Thursday, February 28, 2008

Memorable Moments of cricket in SSN III

Well, its been quite some time since I last updated this series that one starts to think I make up all these memories and that I haven't had any new ideas as of late. I must say to all these non-believers that these are authentic experiences I have been part of in my colorful life.

Anyway, back to my memories.I have always been a sharp fielder especially in the close in position which I developed in my childhood by playing my cricket in confined spaces. There you needed extremely to be extremely watchful to stop the lusty blows from batsmen standing not more than ten metres from you. You had to look, move and grab all at the span of milliseconds. There was no question of deflecting the ball- you either stopped it completely or not at all, as the ball would still reach the boundary even if you got a hand to it.

And direct hits were a must if you wanted to remove wickets regularly. Come to think of it- what with small grounds (you couldn't call my backyard a ground in the actual sense) capable batsmen with powerful hitting, under-arm bowling, no wicket-keeper dismissal (the wall was the stump) and no lbw rule, the only ways to remove a batsman was to bowl him with a fast ball, a very wily one, a catch- all of which were highly unlikely, or a run out. With short boundaries, runs were fetched in the stand-and-deliver manner more often. And with the pitches being short too, you would say there's little chance of a run-out. However you would find it surprising that quite q few important dismissals were run-outs. A sharp fielder who grabs the ball and returns in the nick of time can effect more dismissals than any wily bowler.

Anyway, I learned the art of direct hits there- I don't miss many even now. However the skills I
couldn't learn fielding in the heat of that arena were- naturally those learned in large expansive
spaces- long distance catches and throws. My fielding in the deep was underdeveloped to say the
I was never a good judge of catches and my limitations were blatantly exposed in one fateful match.

I was standing in deep square leg- my usual fielding position then. The batsman pulled a short ball and the ball sped in my direction, in a beautiful parabolic trajectory and I rushed forward in an attempt to prove myself, only to find, in horror, the ball sailing way over my head. It was a misjudgment like no other! The ball would have been right down my throat if I had only stood my ground in the first place.
The guys shrugged it off as a one-off incident. Little did they, or I knew that more was in the
pipeline! The next ball was similarly short and consequently the shot and trajectory no different.

However, this time I was ready- or so I thought. I stood there rooted to my spot expecting the ball like a girl waiting for her estranged lover, but the ball swerved from its purported path, and fell down out of exhaustion not more than half way before its destination! I realized too late that the ball didn't have enough in it to reach me.
I was repeatedly reprimanded by my team-mates for not reading the ball through the air, and was moved to square cover with a strict warning. I was happy now that I was in my favorite position and felt I had seen the last of my misfortunes for the day.

Sadly, it was not to be! In my position you need to look for catches on both sides by stretching your arms far and wide. Its the exact position Yuvraj used to be and where Rohit Sharma is now.
The next ball (of course, it was not the next ball chronologically- its just the next ball of
importance in my story. Perhaps I must add the prefix "later". In fact, it was the last over of the
innings) was short and wide (again!) and it was duly slashed with a horizontal bat. The intention
was to execute a fiery square cut, however the batsman looked with horror as the ball ballooned,
rather launched itself in the vertical direction, stayed afloat for an eternity, and after a vain
attempt to reach the heavens, it began to descend towards me after its lengthy sojourn.

The fact that I was the only one who could go for the catch made me feel naked, however I reassured myself saying this was my chance for redemption, and such chances don't come easier. I didn't move this time- keeping my eyes on the ball all the time, and rightly so- as the ball didn't move from its laser-straight path. It was bound to end up in my hands. It was as certain as the Sun would set soon that day, and everyday. The ball came down, I clutched it, and... botched the catch!

The ball slipped out of my hands as if it had a mind of its own. I had dropped the mother of all simple catches! I couldn't believe what had just happened. How many ever times I try to look at it I don't know what went wrong. Everything had been perfect- my technique had been flawless.

It was the last incident to cap an already rotten day. I had to end the day apologizing to all and sundry. The catch itself had no bearing in the match- they just took one run and it was the last over of the match. However, I couldn't bear the ignominy of such a deed.

I had determined myself to improve on this very important area of my cricket. How I did and came out with flying colors is what the next episode is about!

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