Short Story: Silly Point

Short Story

Silly Point

I

Vijay strapped the helmet on and crouched into position. The setting sun’s rays were now entering from over the stadium galleries right into his eyes under his helmet’s shade. Vijay’s face cringed. It was difficult keeping his eyes on the ball from this angle. His hands were in position, firmly yet softly. His eyes were narrowed in concentration. Like a tiger, he waited for the prey to make the slightest mistake. The light on his face turned to shade as the batsman drew forward, blocking the sun in the process. Vijay crouched ever so slightly as the ball hit the bat and went straight down into the ground below the bat.

Vijay raised himself. The batsman drew himself back. The rays of the sun were in his face again. The sun seemed to be climbing lower and lower rapidly by the minute. Oh no!, Vijay thought to himself. It did not look like even the remaining ten mandatory overs would be possible any more. The final wicket still remained to be taken and Justin was standing like a rock between them and a victory which seemed to be all but theirs a couple of hours back. This was the first test of the home series against the team ranked #1 in the official Test rankings. And thanks to an injury to a senior batsman just the day before the match was to start, Vijay was told to prepare himself. Prepare to play his first match of his life at the international stage.

A dream debut for a nineteen-year old, the media had screamed. And how Vijay did justice to the expectations! When his turn to bat came at the fall of the fourth wicket, his team was already strongly placed. The instruction from the team management was to go out and play his free-flowing aggressive game, which had brought him into the selectors’ notice and till here. Out came Vijay and the next few hours were like a dream. By the time he was dismissed for 76, the score was 413/8. The crowd deliriously applauded the young boy as he walked off, his face gleaming with sweat and satisfaction.

Taking a healthy lead in the first innings and another strong batting performance in the second innings just followed smoothly, as India set the visitors an unassailable target on the final day. The first nine wickes fell with thirty overs still to go. And then the resistance begun. The experienced Justin negotiated everything thrown at him and even farmed the strike for most of the partnership.

The final delivery of Vipul’s over was left alone by Justin. Over, the umpire called out. Vijay took his helmet off. Nine more overs to go. As the junior-most member in the side, fielding at one of the close-in positions is a ritual. Vijay had been fielding in silly point for much of the match. These fielding positions were dangerous places to be be standing at, right in the batsman’s firing zone – hence the name, silly.

It would be the leg-spinner Zubeen to bowl now. The sun was on Vijay’s back. This was much better. Vijay clapped, more to refocus on the job at hand than to instigate the team. The close-in orchestra had anyway begun to die down over the last few overs. The crowd’s roar was turning into a hushed silence. Vijay’s eyebrows furrowed as Zubeen ran in. Thomas, the lanky fast bowler, was on strike. He played away the first delivery without a fuss. The second delivery turned viciously after pitching on middle-and-leg, kissed the outside edge of the bat but somehow fell short of the first slip. The spectators howled a collective sigh. And then it happened.

Zubeen’s third delivery was on a good length. Thomas, who had been the personification of patience till now, ran abruptly out of his crease. The ball had no business jumping the way it did. All the same, it did jump up ferociously after pitching, like a serpent rearing its head. The awkward bounce took Thomas completely by surprise. Vijay saw the ball miss the bat, hit the batsman’s left pad and pop up. Lunging forward intuitively, he just managed to get his fingers underneath the ball before it touched the ground. As Vijay rolled over with the ball in his outstretched right hand, the ten men inside the ground and the multitude in the galleries had broken into a cry of delight. Vijay had hardly picked himself up when he was hugged by the onrushing Zubeen. Over Zubeen’s shoulders, to his great disbelief, Vijay saw the umpire raising his dreaded finger. It was over! Victory! Vijay was numbed for a moment. The catch was clean, Vijay had no doubt about that. Only, it was never a catch in the first place. The ball, Vijay knew, had never made contact with Thomas’ bat. He did not dare look at Thomas. In fact, it would have been difficult even if he had wanted to. The scenes around him were absolutely frenzied. His team-mates were uprooting the stumps in delight. The bench was rushing into the ground to join in the celebrations. A victory that seemed to be slipping from their grasp was delivered suddenly out of nowhere!

II

At the team dinner that night, after the initial euphoria had set in, Vijay pondered if he should really ask aloud the question that had been stuck in his mind like a needle since evening. Did his mates really believe that that ball had come off the edge of the bat, or did they appeal just out of a sort of desperate anticipation? Or did they appeal despite knowing that the ball had missed the willow? Vijay knew the truth in his mind. He was not sure what the TV cameras had picked up though. Come on, who was he fooling! Of course the cameras had picked it up. What were all those cameras there for anyway!

Vijay looked around at everyone around him. The mood was one of jubilation. Jokes were being shared to the sound of laughter all around. The food was heavenly. Vijay recalled a hilarious joke he had heard from a friend last night. This had to be shared.

2 Responses to “Short Story: Silly Point

  • Aw! I thought there was more to it. I wanted it to continue. 🙂 The first few lines, though, it took me sometime to get past them. The rest was breezy. Keep writing!

    • Haha, thanks a lot! The abrupt ending was due to a mixture of an intention to shock and some laziness 😛

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