It was an early December morning, a bit foggy which is normal in this part of the world. I was hurrying with my morning chores in my rented room. It was a big day for me and I had to catch up with my team at 7:00. At 6:30, I was still fumbling with my shoe laces.
The occasion was inter college cricket tournament and I was happy to be a part of the college team. For two consecutive years now I have been selected for the college team. However this was going to be my first outing as I hadn’t played the tournament last year due to my exams.
No sooner had I reached the college gate than I heard our team captain yelling out for everyone to board a bus that was taking us to the venue of the game. As I climbed up the bus dragging my kit, I realized that the bus was nearly full with my college mates going along with the team for support. As the bus steered through the morning mist, I began contemplating about our training sessions. I began thinking how hard we had trained for this particular game. At first it was not a piece of cake to get into the college team. One need to compete with 50 odd guys and only 15 would be selected into a squad. Then it was all up to the individual’s performance to get into the playing eleven. I was selected into the squad for my batting skills and got a chance to be in the playing eleven for the first outing. Being a left handed batsman and presumably with a good technique, I was placed to open the innings.
Mr. kafle our coach used to monitor the team during the practice sessions, sometimes the whole day. I remembered those twenty rounds I was asked ordered to run when I had dropped a catch in a practice session and also those twenty push-ups when I had got my fellow partner run out. A sharp shudder with the squeaking of the brakes brought me back to the reality. We had already reached the venue of the tournament. After unboarding we quickly switched for stretch up and some catching practices. A quick physical maneuvering warmed us up but then I felt an urge to eat something. I had missed my morning tea and light eat ups.
The ground was smaller than we were used to playing at. So I thought a well timed shot could fetch easy boundaries. Then on close inspection of the pitch I found it was too moist and prayed against batting first. Toss time: “we lose it and we’re bowling first” I heard our captain saying. “Thank god”-a sigh of relief escaped my mouth. Match started, I was fielding at point, and a key position to field as the ball would come swiftly following a cut or a drive by the batsman. It was going all well and I was gaining composure. We were getting wickets and the run rate was well under control. Suddenly in the middle over, a batsman went for a furious drive through covers but only managing to balloon the ball in the air. The ball was reeling right over my spot. I balanced myself, focused and watched the ball. Still fearful I stretched my palms. Yeahhh……I found myself yelling when I had gripped on that leather ball. “Good take” the captain brushed my hair. I was growing in confidence now. I was moving with every ball, backing up the bowler and at times annoying the batsman with some ‘you fear us’ statements. Couple of overs later a batsman cut a short delivery. It was hit hard, ball coming my way. My reflexes prompted me to jump forward and yes! I got another one; even better this time. After the stipulated 20 overs, the opponent ended on a respectable total. On checking the required rate, I found it was easily gettable and was quite positive regarding the outcome.
During the innings break I had some fruits and confectioneries to get instant energy. That was just right to satiate my hunger and charged me up for the 2nd innings. I got padded up, wore a helmet and all those inner protectives. I readied myself for batting. Then the time arrived and I made my way into the ground with my fellow opener. On the way to the pitch we talked about making good calls and avoiding mix-ups.
First ball, my mate managed a bat to a low bounce delivery. We ran for a single. Run off a first ball, good start I thought. There came my big moment. I walked around the wicket, tapped the pitch to fathom its hardness. I took guard on the leg stumps, looked around to see the field setup and gaps for runs. One particular region on the on side between long-on and square leg was largely vacant. I bent over and took my regular left handed stance. I got a good view of the bowler now. He was of a medium height with seemingly strong body. A dark complexioned man, he had done his curly hair behind giving him an aggressively look. My heart started to pound harder as the bowler started his run up. As soon as he released the ball with a big jump, I realized it was not coming with a vertical seam and thus there will be no lateral movement. Within those split of a second I figured out that the ball was banged in short, almost in the middle of the pitch. My reflexes pulled me on to the backfoot, positioned my body for a big pull shot. Realization of a big vacant space over midwicket might have guided my reflexes. There came the ball, pitched well short, was bound to come at least my waist height. I lifted my bat high for a better momentum. There came the ball, my front foot went forward to adjust for the shot. There came the ball, I swung hard. Bang! The ball rafted my pads, the bowler leaped up with a big appeal. Other close-in fielders joined in synchronization. I looked towards the umpire, up went the index finger. I was adjudged leg before wicket (LBW) out.
I stood in awe for a few seconds. Then I decided to leave towards the dug-out. It took me only about a minute from the pitch to the dug-out but millions of thoughts crossed my mind. First; why did I go for a big shot in the very first ball I faced? Why I did not negotiate the low bounce of the pitch? Why I forgot to keep patience which used to be my virtue in the game?