It was a particularly difficult cricket match in 1992. A hostile opposition with top-class fast bowlers in their team, technically sound batsmen and a very good coach. A romantic episode gone awry had resulted in this three-day cricket match. The pretty sister of the rival team's opening bowler had been bowled over by my team mate and after progressive aggression it was decided to sort out the issue by playing a contest of cricket. Perhaps, the Mahabharata influenced whoever thought of this solution.
The team I played for was called Duck XI, not a very fancy name for a cricket team. But we were a bunch of jolly lads who wanted to play cricket just for the fun and thrill of it. Just like any international team, our team too comprised lads in their teens and men in their thirties. None of us thought that our team's name demeaned our dignity. In fact, many people remembered our team's name for the forthrightness it conveyed!
There will be phases in any cricket match where even the best player will not be able to score or take wickets.
Our captain won the toss and opted to bat first, not because our team boasted excellent batsmen but simply because our only fast bowler was down with a very emotional bowel. Very soon, we were 35 for 3 and it was my turn to walk in and join my friend who had opened the batting and was doing quite well. Being quite tall, I was the immediate object of hate for fast bowlers who would try to bounce me as often as possible. This match was no different.
My partner who was batting well till then suddenly appeared to have lost touch and was looking very touchy. I walked up to him and said, "You are playing well. Why are you poking at deliveries outside the off stump? Leave them alone. This is a three-day match. We will be breaking for drinks in 10 minutes. There is plenty of time. Don't get out now." My partner nodded, tapped my bat with his and went back to business. The day ended with both of us still at the crease.
Later in the evening, another friend brought up an issue that was bothering him. The situation at home was unpleasant, as he couldn't find a job. His parents were venting their frustration on him. He felt helpless and desolate. I asked him to join me for a walk and heard out his angst.
I felt his situation was quite similar to the one my partner and I faced earlier that day in the cricket match. Suddenly, it dawned on me that the solution was also no different. "Leave outside the off stump." I said, much to my friend's surprise. "What?" he asked. "Here I am pouring out all my anxiety and you are talking about cricket?" We sat on a cement bench under a tree, and he looked very annoyed. He was a good cricketer himself. "Don't you see? Just like we leave good deliveries outside the off stump, leave what your parents are saying outside the off stump in your mind. It's not that you cannot play these deliveries, only the situation isn't conducive. And, sometimes, poking at good deliveries outside the off stump can get you out." He nodded and seemed to understand the comparison.
There will be the naysayers such as the close-in fielders-silly point... a backward short leg who is invisible to the eye but abundantly audible.
There are striking similarities between cricket and life. Cricket, they say, is a game of glorious uncertainties. Life is filled with far more glorious uncertainties. The 22 yards in the middle is the same for everyone. It is up to each one of us to make good use of the pitch considering the attendant factors such as swing, seam, turn and bounce. Life, too, is played on a pitch where opportunities present themselves to everyone who seeks them diligently. There is not much use in blaming the pitch as, in most cases, it is an inappropriate individual choice that results in undesired results. It boils down to the inadequacy of preparation and the lack of determination, be it life or cricket.
There will be phases in any cricket match where even the best player will not be able to score or take wickets. Suddenly, you feel that the game has deserted you. However, if the batsman or bowler demonstrates the patience to pass this phase, the feet start moving well, the shots are back; bowlers are able to hit the right line and length. We have seen quite often that life has such similar phases. Good jobs are elusive, examinations turn into nightmares and businesses go broke. With some introspection, change in tactics and a generous dose of patience, we have seen that troubling times are only temporary and things will look up sooner if not later.
There will be the naysayers such as the close-in fielders-silly point, forward short leg, slip fielders and, at times, a backward short leg who is invisible to the eye but abundantly audible to the ear. There will be copious amounts of sledging to distract you. They want to see you fail. The only person who can rescue you from such a cruel society is yourself. Remember, the very same fielders will applaud once you reach your century. Till then, put your head down and focus on the game. Focus on your priorities in life.
I have felt that life too leaves you in the deep sometimes, but never out of the game.
I have always had pity for the fielder in the deep, especially in test cricket. For most part of the game, it will appear as if he is the most unnecessary object on the field. Suddenly, in a make-or-break situation, the ball is skied by a mishit and the entire result of the match will depend on the fielder in the deep taking the catch. I have felt that life too leaves you in the deep sometimes, but never out of the game. You will get your opportunity to make or break, and when you do, hold on to the catch as if your life depends on it. And, most of the times, it will.
Cricket, thus, has enabled me to tide over many a crisis. Leaving outside the off stump has worked very well for me as it did for my much-tormented friend who continues to practice and play life on 22 yards.
And for the match that was supposed to be a love decider, it ended in a draw, much to our surprise. The couple that was the reason for the match got married to different persons and they all lived happily ever after!
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