In the dark of the dressing room, Rohit Sharma was waiting for the end. The end of the Pakistan series – the end of his cricketing career. The Indian fans can forget thirteen runs in five innings but they would not forget the chief architect of a series loss to Pakistan. Which he was in the course of becoming in a matter of less than twenty four hours.
And this was serious – even the somnolent selectors would be forced to act. After all, the neighbours were visiting after five years – the whole team had gathered on national television and Twitter, muttering “Aane do.” A series loss would mean egg on the faces of those holding the reins of Indian cricket – and we are not talking about the NECC campaign.
Tendulkar’s retirement had been nothing short of an obituary to the Indian cricket team but it had hurt Rohit the most. While Sachin was playing, he could warm the bench and ruminate on more important things – the IPL and the occasional tri-series in Zimbabwe.
Even that cursed Manoj Tiwary, who had been breathing down his neck for quite some time now, was injured. If he had been there, maybe Dhoni would have been forced to give him a go and Rohit could retire to the inviting climes of the dressing room, collect his dues for the day and have a laugh about it. He would work his way back to form in the IPL and everything would be hunky-dory. The Indian fans can forget everything after all. Except Pakistan.
He spent his last evening drafting e-mails. He wrote a long mail to Nita Ambani thanking her for everything and promised to be one of her major assets in the next IPL if given an opportunity. He also wrote a mail to Krish Srikkanth inviting him for a drink and discussion of career opportunities the next Saturday. The last mail was for Sakshi Dhoni asking her to get Z-grade security for him the next time he went to get the groceries. He never once thought about someone else equally
tainted talented like him.
Someone whose footsteps in the empty dressing room made him jump. There stood Ravindra Jadeja wearing his Ravindra Jain shades and THAT Mona Lisa smile which could (but never did) provide an explanation as to how he enjoyed the masochism of getting hammered by all and sundry.
“Bhai, I was giving the skipper a foot massage and he told me that only one of us would play tomorrow. He is shooting a commercial today so he wanted us to decide among ourselves.”
“Shoot the day before the match?”
“Fevicol. He has done an admirable job of sticking to the captain’s chair after England, Australia and England you see.”
A glimmer of hope flitted across Rohit’s eyes like a careless butterfly. But he had to be very sensible here – which was difficult considering it was him.
“I really wish I could have played tomorrow. But I know you deserve it more. Ja Jaddu ja, jee le apni zindagi.”
Shahrukh never failed with Gujaratis. Rohit expected Jadeja to make a puppy face, go down on his knees and clasp his wrists in admiration of this enormous sacrifice.
“What are you saying, Rohit bhai? You have kept your Greek god-like talent on deep freeze for five long years only for this moment. And I, mere mortal and Ravindra Jadeja at that, take it away from you over a few minutes of trepidation – no, that is fairly unjust. Yeh sattar…sorry saat minute aap se koi nehi chheen sakta Rohit bhai.”
So two can play at this game. Apparently Jadeja wasn’t going to be taken for a ride that easily.
“No, but seriously, Jaddu you need to play. Three triple centuries is no joke man. Given the number of one night stands you have had with Lady Luck, I would say you stand a good chance to make it four tomorrow.”
“Ha ha, Rohit Bhai. I’ll let you in on a trade secret. The Government actually plans to use the Rajkot wicket as a model for building the new National Highways. Chris Martin would score a triple here with a martini in one hand and a Bond girl in the other. You should be out there tomorrow. You are the true bearer of Sachin’s legacy. How many people apart from him and you have scored two centuries in a Ranji Trophy final?”
“Four”, Rohit countered. “But is that even vaguely important? I did not get a $2 million IPL contract. Heck, I am not even in the Chennai Super Kings side.”
“You win some, you lose some. Even I do not have an IPL hat-trick.”
“That was just a fluke.”
“Well, I have made a career out of flukes.”
“At least you are an all-rounder. If you fail with the bat, you can make up for it with the ball.”
“I am not Jacques Kallis. More of the Jack-of… types.”
“Kevin Pietersen is your bunny.”
“Bhai, the entire fraternity of slow left arm spinners see him dilly-dallying in a Playboy outfit in their wildest dreams. And he is playing the next series where I would gladly take your place in the team.”
“I’ll ask Skip to give you a bowl when Boom Boom is batting so that you get an easy wicket.”
“In case you were concentrating too hard on your batting, Afridi has opted out of the series to get a new birth certificate. And I hope you did not mind my wisecrack on your batting.”
“I’m like your elder brother and, according to Indian tradition, you should always listen to your elders.”
“I’m closer to the captain and, according to the unwritten laws of Indian nepotism, you should only lick an a** when you are below it.”
Rohit looked at Jadeja whose deadpan stare was deader than a fish which has jumped out of the frying pan into the fire; it gave nothing away. He had probably learned it from the master himself – Ravi Shastri. Still, to be fair to Shastri, at least he had earned his Audi through effort and not by audacity.
Life would have been so much easier if he had been a left arm spinner. At worst, he would have been burdened with the legacies of Venkatapathy Raju, Nilesh Kulkarni and Rahul Sanghvi. And, at best, he would have donned Shastri’s mantle and t(h)rashed this Gujju imbecile all over the park like a modern day Tilak Raj.
He contemplated going the Flintoff way – settling the argument by landing a few solid punches on the bird’s nest in front of him. But there was a problem; a punch put in with a greater degree of feeling than intended could actually send Jadeja to hospital and him straight into the Indian team. After all, he had put on so much weight sitting on the benches that he could easily be cast for the lead role of Haathi Mere Saathi 2013 – and we are not talking about Rajesh Khanna’s character.
All of a sudden, the air inside the dressing room crackled. The static electricity produced made Jadeja’s bed of curls stand on end like lightning conductors. A voice filled the room as if Akashvani had been switched on in Dolby Digital Surround Sound.
“Fear not, my brothers. I shall take the burden off your minds and shoulders. Tomorrow I shall take the field in your place and take all the blame unto myself while you warm the benches with your backsides. God and N Srinivasan have sent me into this world to protect you and destroy myself at the hands of foreign opponents, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings from time to time.”
Was it Jesus Christ himself? The Terminator? Or Rajinikanth? In any case, what he said must be true – who would lie after spending such a bomb on special effects?
The next morning though, both Rohit and Jadeja had their hearts in their mouths. What if the Messiah’s alarm clock had rung through and he had forgotten his call of duty in a state of soporific slumber? By the time the captain had reeled out the names of the chosen few taking the field for the day, both of them had consumed a breakfast’s worth of fingernails. A pause before the last name jolted them out of their reverie.
“And now last, and surely the least, our eleventh player for this match who is making his umpteenth comeback. Ladies… I mean, gentlemen. Behind you please.”
All eyes turned to the door which was bathed by the light of a hundred flickering incandescent bulbs. There stood our man – a roly-poly child-man trying to tweak a cricket ball like a wannabe Shane Warne. The ball spat up like a vengeful cobra targeting his ungainly nose as if in retaliation for this utter humiliation. Our protagonists wiped back a tear or two.
Piyush Chawla had indeed arrived.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and is intended to be taken in jest.