Saturday, September 26, 2009

A kid in the sweet shop

A thousand butterflies were flying inside his stomach. It was a strange feeling as Vijay was eagerly waiting for this day. The day he could actually realize his dream; a dream that was haunting him since his childhood.

Winning the cup

Vijay was restlessly pacing around the boundary line, thinking about the ways to control the butterflies in his stomach. There was enormous pressure on him to win this cup for the cricket club he loved. The anxiety among a crowd of 2000 was building by the time. Everyone in the village knew Vijay as he was the first Indian to have represented this small British village in its 120 years of existence.

“Are you alright?” Vijay heard a voice from behind.

“Hey skipper, I am good” Vijay said and looked straight into the eyes of Ian Haggie, the captain of the team.

“Feeling jittery?”

“Well, no. Its much more than that. It’s a big day” said Vijay

“I know” he said and smiled

The skipper then came near Vijay, placed his arm around his shoulder and said “It is just another day son. Don’t let the anxiety get over you. Stay cool and just go out there and enjoy” and pointed his finger towards the pitch.

“We have a team meeting in five minutes. See you in the dressing room”

Vijay walked along the boundary line, tried to focus all this thoughts onto cricket. And nothing else. He saw the opponents arriving in their team bus. The opponents, Northern Social cricket club, was the strongest that season. For any club that year, Northern Social was THE team to beat.

After a few stretches and a customary pitch inspection, Vijay walked towards the dressing room.

“Look who is playing for them. Are you a cricketer?” yelled a player from Northern Social and let out a huge laugh.

“I don’t have time for this now. Got a lot to worry about” Vijay thought and never spoke a word.

Inside the dressing room, Vijay met the skipper and said “Looks like a hard wicket. Planning to bat if we win the toss?”

“That’s the plan, but there is a problem” he said, but did not say what the problem actually was.

When the last person entered the dressing room, the skipper closed the door, took this notepad, cleared his throat and smiled at the team. The smile was reassuring. Half the butterflies in Vijay’s stomach were killed, just by that smile.

“That is the mark of a skipper. He should be someone to look up to, when the team is in crisis” Vijay thought.

The skipper cleared his throat. A clear sign for all the players to listen. The smile could turn into a swear if any indiscipline was spotted anytime anywhere.

“Guys, we have been waiting for this day. The day we could beat them back and blue and take the trophy to our village.” He said and scanned the entire room. The air was absolutely silent inside. Everyone was keen and was listening to the skipper.

“Looking at our team, I don’t see any reason for us to fail. The opponents might say a few words on field. Don’t worry about them. It is only because they are scared. Scared that they will lose this game” and paused for a moment. The room was still silent.

“And you know what? They should be” and look at the entire team with the same reassuring smile.

“All I want you to do is to give your one hundred percent and go out there and enjoy the game we all love. And that’s not difficult, or is it?” he said and extended his hands with his palm open.

The entire team came forward and placed their hands on top of the skipper’s. In just a minute, the skipper united the entire team as a single unit just by giving a pep talk. At any moment, the skipper did not lose his cool, was smiling all the time and yet, got the team pepped up.

“Ok. We have a small problem now” the skipper said with a broad smile on his face.

“Chauffey did his back and won’t play today” he declared.

“Oh dear, that is a big trouble” Vijay thought as Chauffey was brilliant with the new ball and there was no one to replace him.

“Simon, you will share the new ball with Robbo” the skipper continued.

“And Vijay, I want you to fill in for the fourth bowler and so I have pushed you to number five in batting order” he said and looked at Vijay.

The slowly dying butterflies in his stomach multiplied exponentially.

“What? Am I hearing that right? This is a big game and he wants me to bowl my full quota of overs. This is insane!” Vijay thought.

“I know you are good as a supporting bowler, but its time for you to step up. And today is the day” the skipper said.

Butterflies multiplied again!

Simon came forward and stroked Vijay’s hair and said “Come on Vijay, enjoy the game today”

Ian Haggie then opened the door of the dressing room and finally said “Enjoy the game today guys”

Ian won the toss and as expected elected to bat. Vijay was due at number 5. So he chose to sit and watch the game from the dressing room chair.

Ian and Philip opened the batting. It was smooth sailing until Philip lost his stumps. Vijay started to pad up while Philip was returning to the pavilion.

“Hard luck Philli, you looked good for a fifty today” Vijay said.

The next two wickets fell with a span of four balls and all of a sudden Vijay found himself walking towards the middle of the pitch.

Butterflies reappeared.

The walk to the pitch was slow, but he felt good as Ian was still in the crease.

