Anyway, I had last left story at the point where I had come to a nadir with respect to my fielding. Although my bowling had improved quite well- not quite as well as I would’ve liked, my fielding was fast unbecoming.
So, a few months later, when we began to play cricket (in our last semester in college), I was determined to set the record right. We were now playing in a different place- in the barren lands adjoining the sports block. So I thought- a new place, a new day.
Indeed it was, I was asked to open, and played quite well. However I tried to loft a fast half volley on my legs when I must have just flicked it away with my strong wrists, and holed out to long on. I guess I need more batting practice to start using the full range of my strokes, and make judgments as to choose which stroke for which ball. The fact that I’ve learnt it is a different story- narrated later in this series.
Anyway, after having given a good start to the innings, it was propelled to a good finish by the other batsmen, and we had a good score to defend. I was asked to field at long on this time- quite a new position for me, which is usually kept for bowlers who can easily change after overs during a spell. I was asking God- please give me a chance to prove myself.
And give it He did very soon. Early into the innings, Vijay pulled a short one; got the top edge and the ball flew in my direction. I quickly focused on in it like a hawk focuses on its prey, unwavering from the ball, and my feet started to move all by themselves in the right direction. I moved like in a trance truly and I felt the ball dying, thought it might fall before me so I leaned forward at the last moment and pouched it comfortably, close to my thigh, with both hands.
My joy knew no bounds that I threw the ball high up in delight, while still continuing the run towards the bowler’s end. My first catch in the deep! The fact that I had caught this ball fielding at long on, while my own demise was by holing out to the same place was poetic justice to me.
And there was more to come on the same day.
Later in the innings I had been shifted to long off and another top edge sailed straight to me. This time I was confident. I followed the ball like a missile homes in on its target. I knew I didn’t have to move at all for this. I just steadied my position, bent my knees slightly without moving an inch, and pocketed the gift right down my throat with my palms in the protective posture. It was a catch as cool as it gets- in fact I was calmness personified (true to my name Prashanth), and my technique seemed so perfect that I had even taken care to not prevent my palms from hiding the ball from my eyes even at the last moment. Sadly, the ball was a no-ball. I had seen it the moment the bowler (Shankar) had overstepped, but I didn’t allow thoughts that this was going to be a useless catch to bother me. In fact, I told myself the umpire wouldn’t have noticed the overstepping, but it was going to be a futile prayer. He had crossed the line by a large distance, and it would take a blind man not to see that.
Anyway, I was happy I hadn’t spilled any of the catches so far. If the first made me happy, the second made me delightful.
And there was to be a third as well. This one made me delirious. This time I was back at my stock position; yes you guessed it- square leg. We had just finished a high scoring match which we had won, and we expected to see more fireworks by the end of the day. Right in the first over of the match there were signs. A boundary had been hit, fine off the leg side. Later in the over, Ramkumar (Rockram) pulled a short one, and the ball was heading to me at square leg. This time, I had no issues; nothing at all. I just watched the ball, followed the basics and pocketed another catch- 3 on 3! That catch started a slide, and wickets tumbled. The match was at a stark contrast to the previous one where wickets were at a premium, Prakash and I were amazed at the fickleness of fortunes in the cricket pitch.