“When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I’m feeling sad..
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad..!”
We all had sung along. Squished cosily in the middle of our parents on a cold winter evening; wearing two different socks from two different pairs, gulping down the warm milk of Bournvita that had been forced down our necks, we had all assembled together to watch what our mothers would call their “favourite” film. As Julie Andrews crooned along in “The Sound of Music”, drawing pictures of raindrops settled perfectly on the roses, we found ourselves drifting back to the things had delighted us back then.
The extra hour of play added to our strict schedules. The cans of butter cookies in their colourful steel containers. The paper boats made and re-made on a heavy monsoon morning. The coloured dress was worn to school on one’s birthday. Maybe even the extra 50 paisa added to our safely-guarded piggy-banks. In a world where innocence prevailed, the small joys transcended into our favourite things; meant to be held close and dear.
Not much has changed. Even though the perplexity of our lives has increased manifold and the struggles, even more, seated across the office desk overlooking the single frame of the window on the freshly-coated white wall, our eyes wander off into the vast unknown. It searches and scans the expanse of the empty sunny street outside. On a warm weekend afternoon, as the world sleeps, you remain awake, caught up in the professional world of no escape.
Hours have passed by. The pending documents have been scripted and filed. In a quick jiffy and in dire need of a distraction, your vision again screams out into the world beyond that tiny window. In your caged-life, it offers the only means of a metaphorical escape. Hoping to wade off away from the drudgery for just a split-second, you notice a group of young boys emerging from varied directions, to unite on a pre-allocated spot. Equipped with bricks and sticks; tennis balls and tattered gloves, you know what lies ahead.
You attentively witness the bunch of young men divide themselves into two. The scorn on the last “cricketer” to be picked made you sheepishly smile. Till a few years ago, you had been in his position. Someone who could hardly bat or bowl, forget diving around. But someone who took the field because of the mere joy it had provided.
At sharp 4 pm, the study books would be closed and with an attitude of purpose, footsteps would take off towards the small lane across the mill. The next three hours would be spent adorning the garb of Sachin Tendulkars and Wasim Akrams, as you and your band of boys took the field as either India or Pakistan. The match had a purpose. The match had intent. For any passer-by, the shrieks while running between the “wickets”, which had been scantily traced using white chalk and the shouts when the ball had passed through the hands of the fielder at mid-on could have been a cacophony of unpleasant sounds but at that moment, standing on that cricket field, you were always the happiest.
And why wouldn’t you be?
The dream of becoming India’s next Rahul Dravid had never escaped you. You were proud of your wrist positions and the footwork while smashing the cover drive was almost Dravidesque. You had the stamina for patience and the ebbs and flows provided you with an adrenaline rush. One delivery, you were shamelessly left bamboozled by the googly. The very next it was smacked away for a boundary. You learnt to applaud the good moves and get back up after your follies. You realised that to emerge successfully, the support of a strong team mattered. By perfecting your vulnerabilities and overriding the fluctuations, every weekend for three hours, you learnt the art of not only seam bowling and switch-hits but also the traits of being a humble and a composed individual.
As you frantically catch up on the scores of the India-South Africa innings, where Kagiso Rabada has bounced out Hardik Pandya with a barrage of bouncers, you stop and stare. And think. On a tough wicket, against an even tougher opponent, the Indian Cricket Team has shown the way for a memorable comeback. Down and out with the loss of seven wickets, the Virat Kohli side it had been assumed had squandered any chance of existence. But the emergence of Pandya and his confident nonchalance not only dented the momentum of Morne Morkel, it also gave birth to a fighting hero; one who marks his territory when the unfavourable is going his way.
The pendulum kept swaying. South Africa were in with a chance one day and India on the other. The bowling had been perfected and the chances were present. Each day and each ball provided a new opportunity- an opportunity to forget the past and to script a memorable beginning. An opportunity to correct the imperfections but also to realise that at times, it is not only beauty that trumps. It is one’s determination and mettle that sets the way towards future gloom or despair.
Pandya had tried to be the unsuccessful saviour but as he departed he did so after giving off integral lessons on survival and conquest; trial and toil.
It is the biggest test of your life. The biggest that there ever will be. The childhood dream lies in the beckoning; the years of sacrifice finally stare towards a well-deserved culmination. In your own den, in the most crucial match of your career, you set foot out towards the crease in the final match of the Cricket World Cup. It is your moment to shine; to save the team the blushes and guide them towards a never-to-be-forgotten triumph.
You scared as ever, race your mind back to that very evening when the sun was setting on the by-lanes near the mill. Over the three hours that evening, when you had dreamt of winning the trophy for your country, you were dismissed off as just another starry-eyed youngster with unattainable hopes.
Today, as the crowd of sixty-five thousand moves along as one, chanting out your name aloud in excited anticipation, you walk out with an undeterred joy. Standing out in the middle, awaiting the final delivery, with pressure mounting on all sides, you smile the widest. You stand the happiest. The happiest that you will ever be.