“We still have eight overs to go. Let yourself in. Just watch out for that in swing” he said

“Middle stump please” Vijay shouted at the umpire for the guard.

“Look at this bloke. Wants middle stump when the ball is swinging in” and let out an ugly laugh.

All sorts of comments were passed on to Vijay. A lot of words were said.

“Lets see what this guy is made of” said the first slip

“Are you a batsman?” said another

“The tail is out guys”

“I am worried this kid might get hurt here. Can you hold the bat son?”

“Shut your ears and concentrate” Vijay told himself.

Pattinson steamed in for the first delivery. As expected the ball started swinging in from outside the off and pitched on length. Instinctively, Vijay went forward and let out a cover drive, against the swing. The ball raced past extra cover and on to the boundary in a flash. No one moved.

Vijay then turned back and let out a glare towards the slips. A glare that spoke a thousand words. In the process Vijay was slowly losing his concentration. He fell for the bait.

Ian was now pleading Vijay to concentrate as a lot of work had to be done. At the end of the over, Ian met Vijay in the middle of the pitch and reiterated the need to concentrate.

“Stay till the end. That will give me a chance to go at the bowlers in the death” he said.

The chatter from behind the stumps increased. A few words were said which were insulting him personally.

After a couple of overs, the bowler joined in the action. Not with the ball, but with words. Vijay was easily negotiating the swing and as instructed by Ian, he was giving as much strike as possible to him.

In over number 17, Vijay lost his cool. Getting a bit overconfident about the way he was handling the swing, he cleared his left leg and went for a big heave over mid wicket. The ball was full, and swung late. It missed his foot by an inch and raced towards the stumps


The sound that Vijay dreaded to hear was the sound of leather hitting the timber and then the sound of huge cheers from behind.

Pattinson, being extra charged, let out an angry send off to Vijay by running close to him and punching the air close to his face. He pointed his finger towards the pavilion and shouted “Now, you fuck off!”

Vijay gave a sorry look towards the skipper. He knew that the way he got out was ugly. Nothing was going through his mind at that time. He was not shattered due to the wild celebrations; he was not shattered by the sound of leather hitting timber; he was not shattered by the words that were said to him; but he was shattered because he let his captain down.

The walk back to the pavilion was probably the longest 100 meter walk he ever walked.

Fortunately, for the team Ian stayed almost till the end, scored a magnificent fifty on a very nice track for batting. They made 157 off the stipulated twenty overs, which everyone thought was competitive.

During the break, Ian called for another team meeting.

Behind the closed doors he started “Well done so far guys. The game is in our hands now. If we don’t give our hundred percent and if we don’t concentrate, we will lose” he said and gave a fierce stare towards Vijay.

At the end of the meeting, everyone was charged. Ian came towards Vijay and said “Hope you have learnt your lesson today”

Vijay was too ashamed to even see the skipper face to face. But, when the skipper left him alone, lots of thoughts came to his mind.

From his experience in the middle, though short, Vijay knew that 157 was not enough on a brilliant batting surface. But, he also found that bowling full and straight mostly and varying the length and pace was the only way to contain the runs as the bounce was nice and true on the surface.

“I want to prove a lot today. The only chance for me is to take wickets. But, if that Pattinson ever faces me… I am going to kill him, whatever it takes” Vijay thought

Pattinson and Storey opened for the opponents. Northern Social started badly. They lost their opener Stoery to Simon in the second over. Pattinson was still there.

So far so good!

When the wicket fell, the team was charged up. Ian was trying to get the focus back. “These two guys in the crease are their best men. We need to remove them quickly”

Michael and Simon toiled for another six overs. No wickets. Batsmen were scoring freely. Pattinson scored his first six off Gary, the first change bowler.

Over number 10. Ian called Vijay, who was almost switched off at midoff, and tossed the ball towards him.

Vijay started stretching furiously, grabbed the ball and walked towards his marker.

“Right arm over” he told the umpire. Fox faced him first ball.

The first ball was a loosener; a poor delivery, short on the leg stump. Fox pulled it, but luckily for Vijay, he pulled it straight to the deep fine leg. A single.

Second delivery now to Pattinson. The guy Vijay wanted to rip off into pieces.

“The first ball was poor. Let me get my rhythm first. The revenge can wait” Vijay thought.

Will all energy, Vijay ran into the crease, bent his back and unleashed a delivery that pitched on off and straightened. Pattinson played all over it and missed. The ball missed the off stump only by inches.

Vijay let out a smile at Pattinson; a smile which was cruel than words; a smile which made the batsman feel inept.

