This story originally appeared in my short-story series, Easy But Hard. In this series, I take a look at stories of people that are easily forgotten.
Subscribe to add a small dose of fiction in your busy inbox.
The cricketer who never played
“Satya, you’re on the team today,” the captain of the High School Cricket team said.
It was the inter-school cricket championship. Despite trying hard, the school had always managed to find its place somewhere in the middle of the team standings. This year, however, the captain and the coach were determined to turn things around. Instead of practicing thrice every week, they made people practice five times a week – every morning before school began at 8:00 am.
It was as if the coach had received an ultimatum – if he didn’t ensure the school won, he would be fired.
So far, in the three matches they had played, the team had won only one game. Of the remaining four qualifying matches, they would have to win at least three to ensure a berth in the semi-finals.
The team atmosphere was morose this morning. One of their middle-order batsmen was injured. Of the three reserve players, only one was a batsman – Satya.
Satya nodded to the captain, but a chill went across his body. He had been in the 14-player cricket squad for the last two years but had never played a single game. The reason – the team had enough batsmen, all of them better than him. His only role on the team was to sit in the dugout and run with water when someone needed it. He was fine with the role – it allowed him a chance to miss some dreadful Science classes in order to practice.
The captain added Satya’s name to the roster before heading out for the toss. The twenty-over game was to be played in the morning. Satya looked at the playing team stretching near the dugout. One of the batsmen was practicing his strokes without a ball, while a bowler was stretching his knee. Satya had never been a part of these warm-up sessions as he was never on the playing team. His face was red in fear.
He started stretching alongside the team. As they bent down for stretching their hamstrings, the captain came jogging towards them. He declared that they had won the toss and had to bat first. He then announced the order of batting. Satya was number 5 in line. Satya hoped he didn’t have to bat, considering the openers’ performance in the last two matches.
The openers started padding up, while the others went back to their seats. They started discussing the bowlers in the opposition. There was news of a fast bowler, who easily clocked 130 kmph – faster than most people in the school could handle. This bowler had a reputation for targeting the batsman’s shoes. If your bat missed his ball, your toes would be broken.
Satya padded up and stayed in his seat. Overs went by, as the openers gave the team a slow, but a solid start. With such fierce opposition, it was important to stay put for twenty overs and score at least a hundred runs.
The first wicket fell in the ninth over, when the score was 59. The opener went for a pull shot, dragging the ball onto the stumps. The second wicket fell in the tenth over. The third in the thirteenth over – when the score was still 64.
The captain patted Satya’s back and pushed him out of the dugout. Satya had cold feet as he walked towards the crease.
Standing in front of the stumps, he took a look around him. Three fielders were standing close to him, waiting for him to hit the ball directly to them. The wicket keeper’s mouth was constantly uttering non-sense as Satya took guard. Satya tapped his bat on the crease.
The bowler paced towards him. He swung his arm in action as he passed the umpire, bending the ball so that it had an inward swing. Satya’s reflexes kicked in, as he raised his bat and lowered it beside his left foot. His eyes were still looking at the bowler, while his bat had been slower than required.
The bat hit the ball just in time to prevent it from going on to the stumps. The ball slipped onto his left leg instead. First ball – safe.
The bowler went back to repeat his action. The wicketkeeper continued to pressurize Satya. The scoreboard was still at 64. Satya looked at the dugout – three members were standing, clapping for him. The coach had a stern, wide-eyed look. He was known for verbally thrashing players who didn’t perform well.
Satya looked back at the bowler. This time, he was determined to look at the ball and push it away from himself. As the ball approached the pitch, Satya’s eyes followed the trajectory. The ball was heading away from the stumps on the off-side. Satya swung his bat, but again slower than was required. The ball hit the bat’s edge and headed straight towards the wicket-keeper. Satya’s heart rate went up.
The wicket-keeper dropped the catch.
The batsman from the other side walked towards Satya and patted him on the back. He asked Satya to push the ball for a single run. Satya would then be on the other side. Satya nodded. The next ball, he decided to push the ball towards the leg side, since there was a huge gap that could allow him a single run.
The ball, however, hit the pitch, and swung towards him. His bat was once again too late to hit the ball. This time the bat missed the ball, as it went on to hit the middle stump.
Along with the match, this was the end of Satya’s professional batting career. He never played for the school team again. He wondered several times if he would do better, given another chance. But the injured batsman was back in the next game.
Satya realized that he couldn’t face the fast deliveries as he did not have enough practice. He kept practicing throughout the rest of his schooling days but never played in the team.
If you’ve read this far, I need your support. Please subscribe to my short story series, Easy But Hard to get short stories directly to your email.