There are only three sports I play fairly well – Badminton, Football and Cricket. My tryst with Football though ended in an absolutely humiliating defeat, topped with the fact that I got my knees heavily bruised. In school, I was a lanky guy – timid and looked down upon with utter disdain by the usual bullies. They never messed with me in the classroom. But out on the field, I was virtually non-existent. How was an unfit guy like me supposed to compete with the champion players on the field? I mean wasn't it already bad enough that they were being humiliated day in day out, being compared to me when it came to how good I was in academics? There was no way they were allowing me to steal their thunder in something they were so good at.
Looking back, I realise that the only time I felt inferior and utterly worthless was while playing football. The last time I played football was in the eleventh standard. I was the goalkeeper and our team was leading in the first half. But like always, my team choked when it mattered. Well, I choked! Why a team I am in, always chokes? It felt terrible. I was dejected and that wasn't the first time, you see. No wonder, I am all at sea when my peers have a passionate discussion on EPL and Champion’s League.
Badminton was an indoor sport I played, more for killing time than anything else. And to be frank, playing Badminton allowed me to vent out my feelings whenever I was frustrated or angry. I was really good at smashing the badminton cock, sometimes literally to smithereens. Quite something for a stick-thin guy! Even then, I was a good doubles player. But that was just about it.
So, needless to say, I was a really good cricketer. So much so that had my father been rich enough to send me to a cricket coaching institute, who knows! I can say this with a fair degree of pride that I am a self-made cricketer. *Laughing at myself* I never managed to play beyond the school level. But it was simply because Cricket wasn't my priority. And look where that has landed me to! Pun obviously intended...
Anyway, I have fond memories when it comes to Cricket. I was a very good deep fielder. I have held stunning one handed catches – each one of which I vividly remember till date. I have effected run outs for my team in crucial match winning moments. And sometimes in one of those days gone horribly wrong, I have also spilled the simplest of catches. My lean personality didn't allow me to go for lofty shots. So, as a batsman, the ‘Dravid’ school of batting technique suited me the most. I would be dismissed mostly while attempting a lofty shot or try an adventurous cheeky run. Otherwise, I was so good at sticking around and converting the ones into twos that the opposition would instead try to dismiss the other batsman. My tall frame allowed me to play even the short balls better. But if you look at my wagon-wheel in batting, I was a dominant leg-side batsman. The only shots I played really well on the off-side were the late cuts. Enough of boasting, Sandy! I never bragged like this before and you might be wondering why.
Because, two weeks ago, while playing for league matches organised by the HR guys, I opened the innings for my team in a 15-15 over match. At the team meeting held a day before, I volunteered to open the innings. Call it the effect of monotony at the workplace, but I actually wanted to be under pressure and feel the surge of adrenalin through my body once again. Weird, I guess. But sometimes, monotony takes a toll on you. And that’s when people like me take impulsive decisions – most of which are associated with a high risk high returns payoff. The last time I felt butterflies in my stomach was on the day of graduation at IIMA. So, when I had pre-match jitters, going through the motions rather anxiously and pacing to and fro in the room, my roomies were amused; wondering why I was taking the match so seriously. ‘Dude, it’s a bloody HR team-building endeavour. Just play for fun and enjoy,’ is all they said.
But I wanted to do well. I really wanted to be a match-winner, again. I wasn't feeling like a winner for quite some time. Do you know how it feels to be on top of the world? ‘Utopian-exhilaration’ is the word! I have been a winner for most part of my life. IIMA was a humbling experience though. So for me, this league match was a golden opportunity to redeem the winner in me. Now you know why my tone in this post is boasting in nature. For a change, that feels good. It feels great to tell you that I did a pretty good job as an opening batsman, especially when wickets around me were tumbling. Literally!
We won the toss and decided to bat first. The team felt that anything above 100 was a pretty good score to defend. And I was to play the anchor, at least till the first six overs. Alas, the team lost three wickets in the first three overs itself. The opposition was bowling well, keeping it tight. Even my personal score was in single digits. There was no way to let loose and attempt stupid shots. It was time to build a partnership. Thankfully, the new batsman started playing his shots right away and that allowed me to rotate the strike. His strokes released the pent up pressure and lifted our spirits. I was happy taking the ones and twos, with occasional boundaries and giving most of the strike to him. Our partnership ended in the twelfth over, when I holed out to the fielder in the deep. With a personal score of 30 and a strike rate of 85, I was applauded for my performance. It felt great, when my teammates patted my shoulders in appreciation.
But then again, my team choked pretty badly. As a part-time pacer, I did my bit, trying to resurrect my team’s fortunes when I got a batsman out caught in the gully. But three catches off my bowling in the next five balls were spilled or not attempted at all. I was dejected, not because my team lost but the way we didn't try to win.
Nevertheless, I was still happy with myself. It felt great to feel the surge of adrenalin in a strange way. Exhilarating, when you have realized that there is no need to run, for the shot you have hit is going away for a boundary. It took a good performance in Cricket to remind me how good I was in school, winning mostly and being a pretty sore loser. I realised that for a winner, being humble is the greatest virtue anyone can ever possess. But who doesn't like a little spice sometimes? It’s alright to deliberately put yourself under pressure and come out triumphant. You’re humble and that’s fine. But sometimes, it’s okay to be bragging about your successes under pressure, however insignificant and silly it might seem or look. It’s critical that we sometimes indulge in something that invokes the warrior spirit in us. It’s a win-win bet. You win, you brag and feel good. You lose and it is a humbling experience. You learn from your mistakes and try to emerge victorious the next time.
Hail the philosopher in me! Although, I must admit that most people who know me well avoid invoking my philosophical alter ego. Probably the reason why I am a better listener!