Vijay got his confidence back. “Its show time now” he thought, though he was conscious not to overdo things.

Unable to cope the adrenaline, Vijay ran in even harder, and hit the middle of the pitch, which no one had explored till that time. As the pitch was hard, Vijay managed to get a steep lift off the pitch. Pattionson was not expecting anything on his body at all. The lift carried the ball to his face. Pattison tried to pull it and stopped at the last moment. The ball hit him on his right shoulder and then went on to hit the side of his throat.

He threw his bat down on impulse, moved away from the stumps and bent down catching his shoulder in pain.

“Are you alright?” asked Ian

“Ice pack” shouted the umpire

A few players gathered around Pattinson to check on him. Vijay was still away from the batsman, still not satisfied with the hit. After getting the treatment, the batsman was ready again, to face the heat.

Vijay walked up to the batsman and said “Now let me see what YOU are made of” and let of a cold smile.

After two more deliveries directed towards the ribs, Pattinson was jumping around for safety. One eventful over from Vijay was over, but no wickets.

Pattinson was in ease with Gary, the other bowler in the team. He played a wonderful leg glance off Gary the very next over. Vijay was in the short fine leg position. He watched the ball go past his right hand side and started chasing it. He chased it till the boundary line. It was touch and go. The ball looked like winning the race. In the last moment, Vijay unleashed a violent dive over the ball, like an Olympic swimmer, and tried to pull it in. In the process, he fell on hard clay, which shaved a lot of skin below his right knee.

But, the ball won the race.

When Vijay got up, he felt warm under his right knee.


“Are you ok son?” Ian asked at the end of the over.

“Never better, give me the ball” Vijay said

Blood was the last thing on his mind. He declined any first aid as he might not return on time for his next over.

With blood stains all over his pant, Vijay ran in even harder for his second over. This time, he bowled a bouncer first up. The ball just missed Pattinson’s face.

“Cant play cricket? Vijay asked and stared at him.

Pattinson was furious. Vijay knew from his body language that he had unsettled the batsman.

After bowling a short and fast ball, Vijay bowled a full and slow ball straight after. Expecting a fierce delivery on his face again, Pattinson braced himself in defense. After seeing a slower ball, he started reacting. He reacted a bit late and played all over the ball. And missed it by a mile.


The sound that Vijay was dying to hear; the sound of leather hitting the timber and then the sound of huge cheers from behind. Everything had changed for Vijay within an hour.

Vijay let out a wild celebration and started running wildly towards the fine leg with tears of joy, as everyone tried to catch him. Finally Michael caught hold of him and pulled him down. Everyone jumped on top of Vijay as a mark of celebration.

Pattinson, the danger man, was gone. In the most humiliating fashion.

“The game is not over guys” Ian said and smiled at the team. “Get back and stick to the basics, and enjoy the game now”

At the end of the over, Vijay received a huge cheer from the crowd gathered as he walked towards the fine leg boundary.

“One hand on the cup” he thought.

Blood was still oozing out of his right leg. But, no one bothered. Including Vijay.

Fox started picking up the momentum. He was silent under the shadow of Pattinson, but he started finding the gaps after Pattinson perished.

Vijay was given the ball again, to bowl his third over.

“You had your moments, now get back and concentrate” Vijay told himself.

The first ball to Fox was full, fast and straight. Fox missed it. Fox missed a straight one on the middle stump.

Timber! Yet again!

Vijay stretched both his arms and knelt on one knee facing the crowd towards the deep point region. The entire team came running in and hugged Vijay. Ian stroked his hair furiously as the entire team was on a rampage. The feeling of getting both the top players was unexplainable. Vijay could not believe what a bowler he turned out that day.

“Thats game, set and match” Vijay thought

“There is still work to do guys” Ian said, yet again. He never let the adrenaline calm down at any moment and yet, he remained as calm as anyone could be.

A true mark of a charismatic leader!

The rest of the batsmen came and left. Vijay bowled his five overs for twenty five runs and two wickets. The wickets of Pattinson and Fox.

When Deano caught Tipple off Simon,in the 20th over, the entire team erupted in joy.

In the end, they won quite comfortably by 39 runs.

After the customary handshakes with the umpires, the players started walking back to the pavilion.

The general custom in British cricket was that the player who created the greatest impact would lead the team back to the pavilion. Every other player would only wait near the boundary rope, waiting to be lead back.

Ian pushed Vijay from behind and said “Lead the team back!”

Vijay was unsure whatever he heard was true. He was asked to lead a successful team on a finals day. No one could ask for more.

