Rahul wiped his forehead on his right sleeve before he took guard. The sun was beating down on the dilapidated stadium. He could hear the cheers from a couple of spectators in an otherwise silent stadium. He looked around at the field set for him by the rival captain for the final ball of the match. Mid-on and mid-off were up in the circle. There was a man at square on the boundary on the off side. That was to stop his favourite shot – the square cut. 5 runs to win in 1 ball. If he hit a boundary, the match would end in a tie and the opposition would be declared winners based on the number of wickets lost by both teams. His team had lost more. If he hit a six, they would win. Anything less than that and they would lose the 2017 National Cup finals. He had worked too hard for him to lose it all now. He remembered what his coach had always told him. Hit straight down the ground. Finally, the bowler was ready and so Rahul took guard. The fast bowler with the red cherry in hand charged towards him. At the very last moment Rahul came down the track and hit the ball straight over the bowler’s head. The ball went sailing into the sight-screen. A SIX! His team had won. He had done what many cricketers only dreamt of doing. Taken his team to victory off the final ball in a final! His team members came charging towards him from the pavilion screaming in joy. They didn’t even know what to say or do. All they did was scream. Rahul was over the moon. The sparse crowd that had come to the stadium cheered the winning team. Rahul ran a few paces and pumped his fist towards his parents sitting in the crowd. They waved back at him beaming.
After representing his state team for 10 years, he had finally managed to take them to their first ever finals victory single handed. It had taken a superlative batting performance from him throughout the tournament to get them into the finals. And he managed to score an unbeaten 83 and also managed to hit the winning runs. That night Rahul and his team celebrated like there was no tomorrow.
The following morning was a big day. Young Rahul had never played beyond his state team. His only goal in life was to get into the Indian cricket team and represent the country like so many other youngsters. He was 28 years old now and some called it the peak age of a batsman. The World Cup was just a couple of months away. If he missed the bus now, he would have to wait another 4 years to play in a world cup. He had slogged for 10 years in the domestic circuit always coming to the fringe of being selected but then losing out to someone else. But this year had been a phenomenal one for him. Every time he wasn’t selected, he would be told that he should perform better so that he could keep knocking on the selectors doors. He had scored so many runs this year that he knew that he had broken open that door. Today would be his first big test as it was the auction day for the IPL. Different franchises would bid for players and try to get them to play for them. He knew he had scored enough runs to get into any IPL team and was very confident about being selected. All he wanted to know was which team he would represent so that he could score enough runs and strengthen his chances of playing for the country because that was the only thing he was obsessed about. He had waited for 10 years. Some of his younger team members were already in the Indian team and he felt that time was running out for him. The auctions started. Halfway through it he got picked by a franchise for a whopping 80 lakh rupees.
The tournament was an unbelievable success for him as he shone match after match. From playing in front of a few hundred spectators he was now suddenly playing before thousands who started cheering for him as each match went by. From being an unknown commodity he suddenly became a household name. By the end of the tournament he knew something big was coming his way.
15th October – The day that the Indian team for the World Cup would be selected. That day had finally arrived. The team would be announced at 11 AM. Rahul decided to watch the news with his parents and a few close relatives. He wanted to have his parents around so that if he wasn’t selected, they would be around to console and comfort him as they had done so many times earlier. It was time now. Rahul waited with bated breath. He wasn’t so nervous even when he faced the last ball during the National Cup finals. And then they announced it. The 15-member team had Rahul Sharma’s name in it. His moment had finally come. He embraced his parents with tears of joy. They had waited for this as much as he had. His mother wouldn’t let the hug go. Sweets were immediately distributed to the neighbours and Rahul was inundated with phone calls.
Five of his state team mates came over to celebrate with him. They were close friends and had been a part of Rahul’s journey. They decided to party at a disco-tech nearby. And they did party that night. They danced, they drank, they sang. Finally, at around 3 AM they all decided to head back home together in their SUV. They were still singing in the car on the highway when an oncoming truck lost control and hit their SUV. The SUV flipped a couple of times on the road before it smashed on to the guard rail by the side. It became quiet again before the siren of the ambulances cut through the silence of the night.
Author’s Note:1. This story is the first chapter of a 3 part story which will follow in the subsequent posts on Monday and Friday.
2. I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge.