(Submitted for the Blogadda "Sporting memories" contest)
I was born with a manufacturing defect. Unfortunately, I did not come with a warranty that the product could be returned, if found deficient. Thus, the deficiency in the product only came to light around the age of seven. The problem was that the right foot instep was slightly inward looking.
Hence, whilst running, whenever I would try to pick up speed, the right leg would go across the left leg and……..boom………I would be sprawled on the floor. It could be called a built-in self tripping mechanism. However, this inward looking shy instep was not a problem when walking or even jogging at a slow pace; only, it played up, when trying to run at a speed.
Therefore, as may be guessed, most sports were out. But it was in cricket that I found my true calling. I was a natural batsman endowed with quicksilver reflexes. It was almost impossible to get me out even by boys double my age. I could play pace and spin bowling with equal ease. However, my batting skills were of no asset to the team as I could not run fast enough to score runs.
However, I vividly remember a cricket match I played when I was about 12 years old. It was played on a ground attached to a small neighborhood school. The playing field must have been 100 feet in length and about 50 feet in breadth. The pitch was in the centre of the playground.
The match began at 4.15 p.m. The opposing side batted first and were all out for 49 runs. It was strongly believed that the scorer, who was from their side, added a few runs on the sly. All the same, our team started strongly and in no time we were 25 for no loss. And then 9 wickets fell for the addition of only 20 runs.
With 5 runs still needed to win the match, I was the last batsman to walk in and a discernible groan went up in our camp. The captain of our team gave me strict instruction to play a shot and just scamper across. He said that the other batsman will try and hit a boundary after that. The situation was terribly nerve-racking.
Needless to mention, the captain’s instruction was weighing on my mind as I walked to the middle. I took a middle-stump guard and prepared myself to face the first ball. The bowler came charging in and bowled a pretty fast ball but it was way outside the off stump. I had half a mind to run and take a bye and go over to the opposite side but stopped myself just in time as I saw their wicket keeper collect the ball cleanly. There was a lot of buzz around the field as their lanky bowler started walking back to his bowling mark. I could feel the pressure around me.
Once again, I saw the bowler charging down and this time he bowled a huge bumper that could not be played. I then saw our captain running down towards me. Breathlessly he told me that the next ball was the last one of the over and under no circumstance should I take a run now.
Once more, I bent over my bat as I saw the bowler running up to bowl the last ball of the over to me and this time the ball was on the stumps. I saw it quite early and I hit it hard past the bowler. I stood my ground as instructed by the captain but the rest of the team from the sidelines started shouting “Run, run.” I was confused and started running towards the other end and had almost reached it when I saw a fielder throw in the ball. I tripped as the ball crashed into the stumps. But even as I fell forward, luckily, my bat went just beyond the crease. It was very difficult to decide whether the stumps were broken first or I had reached the crease before that. However, the umpire, who was from our team, ruled me not out. There was a huge sigh of relief. It pays to have an umpire on your side.
Now four runs were needed for victory but, alas, I had crossed over to the other side. There was palpable anxiety in our team as I would be facing a full over.
I took a fresh guard and prepared to face the new bowler who also had a long run-up. The school building was now on my right and the road on the left side with the school wall in between. Besides that, there was only deathly silence all around.
I took my stance. The bowler started running in slowly, then picked up speed, came up to the stumps and bowled. The ball was a half volley. As I saw the ball land short of length, all instructions and admonitions were forgotten. By sheer reflex action, I put my left foot forward and across and then went down on my right knee and swung my bat at the ball towards the area of what would have been between the square leg and the midwicket. It was almost a copybook shot as the ball hit the sweet-spot on the bat.
There was a loud gasp as the ball started rising in a majestic arc, sailing way above the compound wall and traversing regally across the road. All eyes were on the ball as everyone seemed to be collectively holding their breath. The journey of the shot came to an end as it entered, unannounced, into a music shop on the other side of the road. And ………..it was followed by a loud shriek.
Immediately, a girl slightly older than us came out of the shop and excitedly shouted across the road, “You have broken a record.” I was amazed at her understanding and appreciation of the game of cricket. So, shyly, I raised my bat in acknowledgment. However, I could not grasp her next words when she said, “Who is going to pay for the broken record.”
I looked around for some enlightenment and found that both the teams, the umpires and the spectators had vanished. It finally dawned on me that my shot had broken an antique 78 rpm vinyl record. The owner of the music salon turned out to be a tough negotiator and finally, my poor father had to pay for that record breaking shot.
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