Understanding the ‘Chinaman’ : The Tribune India

Understanding the ‘Chinaman’

Understanding the ‘Chinaman’

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo



Lt Gen Pradeep Bali (Retd)

IN cricketing parlance, ‘Chinaman’ is a term, though no longer in vogue, for left-arm unorthodox wrist-spin bowling. The peculiar name of this bowling style was a bit of a mystery till I had the opportunity to study the ‘Chinaman’, while posted as a military diplomat in Tokyo and Seoul during the early years of this century.

A recurring engagement of a defence attaché is to attend official functions. These events provide a good opportunity to interact with counterparts from all parts of the globe. During one such event in Tokyo, I was looking forward to meeting the Chinese Major General who was accredited to Japan, as it would be my first experience of interacting with a high-ranking PLA officer. Having located the tall and stern-faced General, I made my way across to him. As I learnt later, he knew English, but always communicated through an interpreter. After I greeted him and introduced myself, his translated response, terse and cryptic, came right back. As I tried my hand at diplomatic niceties by admiring China’s economic rise, his replies remained curt in praising India, as if in a default setting! When I mentioned that China had made great progress in technology, his response was that India was ahead in IT software, spoken in an accusatory tone. After a few more exchanges with similar responses, I realised that the conversation was not heading anywhere, and so I excused myself.

A few months later, I was in South Korea on a defence attaché tour. We were taken to various military establishments. The Chinese officer here was a jovial PLA Colonel. He went out of his way to interact with me and my wife. He was fluent in English and had no interpreter. One afternoon, he met us strolling in the hotel lawns and we had an enjoyable interaction for over an hour. During the conversation, he suddenly hummed a Raj Kapoor song with a minor phonetic error, ‘Awara goon…’, with a smile on his face. He went to great lengths to extol the centuries of peaceful coexistence of our two great civilisations on either side of the Himalayas and mentioned about Hiuen Tsang and other travellers.

Finally, he spoke about the 1962 War and what an unfortunate incident it was in our peaceful relationship. He emphasised that those 30 days of conflict was like a minor blip compared to millennia of harmonious ties and how we should look forward to being the greatest of friends as two trans-Himalayan Asian giants.

Back in Tokyo, interactions with the PLA General remained formal. I came back from Japan and South Korea, not fully wise about the PLA or the Chinese, but with a much keener appreciation of the bafflement of a hapless batsman facing a ‘Chinaman’ on the cricket pitch.

Tribune Shorts


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