bad boy, but he wasn’t a bad bowler.
There were three bowlers from an IPL team based in the Pink City, who pink-slipped their own careers after being caught in a fix by the Delhi police. One of them had pretty much the best seam presentation, at the point of delivery. Plus long legs, a hairstyle that changed every now and then, chains around his neck, red sacred thread around a wrist. All part of an elaborate pump yourself ritual, when he turned around to run in with the cricket ball. Hands moving up and down, in an effort to calm down. Before the fist pump. Three fingers would recede, as two gripped the seam of the cricket ball.
Elbows moving forward and backward, knees taking measured sprints, upper body slightly bent, before straightening, as he got ready for the leap at the bowling crease. Boots in the air, left and right leg criss-crossing. Blazing eyes behind a folded left elbow, like a gun sight, with the right hand wielding the ball. Big nostrils, breathing in, breathing out. Poised to deliver.
A quick revolution involving the right armpit, front foot forward, right heel lifted. A lovely outstretched right arm, left hand beside the thigh. Then came the curtain-raiser, as he bent forward, to release the ball. You could actually see the man’s wrist at work. If the pitch had some bounce, he could make the ball talk, and make a padded human being walk. After all, he comes from the land, where they serve hoppers, with stew.
Padded human beings with surnames like Tendulkar. Lara. Pietersen. Gayle.
He took their wickets. If he had made the right choice, he would have been at a cricket clinic ten years from now, telling wide-eyed youngsters sitting around him, the tricks one needs to dismiss some of the world’s best batsmen. It wouldn’t matter if he was speaking in Malayalam or English, or whether he was speaking to budding cricketers in Melbourne or Edgbaston. He could have showed them how to dance after taking a wicket. Put your hands out, and shake that booty. Gnash your teeth, and make a face at Symonds. Tell Hayden you think the pitch is a conga drum. Getting (down) under the batsman’s skin, was something he was good at. Rare for an Indian fast bowler.
That’s how he did it. A bowler whose celebrations were out of the world, with the batsman thinking that he was out of his mind. Wait. Not just the batsman, the match referee too.
After he left, the coaches would warn the kids against trying the dance moves on the pitch. Not even the ‘wave my bat, that six was flat’ return gift he gave Andre Nel. But they would remember the grips that he showed them, the out-swinger in particular. The mon who caught Misbah-ul-Haq, the dancer who left Shah Rukh Khan speechless, the batsman who wore spectacles, the Keralite who played for Punjab, before he moved to the desert.
Where he decided to dive into the quicksand of greed, only to trap himself in muck, after being caught for throwing in the towel. All for a price. From popping and locking to the lock up. A character who was let down by his character.
Right-arm medium fast. Do you still want to know his name?
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bad boy, but he wasn’t a bad bowler.
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