The team gathered in two parallel lines near the boundary and everyone was clapping for Vijay. He removed his cap, as a mark of respect, raised his right hand with the ball to everyone on the ground.

At that moment, Vijay felt like a kid in the sweet shop. He was filled with a feeling that could never be explained in words. He just helped a team to win the cup for the first time in about ten years. Everyone in the village was elated for the team and for Vijay.

Inside the dressing room, Pattinson peeped in and asked “Can I buy you a drink?”

Vijay was speechless. A rival buying a drink? Why would he do that? But then, he thought cricket is a gentleman’s game after all. Or it used to be!

“A coke please. Thank you!” Vijay said.

Over the drink Pattinson apologized for his actions on the field.

“I was pumped up. All the words I said was in the heat of the moment. I am sorry” he said.

“I share the same feeling” Vijay said and smiled.

Afterall, cricket is a gentleman’s game. Everything gets settled over a drink.

After the opponents had left, an old man in his sixties approached Vijay.

“I have played for this club for more than twenty years, between 1960 and 1980, but have never won a cup” he said and lit his pipe.

“But whatever the team has achieved today is enormous. I am glad that you helped us to win it”

“The pleasure is mine sir. I fully enjoyed the season. Thanks for the opportunity to play alongside some of the best players” Vijay said.

The old man smiled and said “Well played son!”

At that moment, Vijay felt like a kid in a bigger sweet shop. Getting an appreciation from one of the oldies was never easy. They always complain about the nature of the game played in modern times.

At the end of the season, the club had a party night and announced a lot of awards such as batsman of the year, bowler of the year and player of the year. The batsman and bowler of the year were purely awarded based on the statistics for the games played in the year, but the player of the year was based on voting by current and ex-players of the club.

At the end of the party, the old man, whom Vijay met at the end of the finals day took over the mike and started making an announcement.

“This year had been wonderful for us. Second place in the league and the prestigious planet cup” he said.

“To mark the successful year, I now announce the player of the year, this year” he said and paused for a moment. Everyone in the room was keen.

“And it is Vijay, especially for this stunts on the finals day” he said and laughed aloud.

The entire team applauded for Vijay, who was in a state of shock. He received the rolling award, a cricket bat that contained the names of the players who had won the award the previous years. Vijay looked at the bat. A lot of huge names were already there. Vijay was thrilled that he was a part of that elite club of players winning the player of the year award.

“Your name will go in there son” he said and handed over the bat.

Vijay felt like a kid inside the biggest sweet shop in the world. He got everything he wanted. He got what he wanted from one of the most prominent members in the board.

“Well played son” the old man said finally.

PS: Click here fo the web reference for the game

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The art of moving

“It is time to move on” Sam thought while packing his clothes in a suitcase. He felt a big sense of relief when he negotiated his contract with his agent so that he could move on to another apartment.

Every night was a nightmare for him while he stayed in his current apartment. The location was fantastic for a single person to stay as it was very close to all shops and transportation. Whatever he wanted, right form grocery till a video rental, and it was less than one hundred meters from his apartment. Moreover, his flat was right above a local fish and chips shop, the most famous one in that locality.

“Wait a minute! Staying on top of a fish and chips shop? Won’t that attract drunken teens late night? Will the place be peaceful or safe?” Little did Sam think about all these factors when he moved in four months back and he did pay the price for it. Every night, by one AM someone would knock the door and then hide somewhere. And this would continue until 3 AM. On some nights he used to hear sound of women crying, sometimes screaming, and sometimes both, but most of the times with some abusive words. If there was any advantage of staying in that apartment, he did learn a lot of ways to abuse people.

“Yeah, that is one advantage of being abused night after night” he thought while packing

For anyone, the sequence of events which would contain packing all the items in boxes, moving and unpacking carefully would be tiresome and boring. But, Sam was more than happy to go through this heavy load for one day rather than getting abused and humiliated for two hours in the night every night. New set of teens appeared every night, but the level of abuse was always standard!

Sam asked for help. A couple of his friends, Krishna and Gudla came along. Both of his friends were inspecting the kitchen.

“How can I pack all these vessels?” asked Gudla

“Boy! You have a lot for a single person!” Krishna declared.

“Use this” Sam said and gave them a bundle of refuse sacks.

“You want me to pack your kitchen in a refuse sack?” asked Krishna with a surprise.

“Yes. I don’t have anything else now. Stop asking questions and pack” Sam said and threw the bundle of refuse sacks at him.

Seven refuse sacks were full and ready for transportation within ten minutes. By the time kitchen was packed, Sam packed his bedroom in a couple of suitcases.

