Written and Submitted by: Ponnaisaamy Venkatesan (P.V)
For due consideration of: Mr. Duncan Fletcher (Head Coach Sir)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mental Conditioning Coach Sir)
Sunday, September 23, 2012.
Match 1: India vs England
Dr. Lecter has assigned me to keep a journal of things that go through my mind while I sit in the dugout as the team’s twelfth man. He said it helps cool off the pressure and also keeps my mind off the perpetual embarrassment. I am not sure what that last part meant, I have been twelfth man for fifty-three times in my cricketing career and I am proud of it. Every job has its own dignity, my maternal grandfather used to tell me.
My grandfather was a great man with such great thoughts; too bad he died young. He wasn’t even into his nineties.
So what’s going through my mind… ? The match, of course! The team needs 212 runs to win with seven wickets in hand, in 16 overs. Looks tough, but never impossible, as Dhoni sir says while opening crate after crate of champagne during our post-match celebrations. Mr. Fletcher, I know you have forbidden me from addressing anyone around as ‘Sir’ except Mr. N. Srinivasan sir and Mr. Billy Bowden sir, but I cannot help it. The sheer respect is overpowering, and I will cut down in later journal-entries.
Kohli sir is at the crease, but looks uncomfortable… Wait! He’s calling for me! I’ll be right back.
God, I hope they didn’t see that. I know you are wondering what I just meant by ‘they’, Fletcher sir. I will get to that in a bit.
Meanwhile, I am upset! Kohli, yes ‘Kohli’ can be so mean at times! So what if both the gloves I got him were left-handed? Don’t we all make mistakes? What is the need for such expletives? Thank God for Pathan sir who came up from the non-striker’s end, or I would have never realized what Kohli had been screaming meant.
Let me cool off for a while…
The match is progressing perfectly. We need 150 runs to win in 9 overs, with five wickets still in hand. Dhoni sir is sitting right next to me, and has padded up. He looks cool and confident, and I admire that about him. What a man! He surely has some plan in his mind, only I am too dumb to not figure it out. I am sure he shares his plans with the playing XI, because for some clever reason surely, Harbhajan sir is padded up too.
I just ran to Raina sir with that bottle of orange water, and he did it again! Drank it all up in one gulp and spat it out! How disgusting, to waste it like this. I have never even tasted it because Sehwag sir told me it contained pork-liver, but still… you shouldn’t spit out and waste things!
In my village, if you waste food, the village-head slaps your buttocks thrice. So, we are too careful to avoid any such mishaps, especially the women-folk.
Speaking of my village, it is called Puthupatti, located in the outer reaches of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. I have played cricket since I was in my 3rd grade. I was only about 15 then, and even at that tender age, I used to bowl some mean yorkers. (I still bowl the same way, Fletcher sir, but for some reason it lands at exactly half the length of the pitch)
Years passed, and by 25, I was playing the Ranji Trophy for Tamil Nadu! Actually sir, I had wanted to play for Railways, so that I could become a Ticket Examiner in AC Coaches of trains and I could have a source of income. That had been my uncle’s idea.
My uncle, sir now there’s the shrewdest person you will ever meet. He is a jaggery-merchant, one of the richest people in the village. He also donates honey to the poor and to the temple every other Sunday (that ‘honey’ is just molten jaggery, sir. I hope you will keep that between us because the last time I told of what I’d discovered to someone and he found out, he set his dogs after me).
You know that I had a stint in the Indian Premier League with the Kolkata Knight Riders. I was paid around two-lakh rupees, and suddenly everyone thought I was the richest man in my village. But no one knows the truth-my uncle took away all that money as dowry to marry my sister. I can’t blame him, though; he had already stated that condition, “I will have every rupee the brother makes in the IPL, or his sister will remain unmarried forever.” My sister was 32, Fletcher sir, so I had to oblige.
The match is a tilting a bit in England’s favor at the moment, I think. We need 85 to win off 5 overs, with 5 wickets in hand. Dhoni sir still looks confident, and so will I. Ha! Stuart Broad comes to bowl; we are going to win this!
You’d think making it to the IPL made me a hero in my village. Of course, media-persons from two international channels, ‘Jaaga 24×7’ and ‘BABA-networkZ’ did come to interview me, but apart from that, it was all very unpleasant.
When my father first ran to the village-center and screamed about his son’s proud achievement, the villagers thought he was barking mad. He had been, sir, that is indeed true, but that was 5 months ago! Why do people judge a man by his past? Then he showed them the newspaper, and they believed him. A huge procession was arranged in my honor, and I was lifted upon shoulders and a garland of five-rupee note was put on me by the village-head. It was all fun, until the spoilt son of the village-head asked me which team I had been selected in.
I screamed out “KKR!”
They had all been wearing yellow jerseys. I instantly became the most hated man in the village, and after the IPL finals, my mother called me up and told me the back of our house has become a public urinal.
I didn’t much enjoy my time with KKR either. Gambhir sir was making me do push-ups for three hours a day for two months and I only played two matches.
Sir, there is something I’d like to confess at this point. More of a request, actually. That huge screen to one side of the stadium, please ask the organizers to turn it off when I take the field. I find it very distracting, in fact the first match I took to the field for KKR, I kept nervously glancing over my shoulder to see if my face appeared in it. This caused me to drop Irfan Pathan sir’s catch at long on, actually the ball hit the back of my head and knocked me off. I was told later that it went for a six, and Pathan sir went on to win Delhi the match.
I was not served my quota of usual curd-rice for the next two weeks. Punishment, Fletcher sir, Gambhir sir does not take failures lightly.
My second appearance was in the finals! You’d think it’s a once in a lifetime experience, but I have faced enough trouble to last a lifetime because of that. On the eve of the match, news came in that the village-head had bought a color-TV and everyone would be huddled around it to watch the match. I decided I would cover my face with that white-cream Australian players use, but then came a guy in a wedding-dress, and without a word, wrapped a wire-mike around my neck. I will never forget his name.
For the first six overs or so, it was his voice playing in my ears. And it was complete gibberish! “Venky, do you think this one will go down the wire?” ,”Venky, that last shot from Vijay went off like a tracer bullet. When he flashes, he flashes hard, don’t you think?” I looked around helplessly, trying to find out where this guy was sitting. “Venky, Chennai’s really packing it hard today, isn’t it? Speaking of Chennai, do you love the cuisine or the beach? Of course, it’s no Bondi beach or Hawaii but the jewels glitter here too, if you know what I mean…”
I still have nightmares about him, Fletcher sir.
But the worst was our team-owner. I mean, what’s the deal with that guy! Shah Rukh Khan, calls himself King, because he acted in a few Hindi movies- the arrogance! Three feet shorter than Rajnikanth sir, and yet how he jumps around after every match!
When I got to kiss the Cup after winning the finals, I tasted cigarette on my lips.
The next two days were a blur. On the first night, Yusuf Pathan sir had been throwing around random punches and dancing to this weird Hindi song Chammak Challo, and threw up a champagne bottle which landed on my head. The next day, we were in Kolkata, where the chief minister, who was in a KKR-edition saree presented secretly by that Khan, stockpiled sweets into my mouth so much so that I choked.
And then I got into Team India…
I guess my story will have to wait for the next time. The match just got really interesting! We need 39 to win off that last over, and we still have 5 wickets in hand.
So signing off. Please, do leave your feedback, Fletcher sir.
P.S : Sachin Tendulkar SIR finally spoke to me last Monday at 3:39 P.M! He advised me to wear my gloves after padding up and everything else! That has really helped me sir, thank him from me!