Thursday, July 11, 2002

Hit Wicket

My elder brothers had blazed trails of glory in their cricketing years, so I was almost an automatic selection to the school cricket team. Of course, the coach-cum-PT Master did see some merit in my batting talents at the nets to put me down at number six for our opening match of the league. My other cricketing talents being pretty meagre, I assumed I must be doing something right with my batting.
I was studying in Canara High School, Mangalore, and we were the defending champions, having a pretty strong batting line-up, including someone who later played Ranji for Karnataka (P V Sashikanth).
On the big day, I turned out with a newly gifted bat (I remember it being meaty, white, and heavier than I could wield), sparkling white flannels, and a new tennis shoe. One of my brothers and an uncle were in the stands to catch a glimpse of me making my debut.
We were fielding first. And, for some perverse reason, I was stationed at second slip. In the very first over, I heard something whiz past my ears. From the dirty looks my team-mates gave me, I realised I had dropped a chance.
Off I was sent to mid off. There was trouble pretty soon. I was dropping the new ball on its way back to the bowler from the wicket-keeper. Worried that the shine on the new ball would wear off pretty fast if I continued to remain at mid-off, I was banished to the countryside. I spent the rest of the innings twiddling my thumbs at Third Man.
But my moment was yet to come.
We lost our top order pretty quickly. At around the 50 mark, we lost our fourth wicket, and I walked out to the crease to join our captain. I never took guard. Just cast a perfunctory look around the ground, and got into my stance. The first ball was outside off, and I took a heave at it, and only managed a nick. The wicket-keeper, bless his soul, dropped a sitter. What's more, I scrambled across for the first run in my career.
The captain strode down the pitch and sternly warned me to defend. "Don't lift your bat," he said, "Let me do the scoring."
And score he did, belting the opposing bowlers all around the park. I defended solidly, shouldering arms to anything outside the line, and sticking my foot forward and bringing the bat in line with the ball to anything pitched on the stumps. Soon, fielders were crowding around my bat. I went down to the captain and wondered whether I could throw my bat around a bit. "No," he said.
It was a part time bowler that finally got me with one that pitched slightly short of a good length, took my gloves and landed in the hands of the fielder at silly point.
We had put on 79 runs and my contribution to the partnership was that solitary run off the first ball.
When I got home, my brother had already gleefully informed dad about my exploits. I was so embarrassed that I lied through my teeth and said I had scored 10 not one. Brother got a rap on his wrists for running me down (though Dad later discovered the truth himself, without any serious consequences to my health :)
At the team meeting the next day, the coach informed me that I would be sitting out the next match. I was so devastated by what I perceived as the unfairness of the decision that I vowed never to play cricket again.
And that was the end of my budding cricket career.

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