“What next?” Gudla asked.

“Well, I think we are ready. It’s time to call the cab and take these things” Sam said and pointed at seven refuse sacks, two suitcases, a big sack of onions and a television.

“Onions? Why would he pack the onions? Half of them are rotten anyway” Sam thought. But, he did not ask any questions at that time as his mind was preoccupied with a lot of things.

Sam opened his phone and dialed for the cab. The cab came within five minutes. They used the time to carry all the items from his flat to the main door below and parked all the items on the street. People who went past the street were anxiously looking at the packed items. Some thought “Well, that is too much of refuse for a single person flat” after looking at seven refuse sacks neatly lined up on the street.

“Dude, today is not the trash day” said Sam’s neighbor and smiled sarcastically.

“I know. Thanks!” Sam said and looked at the far end of the street, impatiently waiting for the cab.

Every minute, the number of anxious lookers was increasing and so his comfort was decreasing exponentially.

“God! When will this taxi arrive?” he thought.

After a minute, he consoled himself by thinking about the hard times he went thorough in the previous nights. All of that would be over soon. The thought of uninterrupted sleep all night was bliss for him.

The taxi arrived. So were the troubles. The driver looked at the packages, but initially thought they were only transporting the suitcases and the television.

“Waiting for the council guys to throw these away?” He asked and pointed at the seven refuse sacks.

Sam was silent for moment. Then he said “No, actually we want to take them in your taxi”

“What? That is not possible” He said immediately.

“Why not?” Gudla asked, raising his voice.

“Listen I am not here for a confrontation” He said and pulled his sleeves up. Sam gulped. All three gulped.

“I am going back” the driver said.

“Wait. Can you take the suitcases and the television?” Sam asked.

The driver thought about it for a moment and then agreed.

“And just one sack? It only contains kitchen items” Gudla said. Sam and Krishna froze.

“Is he Crazy? This driver is up for a fight!” Sam thought and was almost ready to run away in case of a fight.

“Let me ask my boss” he said and picked up his wireless devise.

“Listen mate. There are three guys here with seven refuse sacks. It looks ugly and big and they want to take them in my cab. Only god knows what the hell is inside” he said.

Sam could not control his laughter after listening to this conversation. After a couple of minutes, the driver said that his company would not allow taking refuse sacks no matter what (the hell) was inside.

“I can take the suitcases and the television if you want” the driver said.

The three guys looked at each other and finally agreed.

“We will look at other options for transporting your kitchen” Krishna said and smiled.

When they stared loading the suitcase in the boot, they realized that two big suitcases wouldn’t fit in. All they could fit was just one suitcase. But, they did not want to send the driver back, as they troubled him for twenty minutes, for the fear of being smacked in the middle of the street. So, they just loaded one suitcase and left everything behind.

“I will go along while you watch these things” Sam said to the other two guys.

“Is that all?” the driver asked and pointed his finger towards the back of the car.

“Yes” said Sam and sat in the front seat.

When the driver started the engine, Gudla came running towards Sam and asked him to open the window.

“Can you take his along with you? Just this one”
Gudla said and tried to hand over one full pack of onions, out of which the bottom half was rotten.

Sam was caught in the middle. Between the driver and Gudla. Literally. He looked at the driver who was red with anger and then he looked at Gudla, who was trying to push the pack of onions inside.

He looked at the driver and Gudla a few times, turning 180 degrees to check whether anyone would give up. But none did.

Finally, Gudla dropped the sack on Sam’s lap through the window that led Sam in a state of horror.

“God! I can’t even run now” he thought.

Pissed off with the guys, the driver gave the accelerator a severe push and off went the cab furiously.

Both the driver and Sam did not speak until they stopped the taxi at destination. Sam was still frozen with a sack of onions.

As soon as Sam got out of the cab, he asked “Are you ok to take one more trip?”

The driver pretended like he was deaf. It took around thirty minutes for him to negotiate and move one suitcase and a pack of onions for Sam. All the way, he was not happy with the guys and the goods moved.

After all the negotiations and frustrations, after thirty minutes being spent overall, and after a sack of onions was taken for a ride, the driver looked at the meter and said “That’s one pound and fifty pence sir!”

The driver had no idea that the new flat was just one hundred meters away. That, again, pissed him off as much as he could ever be pissed off.

“Even the KFC waiter gets eight pounds an hour. What did my taxi gain?” he asked, then snatched the money and sped away.

Sam felt bad about the whole episode. Especially with the sack of onions on his lap. But, he had other things to worry about.

“Now, how do I move my kitchen?” he thought.