It was Sunday. Not that it mattered to the kids in Ranjit’s apartment complex since schools were closed for summers, which made every day a Sunday. Nor for the sun as it set the air ablaze. As Ranjit returned from the nearby department store, he saw a set of wickets rolling on the road and some kids huddled together, picking teams. His eyes met Piyush’s, his only young friend in the complex and he waved. Piyush’s eyes lit up with joy and he pointed at Ranjit.
“I pick him!” he exclaimed.
The other kids turned all at once and eyed him up. Ranjit had no intention of playing cricket with the kids, but he wanted to make a good impression. He presented himself in all his flabby glory.
“Ok, but he has to keep the wickets. Having such a…large person will be an unfair advantage in this narrow playfield,” said a curly haired kid, whom Ranjit believed to be the opposition captain.
“By large he means tall,” said Piyush with a smile. He always displayed kindness and wisdom that belied his age and surprised Ranjit. He gave the boy a nod, picked up the lazily rolling wickets, and manned his station behind them. He knew his frame made his position on a football field was a given, but it was the first time it had decided his role on a cricket field. As he hunched to get in position, he thought it could have been worse. They could have made him umpire.
“Just a heads up; this batsman has a high backlift, so you might get hurt. And you don’t want to upset that bowler,” said Piyush. Ranjit smiled and saw him gallop away to his position. He found it cute how Piyush cared for him, and that he believed a kid could actually hurt him.
Ranjit stood slightly beside the wickets and winked at the bowler, silently commanding him to pitch the ball as directed. The bowler frowned as he took his run-up.
He threw the ball. The batsman made good contact. He ran to the other end, but the fielder was quick to the ball, and quicker to throw it Ranjit’s way.
But Ranjit was down on all fours.
The batsman had sidestepped just as soon as the ball was bowled, and his high backlift had resulted in the bat hitting a set of balls before the cricket ball.
“I told you he has a high backlift,” said Piyush, squatting down beneath his old friend.
“The warning…should have been clearer!” hissed Ranjit, rolling around like the wickets were moments ago. The kids were polite enough to stifle their laughter down to chuckling.
Ranjit gathered up air and lifted himself to his feet. He was careful with his positioning now, but he continued advising the bowler where to pitch the ball. The suggestion was innocent, but misunderstanding often leads to acrimony. The captain’s curly hair bobbed angrily on his head and his frown became viler as he finished his over.
Change of bowlers, but a similar first delivery.
Bat met ball. The batsmen ran. The fielder ran. The ball was thrown.
This time, though, Ranjit’s adult body stood large. His baby-face donned childlike enthusiasm. But the one who had run to the ball was the curly-haired captain. Ranjit saw his frown turn into a smirk.
The sun shied away behind the clouds. It had foreseen the pain.
One ball was thrown, two were hit.
“I told you you don’t want to upset that bowler,” said Piyush, squatting down beside his old friend. Ranjit didn’t writhe in agony this time, and the children couldn’t hold back the laughter.