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One more wicket down

shabir ahmad mir | Updated on January 24, 2020 Published on January 24, 2020

Game plan: “The ball reaches its highest point, turns back and starts to fall down”   -  ISTOCK.COM

Kashmir.

Protests.

Day 25.

Shutters down. Shops locked. Vehicles stay off the road.

An empty market square.

Schools are shut and the kids play cricket at the square. Somewhere nearby, down one of the roads that lead away from the square, protesters have run up against a military barricade. Clashes have started and the incessant noise of slogans and whistles fills the air.

The game goes on.

The batsman hits the ball and quickly crosses over for a run. He turns back and calls the non-striker for a second run. There is a moment’s hesitation from the non-striker before he too turns back for a second run. The fielder pounces on the chance; picks up the ball swiftly and throws it rocket fast at the empty crate that is serving as the stumps for the day. The running batsman is caught short of his crease and is run out.

The fielders and bowler huddle and celebrate. The bowler, who is also the undeclared captain of his side, shouts at the batting team sitting on the pavement nearby, “Eight runs from five balls now. You have only two wickets left.”

From the pavement, one kid tries to get up, ready to bat but the batting captain stops him with his hand. “Not you. We need boundaries right now.”

“Arif,” the captain orders another kid. “You go out there and hit the ball as hard as you can.”

Arif walks to the makeshift stumps and stands up to bat.

The bowler re-adjusts his fielders. “Kamran, over here,” he calls out to his best fielder. “This one only plays on the leg side. You cover that up,” he tells Kamran as he points towards the new batsman.

Kamran runs over to the leg side and starts to field at a point where the market square squeezes into a road. The beginning of the road marks the haphazard boundary line.

The bowler bowls the next ball. Arif hits it hard on the leg side, as predicted. The ball goes high up. Kamran starts to cup his hands, his eyes focused on the ball all along. The ball reaches its highest point, turns back and starts to fall. Kamran walks a few steps back to align himself with the trajectory of the falling ball. The ball keeps falling. Kamran waits eagerly...

All hell breaks loose.

Guns fire. Pellets fly. Tear-gas shells burst. The protesters are on the run. Security forces chase after them.

Guns fire some more.

The square is overwhelmed by a thick cloud of tear gas and pepper gas. Smoke blurs two bodies lying prostrate on the road.

An ambulance rushes in. The bodies are dragged into it. The ambulance drives off, its siren irritatingly loud.

An hour passes.

The kids walk into the square. The broken crate is picked up and set up as stumps once again.

“That last hit was a six.” The batting captain says to the bowling captain.

“Sixer! Have you gone mad! It was a catch. And Kamran was there already. Have you ever seen him dropping a catch?”

“There was no question of catching it. Kamran would have told you the same.”

“Even if he would not have been able to catch it he would certainly have fielded it. Arif would have been run out.”

“Arif had already completed one run and he was turning for the second. I saw it with my own eyes. There was no way you could have run him out.”

The bowling captain scratches his head while the batting captain shrugs.

Arms on his hips, the batting captain shouts, “Are we going to play or what?”

A moment passes before the bowling captain sighs and says, “Okay, let it be two runs and we can resume.”

Both the captains agree.

The game starts again. The bowler walks to his bowling end. The batting captain walks to the side where he sits with others. A new batsman walks in.

The bowling captain signals to one of his fielders with his hand. The fielder walks towards the place where Kamran was fielding and stands there now. The bowling captain shouts towards the batting team that has reassembled on the pavement, “Six runs from four balls now, one wicket remains.”

SHABIR AHMAD MIR

 

Shabir Ahmad Mir is a writer and poet based in Kashmir. His debut novel The Plague Upon Us is slated to be released by Hachette India in April 2020

Published on January 24, 2020
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