and clearly fitter lawyers run around organising things, the older play ball — quite literally.
The bar association won the toss and invited the CJI XI to bat. “It is good, you know, they will get tired otherwise,” said a lawyer in the stands.
When the first wicket of Justice L Nageshwar Rao fell, CJI Khehar cheered him coming off the field. “Don’t worry about it, we are with you,” he yelled.
The judges won the 2016 edition of the match but did not look like a winning side this time. Eventually, it was the Bar Association that won the match by six wickets with seven balls to spare.
But despite the defeat, judges are not just one of two teams; they are the stars of the show. Bar association office bearers run to and fro to ensure a steady supply of refreshments to the side of the stands where the men in blue — the judges — are seated. When Justice Lokur, batting at number 3, is bowled out, somebody takes his pads off for him.
The ball largely stayed on one side of the field. So there was understandable excitement when two boundaries were hit towards the spectators’ side. Children seated outside the ropes with oranges and biscuits started to get bored when one lawyer assured his daughter: “Don’t worry, Justice Jain will send the ball this side soon. Only he can.”
Just then, Justice Abhay Sapre, who opened for CJI XI, was stumped. As he walked off, Justice Lokur signalled for the third umpire. There was none.