I felt the sweat collect on my left eyebrow as it trickled down into the corner of my eye. I don’t know if it was the heat, the fact that I was wearing a plastic helmet or that I was a nervous wreck. I was trebling and shivering as watched my team, one-by-one leave the pavilion and return within five minutes. I was my first real match and that too in the most prestigious tournament of the year. I couldn’t concentrate on the shots I would play or watch how the ball was behaving. The only thought in my mind at that moment was how I would be made a fool of if I didn’t score.
I was ninth on the list and six were already out, next wicket and I would have to walk out into the greens. I could just picture it, the first ball I would get, bang on the middle stump sending it cart wheeling over 10 meters. It happened before, last year a boy called Akash who had just joined, was out on the first ball a golden duck and he hadn’t come to practice since. I didn’t want that to happen to me but that’s the only thing I could picture, the thought would just not leave me.
It was time for me to face my fear, Anshul had been given out LBW. I got to my feet as sluggishly as I could to just prolong my humiliation. I started to walk, sweat still dripping from my face, towards the pitch. When I reached the field, I saw that everyone’s eyes were fixed on me. It made me even more tense and pressured. I tried calming myself down by flapping my arms up and down but then my conscience kicked in as they always do, so I stop acting like a bird.
I reached the crease, took my guard and wiped the sweat off my brow. I was terrified, I stood there staring past the umpire at the bowler who at that time looked like the most ferocious human being that I had ever seen. He started his run-up. As he drew closer and closer, as if my eyes were zooming in on him I started recoil, almost knocking over the only thing that was between me and guaranteed embarrassment, the wicket. I stopped, trying to strengthen myself. I tried to see the bowl leave the bowlers hand so that I would know what to expect. The fiery red smudge was just too quick for eyes to track it. It reappeared as it bounced off the dirt leaving behind it a trail of escalating dust. I felt my body take over, the bat swung but to my dismay the ball darted past the edge and skimmed my shoulder on its way into the safe hands of the keeper.
Though I had missed the ball I felt relief fill my body. I had survived the first ball. Now all I had to do was block the next five balls and I was safe I thought to myself.
I took my position again as the bowler came at me looking much less fierce now. The ball seemed to move in slow motion as it left the bowlers hand, it was exactly like it was in the practice nets. The ball bounced about half a meter to my left and started to curve back in as if it was a feather in a gust of wind. It hit me on the thigh, I jumped in an impulse. This had happened so many times before but it never hurt this much. It was excruciating. I went down on my knees and tried to let go of the pain.
Taking a deep breath I got in front of the stumps and prepared for the next delivery. This one bounced high and had a more pace on it. It brushed past my helmet and flew over the keeper and out of his reach as it carried on to the boundary for four runs.
I was determined for to at least get ball-on-bat. I had kept my eyes from blinking so that there would be no chance of me missing the ball. The ball kept low as it hit a soft spot in the pitch and skidded on to my bat. I had gotten my bat in front of it, in spite of its distance from the ground. A smile filled my face as I looked at the ball which was lying in front of me finally motionless.
The bowler was now getting frustrated at the fact that he hadn’t gotten me, a number nine batsman, out yet. He came in much faster than he had done the previous four deliveries. It was a mistake on his part as he over-stepped and it was a no-ball. Seeing the opportunity I swung at the ball and made considerable contact. The ball soared into the air for about 3 seconds and then started to dip. I watched, running in the process, as the ball fell comfortably in to the fielder’s hand. He began to celebrate but as soon as he looked at the umpire the cheers died down.
The fielders and bowler quickly returned to their positions, I had run to the non-strikers end during the course of the previous delivery. So I watched as the bowlers once again steamed in. Ashif, the other batsman, hit the ball into the gap but the shot lacked power and we only managed to pick up a single. This meant that I was back on strike for the final delivery of the over.
I stood there waiting for that last delivery with only one thing in mind, hit it as far as possible. The ball arrived and instinctively I got on to one knee and swung the bat, sending the ball flying through the blue sky and passing by the scorching sun and landing over the boundary rope. It was a six. I don’t know why I did it but I raised my arms in the air and roared in a triumphant manner. I had lasted the over.