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The Legend Of Cricket Beard

by achettup

Several hundred years ago there was a dashing young man who was loved by all the village folk. When he pranced through the village square, fair maiden swooned. When he twirled around in the woods, wild beasts purred. Flowers blossomed as he neared, rain clouds stayed away and little birds flew around him all the time. Even bitter senile village elders couldn't repress a smile when he happened to chance upon them.

This man loved cricket. He was hopeless at the game but since he was so charming it was hard for anyone to refuse him a place in their XI. He couldn't bowl, and he was a bit clumsy on the field, but that didn't matter, this was cricket in an era where people much preferred taking casual strolls for a single rather than tearing madly down the pitch for two. Boundaries were rare and celebrated with gusto. But our man loved batting. And his batting was even worse than his other cricketing skills.

For the first few weeks in his first season for his local village in the great Village Premier League (VPL™) he didn't care about his wild swishes that kept missing the ball. He wasn't too bothered when he tried to defend the ball on the back foot and ended up being bowled by a yorker from the worst spinner in the land. He didn't care that he hadn't scored a single run. And he wasn't alone. People smiled and laughed with him, the maiden teased him about scoring more with them and the beast offered to be bludgeoned by his cricket bat if he really missed the sound of willow on leather.

But gradually, it got a bit annoying. Everything else worked perfectly for him. But here, the one thing he really wanted so badly to work out, simply didn't. He started becoming obsessed with figuring out why. He stopped prancing around the village and twirling around in the woods. Instead he spent all his time thinking about how to improve his batting. Eventually he stopped attending to his daily hygiene. He could no longer flash his teeth when he smiled. And then something happened. For the first time in his life he received a mildly critical remark.

"Ye be gettin' er stubble lad, yer wanna watch ouwt on that 'un, might lose yer charm!" He was stunned. He was so shocked, that he collected his things, put them in a rucksack and set out into the woods. For days he sat watching the streams gurgling over rocks, the dew glistening on the fresh grass and just about anything else that would keep him from remembering the unkind words that had scarred him so. All the while, he forwent his personal hygiene beginning to resemble an unkempt tramp. And then one evening as he was gathering wood, he heard a low growl. Frightened he picked up a stick. He had never hit anything before in his entire life, so he knew not how to strike a beast should he be attacked. Trembling, he ran back to his shelter and and faced the opening with his stick in hand.

There he stood and looked out fearfully, hoping against hope that the beast would leave him be. It was then he noticed that he was standing sideways and upright, as if in preparation to play a pull stroke. An idea began to form in his mind. He picked up a bit of twine, wrapped it around a stone and hung it at the entrance. The noise might keep the beast at bay. Then he stood back, took up the same pose and swished. Alas, he missed! But there was too much at stake here, he had to try again. He swished again, but missed again. It was hopeless.

He felt a cool bead on his chin. But he was too scared to remove with for fear of taking one hand off the stick. The bead was a drop of sweat that clung to his now substantial stubble. He decided to keep swishing in the hope that the violent movement might dislodge the cold irritating drop of sweat. He swished with all his might as he had never swished before. And then a wonderful thing happened. For the first time in his life, he made contact with the "ball." It was an exhilarating feeling.  He felt an enormous burden lift from his shoulders. The bead had also fallen but he hadn't noticed. He swished again. But this time, he missed. Annoyed he tried again. And again, just hoping to relive the thrill of putting bat on ball again.

By now, he worked himself into a sweat and in the cool forest night, another cold bead of sweat clung to his beard. Even more annoyed he worked himself into a mighty swish and behold, he hit the ball again! Things started making sense. He continued the rest of the night, first working himself into a sweat and then hitting the ball to shake away the cold drops that formed on his beard. And he forgot all about the beast. And so it continued for the next few weeks. Every day woke up at dawn and ran in the forest, building a sweat and then coming back and thrashing the ball hung from the ceiling by twine, shaking off gallons of cold sweat. And as his beard grew, so more sweat accumulated and more often did he hit the ball.

After three years in the woods, he had regained his confidence. He went back to the village and went straight to his team captain and asked if he could play. Time seemed to stop. Everybody around him went aghast as they slowly recognized him from beneath the mass of tangled facial hair. The pets growled. The birds flew off to the Antarctic. Finally the captain looked up into his eyes. "I'd offer ye a place, but you can't nowt hit er cricket ball" he stuttered. "Oh, but I can" said our man. And he proceeded to run the length of the cricket field, built up enough sweat and asked for the best bowler in the village to bowl to him. The senile village elders wondered why he had run before batting, and figured that he was trying to get his blood pumping. Warming up, they called it.

And the best bowler in the village ran up, jumped and thundered the ball down. He expected to bowl our man and didn't want to hurt him. Yet with eloquent ease, the batsman drove him over cover. Everyone was stunned. The cricket captain had never seen a batsman time the ball so well. Without a second thought he included him in the team. This made everybody around uncomfortable, but a good player might help their team do well in the Village Premier League(VPL™), so they decided to keep their thoughts to themselves.

And do well they did. For 6 years they won the (VPL™) as our man scored runs with an insatiable hunger. He loved it, every moment of it. By now he had trimmed his beard to just about half-way down his chest, which he found was the optimal length to shake off accumulated sweat for a session. And then one day, the king's guard was the guest of honor at a cricket final. He arrived late, as an important chief guest should, and was awestruck when he saw the young man bat.

"Who is that ugly man?" he blurted out. "That be Cricket Beard, he might nowt look too good, but his only care is for his game" came the reply. "And what a fine game it be!" gasped the king's guard. "I shall take him to represent the royal team." And so Cricket Beard represented the royal cricket team. He did this on condition that he would never have to shave his beard, which the king reluctantly agreed to. And for 40 years, Cricket Beard played for the royal team and won them many accolades. People traveled from far beyond yonder to watch him bat.

And so they say, even today, the ghost of cricket beard finds a batsman who cannot make contact with the ball but loves batting. And his spirit enters them, and they find the dedication to practice for hour after hour and finally they become the finest hitters in the game. And even though cricket beard might leave them thence, they retain the beard, it being but a symbol of the hard work they put into perfecting their art.

2 comments:

Govind Raj said...

What writing, what a writing Oho ho ho ho ! In Gavaskar's language, this is a Masterpiece !

Rishabh said...

This one's for the kids. You're a regular Aesop!