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Original Issue

Basketball and Donkey Lash

In another of his series on Asia's lively games, traveling artist John Groth records exotic sports of Thailand, the subcontinent of India and Afghanistan

Sports in Asia are often a matter of improvisation on city streets or village roads—and they are played with unbounded enthusiasm. Being poor and favored with a warm climate, a great many of Asia's people live outdoors, and, in the leisurely life of the villages, they have developed, over the years, games which are entirely their own. The equipment is primitive, consisting mostly of what is ready to hand. A fish net may serve for a basket in a game distantly related to our own basketball; an old rope's end leads to a two-man tug of war with an Asiatic twist; melons are accepted happily for contests in throwing, and for a type of village cricket all that is needed is a stick and a piece of wood. With these things children and adults play happily side by side, with plenty of cheering from spectators who happen along, pause to watch and may eventually join in. It is all done in high good humor and fun; for all the excitement they generate, the games seldom lead to ill temper or fighting. Artist Groth was himself invited to participate occasionally, "but," he reported, "I usually did not do very well. The only familiar sport I saw was volleyball, in Kunduz, near the Oxus River in Afghanistan. It was quite a game," he concluded. "They were pretty good."

Takraw in Thailand
The basic object is to keep the ball, homemade, hollow, made of rattan, in the air without using hands or forearms. Here in Bangkok is a variation of it where goals are shot in a basket hung 25 feet high.

Donkey Lash in Afghanistan
In a provincial village, Artist Groth watched this rough-and-tumble melee in which one player, holding a rope's end secured by another, runs around outside of a circle trying to kick opponents who lash him.

The Melon Throw
In northern Afghanistan, where melons are plentiful, the local boys often engage in distance throws. Affluent landowners supply the fruit and make bets; the poorer villagers snatch the remains.

Guli-dunda in India
Played in every Indian and Pakistani village, this game is a remote cousin of cricket. A piece of wood called the guli is hit, golf fashion, with a bat, or dunda; if it is caught, the batter is out.


John Groth