The everyday life of the twelve-year-old serious cricketer
Tossing, turning, rubbing his eyes, he wakes up at 5:30 AM on a Sunday and heads to the balcony to see if the Rain Gods have played a cruel joke on his wishes. They haven’t, and instead have given him a bright, sunny day to conquer the world. He exults in joy and wakes his father, who mumbles something under his breath but looking at his son near the foot of the bed, rises up quickly.
He is driven to the cricket academy by his old man and joins his friends- others who don’t believe in Sunday being the day of rest made by God- in a warm-up jog across The Oval. The coach arrives soon after, acknowledges the parents sitting on the academy’s gallery with a wave and walks out to join his Under-13 team.
A huge bellow of “Good morning, sir!” is heard as the boys greet their coach. He talks to them for a couple of minutes and asks how they’re doing. The coach then tells the hero of our story to pad up and start batting in the nets. The bowlers stretch, do a couple of free-hand exercises and then get straight into the action.
The boys come out of the nets after an exhausting two-hour session (they practice for longer on Sundays and other holidays because they don’t have to rush to go to school) and sit together in a huddle to do their warm-down. This is where they let off steam after an intense practice session. They pull each other’s legs, tease and fool around. The hero of our story makes a joke about the way the leg-spinner bowled and everyone cracks up. They get up, dust the mud off their trousers (which resembles a colour close to white when the session began but are now a dull brown) and start leaving the academy.
Our hero goes home, telling all kinds of stories about his friends to his father on the way, has breakfast, rests for a while, has lunch and comes back for another session in the evening at the academy. He goes home at 8 PM, tired and weary, wanting nothing more than the comfort of his bed. While his friends from school are up watching the new dance reality show, the hero of our story is already asleep- just another Sunday in his life.
When he goes to school the next day, his friends talk to him about the latest episode of the Japanese manga show Ninja Hattori. He lies and says that he enjoyed it too. He loves watching cartoons although he can’t quite recollect the day when he last watched an episode (he is in practice at 5:30 PM when Ninja Hattori is aired daily.)
In the lunch break, his best friend offers him a gulab jamun, but he rejects it politely. He hasn’t had sweetmeats for over a year as his coach says that they are not good for him. His friends invite him to join them for a movie that afternoon after school but he tells them what he always does, “I can’t. I have practice.” He idolises Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara more than Harry Styles and Justin Bieber.
It is Raksha bandhan the next day, and his elder sister has flown down from Chennai where she goes to college but it’s the inter-school semi-final too. Our hero chooses wisely. He gets to a crucial half-century as his school defeats their rivals to book a berth in the final to be played the following week.
When most children his age still stumble when asked to choose between Art and Craft classes, the hero of our story can’t be seen hesitating to play square cuts to bowlers more than twice his age for boundaries over point in the Open League (a competition where people of all ages can play).
While his friends from school enjoy a carefree, blissful life, the hero of our story has already started working towards building a career for himself. He has no off-days and is forever entailed in this quest of achieving perfection. He will earn his first pay-check even before most of his school friends would be old enough to ride a non-gear motorcycle.
Our hero sacrifices these small joys of childhood and innocence to score hundreds after hundred for the school under-13s every Saturday. But these don’t seem like sacrifices to him, it is more like choosing one form of pleasure over another. He loves batting more than he loves anything else, and nothing can come in his way.
His school friends dream of their favourite actresses, of going to Disneyland and of watching the latest Shah Rukh Khan movie, but as the hero of our story lands in bed at 9:30 PM and falls asleep, all he dreams of is a sunny day, timing a straight drive and getting a hundred on his Test debut at Lord’s.